Daily Current Affairs – 10-08-2023

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    India takes first step to remove animals from Drug-testing

     

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology, GS4/ Ethics

    In Context

    • An amendment to the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules (2023) was passed by the Government with the aim of stopping the use of animals in research, especially in drug testing.

    About

    • Every drug in the market goes through a long journey of tests designed to check whether it can treat the disease for which it was created and whether it has any harmful effects.
    • For a longtime, the first step of this process has been to test the candidate molecule in at least two animal species: a rodent (mouse or rat) and a non-rodent, such as canines and primates.
    • The amendment authorises researchers to use non-animal and human-relevant methods like 3D organoids, organs-on-chip, and advanced computational methods, to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs.

    Why has the Government removed animals from drug testing?

    • Humans are more complex creatures, and biological processes and their responses often vary from person to person as well, based on factors such as age, sex, pre-existing diseases, genetics, diet, etc. – and a lab-bred animal species reared in controlled conditions may not fully capture the human response to a drug.
    • This ‘mismatch’ between the two species is reflected in the high failure-rate of the drug development process. Despite increasing investment in the pharmaceutical sector, most drugs that cleared the animal-testing stage fail at the stage of human clinical trials, which come towards the end of the pipeline.
    • The limitations of the conventional testing process, which begin with animals, have led an increasing number of researchers to focus on systems that do a better job of capturing the intricacies of human biology and predicting humans’ responses.

    What are the alternative testing modes?

    • In the last few decades, several technologies have been developed using human cells or stem cells, which include millimetre-sized three-dimensional cellular structures that mimic specific organs of the body, called ‘organoids’ or ‘mini-organs’.
    • Another popular technology is the ‘organ-on-a-chip’: they are AA-battery-sized chips lined with human cells connected to microchannels, to mimic blood flow inside the body. These systems capture several aspects of human physiology, including tissue-tissue interactions and physical and chemical signals inside the body.
    • Researchers have also used additive manufacturing techniques for more than two decades.
      • In 2003, researchers developed the inkjet bioprinter by modifying a standard inkjet printer, and 3D bioprinter to ‘print’ biological tissues using human cells and fluids as ‘bio-ink’.
    • These systems promise to reshape drug-design and development. Since they can be built using patient-specific cells, and can be used to personalise drug-tests.

    What are the status of regulations worldwide?

    • European Union: In 2021, a resolution was passed on an action plan to facilitate transition towards technologies that don’t use animals in research, regulatory testing, and education.
    • United States: FDA Modernization Act 2.0 was passed in December 2022, allowing researchers to use these systems to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs.
    • South Korea: A ‘Vitalization of Development, Dissemination, and Use of Alternatives to Animal Testing Methods’ bill was introduced in December 2022.
    • Canada: The Environmental Protection Act was amended in June 2023 to replace, reduce or refine the use of vertebrate animals in toxicity testing.
    • India: In March 2023, the government embraced these systems in the drug-development pipeline by amending the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019. It did so after inviting comments from the people and in consultation with the Drug Technical Advisory Board, the statutory body that advises Central and State governments on drug-related technical matters.

    What are the challenges?

    • Developing an organ-on-a-chip system: It typically requires multidisciplinary knowledge and expertise in cell biology to recreate the cellular behaviour in the lab; materials science to find the right material to ensure that the chip does not interfere with biological processes; fluid dynamics to mimic blood flow inside the microchannels; electronics to integrate biosensors that can measure pH, oxygen etc. in the chip; engineering to design the chip; and pharmacology and toxicology to interpret action of the drugs in the chips.
    • Resources for research and development: Most of the reagents, cell-culture related materials and instruments are currently imported from the U.S., Europe, and Japan. There is a huge gap and opportunity in several diverse areas related to cell culture, material science and electronics, to develop an end-to-end ecosystem in India.
    • Variability in the data arising from differences in lab-to-lab protocols and expertise. For example, One lab may create a system with only liver cells, while another lab attempting to study the immune system and liver may also incorporate immune cells in its liver-on-a-chip. It means there can be no ‘standard’ or ‘universal’ liver-on-a-chip to study all liver diseases.

