GS 1 : Ancient Indian History – Buddhism
Ministry of Culture along with IBC to celebrate the auspicious day of Vaisakh Purnima on 5th May –
The Ministry of Culture along with IBC will celebrate the auspicious day of Vaisakh Purnima with reverence and piety on 5th May. International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) in coordination with the Himalayan Buddhist Culture Association (HBCA) will be celebrating the event at the National Museum, New Delhi.
Various autonomous Buddhist organisations and grantee Institutions under the Ministry of Culture are organising several programmes/events on the occasion.
All the staff and 600 students of the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies(CIBS), Leh will participate in the grand celebrations being organized by Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) & Ladakh Gonpa Association (LGA) at the Polo Ground in Leh. On this occasion ‘Mangalacharan’ (Invocation Prayer) will be performed by the students of the CIBS, Leh. Besides, there will be a display of two tableaus depicting the birth and delivery of the First Sermon of Buddha, prepared by the students of CIBS, Leh, U.T. of Ladakh.
Vaishakh Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day of the year for Buddhists all over the world as it marks the three main events of Lord Buddha’s life – Birth, Enlightenment, and Mahaparinirvana. The day assumes special significance since Buddhism originated in India. Since 1999 it has also been recognized by the United Nations as the ‘UN Day of Vesak’. This year the Vaishakh Buddha Purnima is being celebrated on 5th May.
Recently, Ministry of Culture held the first Global Buddhist Summit (20-21 April) attended by over 500 participants from 30 countries. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The Ministry of Culture along with its grantee body, IBC, a global Buddhist umbrella body, headquartered in New Delhi, also held a successful international meeting of experts from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) nations on “Shared Buddhist Heritage” from 14th – 15th March, to re-establish trans-cultural links and seek out commonalities, between Buddhist art of SCO countries.
GS 3 : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From Trash to Treasure: A Hackathon on Innovative Solutions for Waste Utilization –
Driven by the message of Mission LiFE and circular economy goals, the Central Pollution Control Board is organizing an online ‘Waste to Wealth Ideation Hackathon’ for undergraduate and above students on 14th May, 2023 (Sunday) the registration for which are currently open on https://cpcb.nic.in/w2w-hackathon-cpcb/#
It is a nationwide event to provide platform to college students across the country to solve real-world waste management challenges on (a) plastic waste (b) electronic waste (c) battery waste (d) crop residue. It will help them to build upon their understanding of waste management and present innovative solutions for Waste to Wealth conversion.
The Ideation Hackathon offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to students to win cash prizes worth up to Rs. 3.6 Lakhs across all waste streams. On the day of Ideation Hackathon i.e. May 14, 2023 (Sunday), one problem Statement each for four waste categories will be posted on the CPCB website at 09:00 am and students will be required to email the original ideas pertaining to it on w2w.cpcb[at]gov[dot]in by 05:00 pm in a given template. The best original ideas under each waste category will be awarded cash prize of Rs. 50,000, Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 15,000. Along with this, chosen ideas will get incubation support, industry exposure, and mentoring from top scientists of CPCB. For further details regarding eligibility, process, important dates and problem scope, please visit https://cpcb.nic.in/w2w-hackathon-cpcb/.
The last date for registration is May 12, 2023 (Friday).
GS 3 : Science & Technology – developments & their applications & effects in everyday life
New way to track particles in soft colloids using optical tweezers can be applied in targeted drug delivery –
Scientists have found a way to track minute clay particle movements within soft clay colloids using optical tweezers — the application of which in biological systems brought the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. This new way to track particles and manipulate them as desired can be applied in areas like targeted drug delivery.
Using optical tweezers, researchers at Raman Research Institute (RRI), an autonomous institute funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, attempted to study the dynamics and hidden structural details of Laponite, a synthetic clay. As these clay particles are the same size (monodisperse) and transparent, so they are best suitable for performing advanced studies under light. Laponite is a widely used raw material in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. This clay comprises disk-shaped particles sized 25 to 30 nanometres (nm) and one nm in thickness.
Polystyrene beads dispersed in Laponite clay suspension were used for the experimental setup. With time, microstructures were noted to have developed due to the electrostatic interactions between the clay particles. These microstructures grew stronger with time, with their network size dependent on the concentration of Laponite particles.
“These structures are responsible for the material’s elasticity, enabling adjustment of elasticity by tuning the microstructures. These microstructures also form connections with micron-sized polystyrene particles, which are used to probe these suspensions in such studies,” said Anson G. Thambi, a third-year Ph.D. student at RRI.
In a study published in the journal ‘Soft Matter, Ranjini Bandyopadhyay, faculty, RRI, and her team used optical tweezers as they wanted to measure movements of the probe in nanometres scales, where the properties of the medium evolve with passing time. Optical tweezer is a popular tool in an optics laboratory, used to measure minute forces and manipulate tiny dielectric beads trapped at the tight focus of an intense laser beam over length scales down to a few nanometers. It allows the inducement of movement in the trapped probe particle, and its response is analysed to extract previously inaccessible local viscoelastic properties of the underlying medium.
“These attachments between the probe (PS) and Laponite clay particles are necessary to understand the properties of the suspension if the internal networks are of sizes greater than the probe itself,” said Bandyopadhyay.
Furthermore, the team used cryogenic field emission scanning electron microscopy (cryo-FESEM) to examine the average pore areas formed by the Laponite microstructures.
“Interestingly, the collective observations obtained using an optical tweezer and cryo-FESEM experiments revealed an intriguing and previously unknown correlation. We found that beads trapped by the optical tweezer moved much slower in denser network structures,” added Bandyopadhyay.
The RRI team thus concluded the prevalence of a direct relation between the morphologies of the clay suspension structures and the probe particle dynamics at micrometre length scales.
GS 3 : Agriculture and related issues
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) –
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is a part of India’s and the G20 countries’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) vision. It is a complex, mega-scale challenge. The objective of CSA is to optimise a country’s agriculture productivity, resilience, and emissions in response to climate change (long-term, irreversible changes in temperature, precipitation, humidity, pressure, and wind). The G20 can play a key role in addressing the challenge of climate-smart agriculture.
What is Climate-smart agriculture (CSA)?
- Sustainable agricultural practice:Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) refers to the sustainable agricultural practices that help to increase food production and farmer incomes, improve resilience to climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- CSA aims to achieve three goals simultaneously: (1) sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes, (2) adapting and building resilience to climate change, and (3) reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.
- It involves a combination of strategies, technologies, and policies that are tailored to the specific needs and conditions of each country’s agriculture sector.
Challenges for Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) –
- Complex and multi-dimensional:CSA is a complex and multi-dimensional challenge that requires integrated solutions, which may be difficult to implement and require significant investments.
- Lack of awareness and knowledge:Many farmers are not aware of the benefits of CSA and may not have the knowledge or skills to implement it effectively.
- Access to finance:Financing for CSA practices may be limited, especially for smallholder farmers who may lack collateral or access to credit.
- Policy and institutional constraints: Policies and institutions may not be aligned to support the adoption and scaling up of CSA practices.
- Technical and technological challenges:CSA requires the use of appropriate technologies and practices, which may not be available or accessible in some regions.
- Climate change impacts:The impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events, may negatively affect the productivity and resilience of agricultural systems, making it difficult to implement CSA practices.
- Data and information gaps: There may be gaps in data and information on the impacts of CSA practices, making it difficult to assess their effectiveness and scale them up.
G20’s role in addressing these challenges –
- The G20 must play a key role in addressing the challenge of CSA by adopting the ontological framework, method, and recommendations to set the agenda for research, policy, and practice.
- The G20 must constitute a committee to formulate a systemic agenda for systematic research, policies, and practices for the digitalisation of CSA in a country using the ontology.
- The Think20 Engagement Groups provide research and policy advice to the G20 and are ideal forums to develop the ontological framework as the G20 presidency rotates between the member countries each year.
- The ontology of CSA must be adopted globally as a framework for all G20 countries by adapting the crop and region taxonomies to each country.
- The G20 committee must help countries collaborate in their efforts, coordinate their policies, and communicate their learnings.
- The G20 must set the trajectory for the digitalisation of CSA within the G20 and globally and must provide a ‘map’ for the global effort.
Recommendations to the G20 –
- Outcome Management:
- Productivity: Encourage the adoption of sustainable soil management practices, provide subsidies and financial incentives for efficient irrigation techniques, and invest in R&D of improved seed varieties.
- Resilience: Promote crop diversification, develop a comprehensive risk management strategy, and support agroforestry practices.
- Emissions Management:Develop and implement policies that promote reduced tillage practices, provide financial incentives and support for the adoption of renewable energy technologies, and develop and implement regulations and standards for sustainable livestock management practices.
- Regional Management: Utilise digitalisation tools and technologies to effectively differentiate CSA management across regions in India, gather real-time data and information on regional variations, deliver customised and region-specific extension services to farmers, optimise resource use, and facilitate stakeholder engagement and collaboration.
- Crop Management:
- Differentiation of CSA management across crops:Identify the unique agro-ecological and socioeconomic conditions of each crop and design region-specific policies and programmes that promote CSA practices and technologies.
- Integration of CSA management across crops:Promote the use of integrated crop management practices that focus on optimising resource use, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and enhancing productivity across multiple crops.