    Way Forward

    • There is a need  for multi-stakeholders involving members of industry, academia, government, and regulatory bodies, on the topic of implementing new human-based technologies.
    • To enable this crosstalk between different disciplines, technology developers in academia and industry have proposed creating a ‘Centre for Excellence’ in India to bring together scientists and others with a wide range of expertise to build preclinical human models.
    • The current guidelines on animal testing requirements must be re-evaluated and revised, considering newer developments in cell-based and gene-editing based therapeutics.
    • It’s a truly interdisciplinary endeavour and needs focused training and human-resource building, which is lacking in the country at present.

    TH

    Bharat New Car Assessment Programme

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government Policies & intervention

    In News

    • India is all set to get its own car crash safety star rating from Oct 1, 2023.

    About

    • The automakers who manufacture vehicles in the country or import their vehicles from overseas will need to undergo the safety test voluntarily.
    • The crash test and safety ratings will be in accordance with the Automotive Industry Standard (AIS)-197.
    • The USA was the first country to introduce a programme for testing the safety standards of a car through crash tests.

    What is Bharat NCAP?

    • About:
      • Bharat New Car Assessment Programme or Bharat NCAP is an assessment programme for safety rating of new vehicle models sold or being sold in India. 
    • Testing parameters:
      • The parameters of the safety norm take various factors into consideration. These include an assessment of the car’s pedestrian-friendly design, the structural safety of the vehicle, the provision of active and passive safety assist technologies, and the safety of adult and child occupants on the vehicle.
      • There will be star ratings for the vehicles from one to five, which will define the safety level of a specific car. 
    • Voluntary Process:
      • Cars will only be tested at the request of makers. Voluntary NCAPs are aimed at nudging firms to offer more than the basic safety features by sparking competition.

    Significance of Bharat NCAP

    • Indigenous Assessment System: Bharat NCAP is expected to benefit homegrown automakers since they will no longer have to send their sample vehicles to Global NCAP for crash testing and star grading. 
      • It will bring India at par with other parts of the world like the US, Europe, Japan, Australia and Latin America that have NCAPs of their own.
    • Credit Worthiness of Vehicles: It will bring about more transparency, create awareness among consumers and help buyers choose cars on their safety credentials.
    • Development of safer vehicles: It will also act as an incentive for car makers as they move to advanced safety technologies to earn higher ratings.  

    Challenges

    • Comprehensive crash tests necessitate specialised facilities with advanced technology and testing equipment, which demand substantial financial investment.
    • coordination among regulatory authorities, testing agencies, and automobile manufacturers is crucial for a standardised and rigorous testing process.

    Way Ahead

    • Addressing the inadequate transport infrastructure in major cities is essential to support the rollout of Bharat NCAP effectively and ensure its positive impact on vehicle safety in India.

    Source: PIB

    Belem Declaration

    Syllabus: GS3/ Biodiversity and Conservation

    In News

    • The eight countries that make up the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) signed the Belém Declaration during the Amazon Summit.

    About the Belem Declaration

    • Aim: An agreement to address the threats to the Amazon rainforest and highlight its significance in confronting the climate crisis.
      • It  consolidates the consensus agenda of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela for the region. 
    • The Belém Declaration contains 113 cross-cutting objectives and principles signed in the Brazilian city of Belém.
      • The declaration promotes sustainable use of biodiversity resources in the Amazon.
    • It recognises Indigenous knowledge as a condition for biodiversity conservation and calls for ensuring full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making and public policy formulation processes.
    • The Belém Declaration also provides for the “creation of financial mechanisms aimed at promoting sustainable development.” 
    • ACTO will play a central role in implementing the new Amazon cooperation agenda.

    Need for the Declaration 

    • The document underscores the urgent need for regional awareness and cooperation to avoid the so-called “point of no return” in the Amazon—a term used by experts to refer to the point at which the forest loses its ability to self-regenerate, due to deforestation, degradation, and global warming.
    • The eight presidents have committed to launching the Amazon Alliance to Combat Deforestation, based on national goals, such as zero deforestation by 2030.

    Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO)

    • It is an intergovernmental organization formed by the eight Amazonian countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, which signed the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT), becoming the only socio-environmental block in Latin America.
    • ACT: The Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT) signed in 1978 gave rise to the ACTO, which is oriented to promote the harmonious development of the Amazonian territories.
      • In 1995, the eight nations decided to create the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), to strengthen and implement the objectives of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty. 
    • Permanent Secretariat:  Brasilia, Brazil

    Amazon Rainforest

    • Nearly 60% of the rainforest is in Brazil, while the rest is shared among eight other countries—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and French Guiana, an overseas territory of France.

    • It is located on the South America continent. The Amazon rainforest is the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world.
    • The landscape contains:
      • about one in 10 known species on Earth,
      • 1.6 billion acres of dense forests, around half of the planet’s remaining tropical forests,
      • 20% of the world’s liquid freshwater,
      • 2.7 million square miles in the Amazon basin, about 40% of South America.
    • Importance: 
      • The Amazon rainforest is sometimes called the ‘lungs of the Earth’ because it ‘breathes in’ carbon dioxide and ‘exhales’ oxygen on a massive scale.
      • There is a clear link between the health of the Amazon and the health of the planet. 
      • Despite covering only around 1% of the planet’s surface, the Amazon rainforest is home to 10% of all the wildlife species we know about – and probably a lot that we don’t know yet.
      • The rain forests, which contain an estimated 150-200 billion tons of carbon, help stabilize the local and global climate. 
    • Threats:
      • Deforestation: Deforestation in the first half of 2022 was 3 times higher than in the first half of 2017. Deforestation has been increasing year on year for the last 5 years, with no signs of slowing down. 
      • Climate Change: Increasing global temperature causes the drying up of tropical forests which increases the risk of forest fires.
      • Loss and Damage of forests: Huge areas of forest are cleared up for farming, timber, roads, hydropower dams, mining etc.
      • Food and Farming: Rising global food demand, especially meat, has led to Brazil becoming the world’s biggest exporter of beef, and the second biggest exporter of soya beans, mainly used for livestock feed.

    Source: TH

    Asian Elephant Population and Demography Estimates

    Syllabus: GS3/Biodiversity and Conservation

    In News

    • The number of elephants in Karnataka has increased according to an interim report on Asian Elephant Population and Demography Estimates, 2023.

    About

    • The report was released by the Karnataka Minister for Forests , ahead of the World Elephant Day being observed on August 12.
    • The report has been prepared after a synchronised elephant census was conducted by the Forest Department in collaboration with neighbouring Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Goa.
    • The number of elephants in Karnataka that had risen from 5,740 in 2010 to 6,072 in 2012 had decreased to 6,049 in 2017. 
      • However, this time the number of pachyderms has increased by 346. With this, the elephant numbers have increased by 655 in the State since 2010.
    • The Bandipur Tiger Reserve with 1,116 elephants accounted for the highest density of 0.96 per sq. km followed by Nagarahole Tiger Reserve that has 831 elephants with a density of 0.93.

    Asian Elephant

    • The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), is distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. 
    • It is the largest living land animal in Asia. Three subspecies are currently recognised: the Sri Lankan, the Indian, and the Sumatran elephant.
    • Appearance: Smaller than their African counterparts, Asian elephants are easily recognizable by their “small” rounded ears. 
      • They often have a hump on their back, a double-domed head with two humps, and a single “finger” on their trunk for grasping. 

    • Habitat: Habitat ranges from wet tropical evergreen forests to semi-arid thorn and scrub forests. 
      • However, the highest densities of the elephant population are found in tropical deciduous forests. 
      • Elephants are ‘mega-herbivores’ that require vast tracts of forests and grasslands rich in food and water to survive.
    • Distribution: In India, the Asian elephant was once widely distributed throughout the country, including in states like Punjab and Gujarat. Currently, they are found in four fragmented populations in the south, north, central and northeast India. 
    • IUCN Status: Endangered
    • Threats:
      • Habitat loss
      • Human-animal conflict
      • Illegal Wildlife trade

    Population of Elephants in India

    • India is home to 60 percent of the Global population of Asian Elephants. 
    • The current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000-60,000 Asian elephants in the world and there are nearly 30,000 elephants in India.

    Steps Taken by Government of India to Protect Elephants

    • Project Elephant: It has been 30 years of Project Elephant, a project introduced to give impetus to conservation efforts of elephants in India. It was started in 1991-1992 to protect elephants, their migration routes, and their natural habitat.
    • World Elephant Day: August 12 is marked as World Elephant Day, and recognizes the importance of the ‘gentle giants’ in the world’s ecosystem. Launched in 2012, the Day brings attention to the urgent plight of elephants who face the threat of Poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity.
    • Addressing human-elephant conflict: In 2020, the Ministry of Environment released a document on best practices and launched a portal on the human-elephant conflict.
      • Further, the Government has laid plans for elephant corridors that are dedicated small patches of land for easy movement of elephants.
    • Dedicated Elephant Corridors: The Ministry in this regard provides financial assistance to States/UTs under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes of ‘Project Elephant’ for the management of wildlife and its habitats in the country. 
      • Further, the Government also provides crop insurance to the farmers for their crops being damaged by wild animals under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
    • Special recognitions & efforts: The Indian Government declared elephant as the National Heritage Animal of India to celebrate and spread awareness toward the conservation of the species. 
      • Notedly, Indian Elephant is accorded the highest degree of protection under Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

    Source: TH

    Development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

    Syllabus :GS 3/S&T/Environment 

    In News 

    • Several countries are developing small modular reactors (SMRs)  to complement conventional NPPs .

    Need for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

    • The transition from coal-fired power generation to clean energy poses major challenges, and there is a widespread consensus among policymakers in several countries that solar and wind energy alone will not suffice to provide affordable energy for everyone. 
    • The world’s quest to decarbonise itself is guided, among other things, by the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7: “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. 
    • Since the world still depends on fossil fuels for 82% of its energy supply, decarbonising the power sector is critical; the share of electricity in final energy consumption will also increase by 80%-150% by 2050. 
    • The recent uptick in coal consumption in Europe, despite the increase in solar and wind power, suggests that reliable, 24/7 low-carbon electricity resources are critical to ensure the deep decarbonisation of power generation, along with grid stability and energy security. 
    • It stated that conventional NPPs have generally suffered from time and cost overruns. 
    • Therefore the need was felt  to complement conventional NPPs
      • Small modular reactors can be helpful in this regard.

    What are Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)?

    • They are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. 
    • They are designed with a smaller core damage frequency (the likelihood that an accident will damage the nuclear fuel) and source term (a measure of radioactive contamination) compared to conventional NPPs. 
    • They also include enhanced seismic isolation for more safety. 

    Advantages 

    • SMR designs are simpler than those of conventional NPPs and include several passive safety features, resulting in a lower potential for the uncontrolled release of radioactive materials into the environment. 
    • The amount of spent nuclear fuel stored in an SMR project will also be lower than that in a conventional NPP.
    • They can be safely installed and operated at several brownfield sites that may not meet the more stringent zoning requirements for conventional NPPs. 
    • Most land-based SMR designs require low-enriched uranium, which can be supplied by all countries that possess uranium mines and facilities for such enrichment if the recipient facility is operating according to international standards.
    •  Since SMRs are mostly manufactured in a factory and assembled on site, the potential for time and cost overruns is also lower. 
    • Serial manufacture of SMRs can reduce costs by simplifying plant design to facilitate more efficient regulatory approvals and experiential learning with serial manufacturing.

    Relevance for India 

    • Accelerating the deployment of SMRs under international safeguards, by implementing a coal-to-nuclear transition at existing thermal power-plant sites, will take India closer to net-zero and improve energy security because uranium resources are not as concentrated as reserves of critical minerals.
    • The costs will decline steepest for India when reputed companies manufacture SMRs. 
      • This at least was the reason SMRs were included in the U.S.-India joint statement after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met U.S. President Joe Biden in June 2023.

    The legal and regulatory changes required

    • The Atomic Energy Act will need to be amended to allow the private sector to set up SMRs. 
    • To ensure safety, security, and safeguards, control of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste must continue to lie with the Government of India. 
    • The government will also have to enact a law to create an independent, empowered regulatory board with the expertise and capacity to oversee every stage of the nuclear power generation cycle.
    • The security around SMRs must remain under government control, while the Nuclear Power Corporation can operate privately-owned SMRs during the hand-holding process.
    • Finally, the Department of Atomic Energy must improve the public perception of nuclear power in India by better disseminating comprehensive environmental and public health data of the civilian reactors, which are operating under international safeguards, in India.

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • An efficient regulatory regime is important if SMRs are to play a meaningful role in decarbonising the power sector. 
    • This can be achieved if all countries that accept nuclear energy direct their respective regulators to cooperate amongst themselves and with the International Atomic Energy Agency to harmonise their regulatory requirements and expedite statutory approvals for SMRs based on standard, universal designs.
    • Since India has committed to become net-zero by 2070, the country’s nuclear power output needs a quantum jump. 
    • Since the large investments required for NPP expansion can’t come from the government alone, attracting investments from the private sector (in PPP mode) is important to decarbonise India’s energy sector.

    Source: TH

    Cott-Ally Mobile App

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    In News

    • The Union Minister of State for Ministry of Textiles has informed recently that the Cott-Ally mobile app has been developed exclusively for the cotton farmers.

    About 

    • The app has been developed by the Cotton Corporation of India Limited (CCI).
    • The various features of “Cott-Ally” are as follows: 
      • Easy to operate in regional languages. 
      • Minimum Support Price (MSP) cotton rates state-wise, variety-wise and quality-wise can be seen.
      • Farmers can track real time payment status of their kapas sold to CCI under MSP. 
      • Contact details of procurement centers opened by the CCI. 
      • Direct interaction with CCI through Live chat to resolve doubts & grievances, if any.

    The Cotton Corporation of India Limited (CCI)

    • CCI was established in 1970 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India as a Public Sector Undertaking under the Companies Act 1956.
    • Functions: The major role of the CCI is to undertake price support operations, whenever the market prices of kapas fall below the minimum support prices (MSP) announced by Govt. of India, without any quantitative limit. 
      • Besides MSP operations, to fulfil the raw material requirement of the domestic textile industry particularly for lean season, CCI undertakes commercial purchase operations.

    Cotton Industry in India

    • India is the largest producer of cotton globally. The Central Zone (which comprises states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh) is the biggest producer of cotton in India, with Gujarat being the highest producer of the Central Zone.
      • Saurashtra constitutes about 70% of Gujarat’s cotton production, with farmers in Amreli – the state’s largest cotton district – playing a key role.
    • In 2020, India stood as the third highest exporter of raw cotton globally, accounting for about 10.2% of the total global exports.
      • In 2021-22, India exported cotton to over 159 countries throughout the world. Bangladesh, China, and Vietnam were India’s major cotton importers. 
    • The Government of India along with the export promotion council has set a long-term target of US$ 100 billion for textiles industry exports by 2025-26.

    Measures for development of cotton sector by Government

    • Special Package: It includes additional incentives under the Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS), relaxation of Section 80JJAA of the Income Tax Act, and the introduction of fixed-term employment for the apparel sector. 
      • Under the Market Access Initiative (MAI) Scheme, the government offers rebates on state and central taxes and levies that are integrated into production, as well as aid to exporters. 
    • Capacity Building: Schemes like SAMARTH (Scheme for Capacity Building in the Textile Sector) aim to address the shortage of skilled workers in the textile sector with a target of training 10 lakh people.
    • MITRA: Government has launched Mega Investment Textiles Parks (MITRA) during the Union Budget for 2021-22 under which seven textile parks will be established over a period of three years. 
      • This will enable the textile industry to become globally competitive, boost employment generation and attract large investments.
    • To safeguard the cotton farmers from distress sales, Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) is appointed as a Central Nodal agency for undertaking MSP operations when prices of Fair Average Quality grade seed cotton (kapas) fall below the MSP rates.
    • Government ensures availability of Cotton to Textile Industry through a mechanism namely Committee on Cotton Promotion and Consumption (COCPC). 

    Source: PIB

    Facts In News

     

    Keralam

    Syllabus: GS2/ Indian Polity

    News

    • The Kerala Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to rename the state as “Keralam”  under Article 3 of the Constitution.

    About

    • Origin of the name:The earliest epigraphic record that mentions Kerala is emperor Asoka’s Rock Edict II of 257 BC. The inscription refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra ( “son of Kerala”), and also “son of Chera” referring to the Chera dynasty.
    • At present the First Schedule of the Constitution also specifies the name of the State as ‘Kerala.’

    Formation of the modern state

    • The people speaking Malayalam had been ruled by various kings and princely states in the region. In the 1920s, the Aikya (unified) Kerala movement gathered momentum and a demand for a separate state for Malayalam-speaking people came up. It aimed at the integration of Malabar, Kochi and Travancore into one territory.
    • After independence, merger and integration of princely states was a major step towards the formation of the state of Kerala. On 1 July, 1949, the two states of Travancore and Kochi were integrated, heralding the birth of the Travancore-Cochin State.
    • When it was decided to reorganize states on a linguistic basis, the State Reorganisation Commission of the Union Government recommended creation of the state of Kerala. 
    • Later the State Reorganisation Commission ( Fazl Ali Commission)  recommended reorganizing states on a linguistic basis and creation of the state of Kerala.
    • The state of Kerala came into being on November 1, 1956. In Malayalam, the state was referred to as Keralam, while in English it was Kerala.

    Process to rename a state in India

    • Article 3 authorizes the Parliament to: 
      • form a new state by separation of territory from any state or by uniting two or more states or parts of states or by uniting any territory to a part of any state; 
      • increase the area of any state; 
      • diminish the area of any state; 
      • alter the boundaries of any state; and 
      • alter the name of any state. 
    • However, Article 3 lays down two conditions in this regard: a bill contemplating the above changes can be introduced in the Parliament only with the prior recommendation of the President; and before recommending the bill, the President has to refer the same to the state legislature concerned for expressing its views within a specified period. 
    • The President (or Parliament) is not bound by the views of the state legislature and may either accept or reject them.
    • Moreover, the Indian Constitution (Article 4) itself declares that laws made for alteration of names of existing states (under Articles 3) are not to be considered as amendments of the Constitution under Article 368. such laws can be passed by a simple majority and by the ordinary legislative process. 

    Source:IE

    World Lion Day

    Syllabus: GS-3/Environment, Biodiversity

    Context

    • World Lion Day is observed on August 10 every year throughout the world  to create awareness about conservation & protection of Lions. 

    Historical Context

    • World Lion Day was first established in 2013 by Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to lions. 
    • It was co-founded by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, a husband and wife team who recognised the need to focus on declining lion populations and the threats they faced in the wild. 
    • In 2009, the Jouberts approached “National Geographic” and formed a partnership with them to create the Big Cat Initiative (B.C.I.).

    Objectives of World Lion Day

    • To increase public awareness of the lion’s status and other problems the species face in the wild.
    • To develop new national parks and other similar places, as well as strategies to safeguard its natural habitat.
    • To inform those who live close to wild cats about the risks and how to stay safe.

    Significance of the Day

    • Cultural Relevance: Their earliest known references may be found in the pillars of the Mauryan empire, which demonstrates their illustrious status in Indian history and culture. The majestic lion is depicted on all four sides of the Indian national emblem.
    • Risk of Extinction: Lions are already a vulnerable species, thus we must take action to prevent their extinction.
    • Trade and Abuse: Unfortunately, lion cruelty and trade are pervasive across the world. Lion Day calls attention to this problem and urges world leaders to take appropriate action.

    More about the Lions

    • Scientific Name: Panthera leo.
    • Grouping: Lions are one of the most sociable cats and live in a group called Prides.
    • IUCN Status: 
      • African Lion: Vulnerable
        • The African lion (Panthera leo leo) is found in Africa, south of the Sahara desert.
      • Asiatic Lion: Endangered
        • The Asiatic lion (Persian lion or Indian lion) is presently found only in and around the Gir Forest in the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat in western India.
    • Population Status: 
      • Lions have disappeared from 80% of their historical range in the last century.
      • Earlier they can be found in  woodlands of Africa, Asia, North America, and the Eurasian subcontinent. Unfortunately, they can only currently be found in Africa and some areas of Asia.
      • As per the Researchers, there are between 30,000 and 100,000 lions left in the world today.  Lion populations have almost cut in half during the last three decades.
    • Threats: Poaching, trophy hunting and the destruction of natural habitat.
    • Role in Ecology: Lions are an essential component of the ecosystem because they are the top predators in their habitat and control the population of grazers, keeping the ecological balance.
    • Conservation Efforts:
      • Asiatic Lion Conservation Project: It was launched by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
      • The lion census is conducted once every five years.
      • Project Lion: Modeled after Project Tiger and Project Elephant, it was unveiled in August 2020.
      •  The Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released the Project Lion document titled “Lion @ 47: Vision for Amrutkal”.

    Source: PIB

    Indian Web Browser Development Challenge

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government Policies & intervention

    In News

    • MeiTY has launched the Indian Web Browser Development Challenge and plans on launching its own internet browser.

    About

    • The primary objective of this challenge is to create a homegrown web browser for global use, equipped with an integrated Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) India root certificate.
    • The proposed browser will adhere to international standards and contribute to safeguarding personal data.
    • Eligibility for the competition is extended to Indian Tech Start-ups, MSMEs, Companies, and LLPs registered under the Companies Act 2013.

    Need

    • SSL certificates are used to encrypt websites and to make sure that browsers know that a website is not being modified or impersonated by attackers. Browsers know to trust these certificates if they are issued by a certifying authority that is in turn trusted by a ‘root certifying authority’. 
      • India does not have a root certifying authority trusted by major browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
    • The Root Certifying Authority of India, set up in 2000 under the CCA — but the certificates issued under its purview are largely not recognised by web browsers, leading Indian government and private websites to purchase SSL certificates from foreign certifying authorities.
    • There is a huge amount of foreign exchange outflow which is happening” to foreign certifying authorities.

    Source: TH

    World University Games

    Syllabus :Miscellaneous

    In News

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Indian athletes for their incredible performance at the 31st World University Games. 
      • Indian athletes have returned with a record-breaking haul of 26 medals. 

    About World University Games

    • The FISU World University Games are staged every two years in a different city.
      • This celebration of international university sports and culture draws many thousands of student-athletes together to compete, making it among the world’s largest and most prestigious multi-sport events.
    • It was formerly known as the Universiade, began in 1959 and India have been participating in the multi-sport meet since the inaugural edition.
      • India has been part of the World University Games since the inaugural edition at Turin in 1959.
    • The programme of the summer edition of the FISU World University Games currently includes 15 compulsory sports and up to 3 optional sports:

    Source:News on air 

     

    Open Market Sale of Foodgrain

    Syllabus: GS3/Indian Economy

    Context

    • Government to release more foodgrain stock by open market sale to curb price rise.

    What is the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)?

    • The procurement of food grains like wheat and paddy for the central pool happens in Rabi and Kharif marketing seasons by the FCI and State corporations according to procurement estimates finalised by the government of India before the seasons. These purchases happen as per the Minimum Support Price.
    • From the central pool, the government has to set aside wheat and rice for the 80 crore beneficiaries of free foodgrains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), maintain a buffer stock, and have a marketable surplus.
    • Under the Open Market Sale Scheme, the FCI from time to time sells surplus food grains from the central pool especially wheat and rice in the open market to traders, bulk consumers, retail chains and so on at predetermined prices.
    • The FCI does this through e-auctions where open market bidders can buy specified quantities at the prices set at the start of a cycle and revised routinely.
    • Usually, states are also allowed to procure food grains through the OMSS without participating in the auctions, for their needs beyond what they get from the central pool to distribute to NFSA beneficiaries.
    • The idea is to activate the OMSS during the lean season, the time between harvests, to improve and regulate domestic supply and availability of the two grains and bring down their prices in the open market; essentially making the scheme a measure to curb food grain inflation.

    TH

    The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order Amendment Bill 2023

    Syllabus:GS2/Polity

    News

    • The Parliament passed the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill 2023.

    About

    • The Bill amends the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in Chhattisgarh.The Order lists the castes and tribes deemed to be Scheduled Castes in states and union territories.
    • Scheduled Castes in Chhattisgarh: The Bill includes Mahara and Mahra communities as synonyms of the Mehra, Mahar, and Mehar communities in Chhattisgarh.  
    • The proposed legislation will help expand the benefits of government schemes and benefits meant for Scheduled Castes in the State to around two lakh more people.

    Mahar Community

    • The Mahar community are the original inhabitants of Maharashtra and the state is believed to be named after them.During their fight for a better lifestyle, they started moving to the neighboring states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Around 12,00,00 people from these two communities are settled in the state of Chhattisgarh.
    • The Mahar community is already listed as a Scheduled Caste in the state, but members of the Mahra and Mahara communities, who identify themselves as Mahar, have not been able to avail themselves of the benefits available to SCs.

    Source:AIR

    Consultative Committees

    Syllabus: GS2/ Parliament & State Legislatures, Conduct of Business, Structure & Functioning

    In News

    • Recently, the government was asked about the constitution of consultative committees for the year 2023-24.

    Consultative Committees

    • These committees are constituted by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. Consultative Committees of different ministries are not constituted year wise.
    • As per Guidelines on Constitution, Functions and Procedures of Consultative Committees, Consultative Committees shall be constituted upon constitution of each Lok Sabha
      • For 17th Lok Sabha, 40 Consultative Committees have so far been constituted.
    • The maximum membership of a Consultative Committee should be limited to forty. In addition, a maximum of four Members from both Houses can also be nominated as Permanent Special Invitees. The minimum membership of the Consultative Committee shall be  ten.
    • There is no requirement of presence of a minimum number of Members to constitute the quorum for holding meetings of Consultative Committees.
    • The Minister concerned with each Ministry/Department shall preside over the meeting of the Consultative Committee attached to his/her Ministry.
    • Functions: Consultative committees provide a forum for informal discussions between the ministers and the members of Parliament on policies and programmes of the government and the manner of their implementation.

    Source: PIB

    Assam Rifles

    Syllabus: GS3/Internal Security

    News: 

    • Tasked with manning “buffer zones” between Meitei- and Kuki-Zomi-dominated territories in Manipur, some are demanding its removal from the state.

    Historical Context

    • The AR was raised as the Cachar Levy, a militia that would protect tea estates and British settlements against raids by the tribal peoples of the Northeast. 
    • The force was subsequently reorganised as the Assam Frontier Force, and its role was expanded to conduct punitive operations.
    • It is India’s oldest paramilitary force raised in 1835. It has since fought in the two World Wars and the Sino-Indian war of 1962, and has been used as an anti-insurgency force against militant groups in the Northeast.

    About Assam Rifles (AR)

    • The AR is one of the six central armed police forces (CAPFs) under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)
    • The other five forces are the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
    • The AR is tasked with maintaining law and order in the Northeast along with the Indian Army. It also guards the Indo-Myanmar border. 
    • The AR have a sanctioned strength of more than 63,000 personnel, organised in 46 battalions, apart from administrative and training staff.
    • The AR is unique with respect to being the only paramilitary force with a dual control structure. While the administrative control of the force is with the MHA, its operational control is with the Indian Army, which is under the Ministry of Defence (MoD)
    • This means that salaries and infrastructure for the force is provided by the MHA, but the deployment, posting, transfers, and deputation of AR personnel is decided by the Army. 
    • Given its contribution in opening the Northeastern region to administration and commerce, it came to be known as the “right arm of the civil and left arm of the military”.

    Source: IE