- Precision crop management:Adopt precision agriculture techniques that utilise real-time data and information to optimise resource use and increase productivity.
- Digital Semiotics Management:
- Collect and analyse weather data:India has a vast network of weather stations across the country that collect data on temperature, precipitation, humidity, pressure, and wind fields. This data can be used to analyse weather patterns and identify trends that affect crop growth and yield. Machine learning algorithms can be used to process the data and provide real-time insights to farmers on weather forecasts, pest and disease outbreaks, and optimal planting and harvesting times.
- Develop crop-specific models:India has a diverse range of crops grown across different regions, each with unique requirements for temperature, precipitation, and other climatic factors. Crop-specific models can be developed using data and information on climate
- Promote precision agriculture: Precision agriculture involves the use of digital technologies such as sensors, drones, and satellite imaging to monitor crop health and growth, and provide real-time recommendations to farmers. By incorporating weather data and information into precision agriculture technologies, farmers can make data-driven decisions that are tailored to the local climatic conditions.
- Build farmer capacity:To effectively use data and information on climate variability, farmers need to have the skills and knowledge to interpret and apply this information to their farming practices. Training programmes and extension services can be developed to build farmer capacity in using digital tools and interpreting weather data. These programmes can be designed to be accessible and affordable to all farmers, including smallholder farmers.
GS 2 : Government Scheme/Policies
Contributory Guaranteed Pension Scheme (CGPS) –
The debate on pensions is heating up as several state governments announce their reversion to the old pension scheme (OPS). However, economists have frowned upon this move, citing two major reasons. Firstly, since the state has to bear the full burden of pensions, it may become fiscally unsustainable in the long run. Secondly, an unsustainable rise in pension allocation in the budget can come at the cost of other welfare expenditures allocated to the poor and marginalized sections.
What is meant by pension?
A pension is a retirement plan that provides a stream of income to individuals after they retire from their job or profession. It can be funded by employers, government agencies, or unions and is designed to ensure a steady income during retirement.
What is Old Pension Scheme (OPS)?
- The OPS, also known as the Defined Benefit Pension System, is a pension plan provided by the government for its employees in India.
- Under the OPS, retired government employees receive a fixed monthly pension based on their last drawn salary and years of service.
- This pension is funded by the government and paid out of its current revenues, leading to increased pension liabilities.
What is the National Pension System (NPS)?
- The Union government under PM Vajpayee took a decision in 2003 to discontinue the old pension scheme and introduced the NPS.
- The scheme is applicable to all new recruits joining the Central Government service (except armed forces) from April 1, 2004.
- On the introduction of NPS, the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 was amended.
What are two arguments against reverting to the old pension scheme?
- Fiscal Unsustainability: Since the State has to bear the full burden of pensions, it will become fiscally unsustainable in the medium to long run.
- Trade-Off with Welfare Expenditure:Such an unsustainable rise in pension allocation in the Budget can only come at the cost of other more pressing welfare expenditures allocated to the poor and marginalized sections.
The commonality between the two arguments –
- Both arguments assume that the fiscal revenues are fixed, which is not necessarily the case if the government has its priorities right.
- Both arguments assume that unsustainable rise in pension allocation in the Budget can only come at the cost of other more pressing welfare expenditures allocated to the poor and marginalized sections.
Why Public sector workers are asking for a guaranteed pension in place of the NPS?
- Fluctuating pension returns:The NPS is market-based, which means that the pension returns fluctuate according to the returns prevailing in the market. This creates uncertainty and makes it difficult for employees to plan for their post-retirement life.
- Guaranteed pension: Public sector workers are looking for a guaranteed pension that will provide them with a fixed amount after retirement. This will ensure a stable and predictable post-retirement life for them.
- Employee contribution:In the new contributory guaranteed pension scheme (CGPS), a large part of the pension will be funded by the employees themselves. This is in contrast to the old pension scheme (OPS) where no contribution was required from the employees.
- Protection against market fluctuations:The CGPS provides protection to employees against market fluctuations. If the market return happens to be higher than the guaranteed pension, the State gets to pocket the difference. On balance, the additional burden on the CGPS may be marginal compared to the NPS.
- Burden-sharing: The CGPS ensures that the burden of uncertainty does not fall on employees alone. In the OPS, elite workers gain at the cost of their brethren lower on the income ladder. However, in the CGPS, the burden is only the employer’s contribution part, exactly as in the NPS.
Potential disadvantages of a CGPS –
- Higher contribution burden on employees:Under the CGPS, employees will continue to contribute a fixed percentage of their basic pay towards their pension. This may put a higher burden on them compared to the current system, where their contribution fluctuates based on market returns.
- Additional administrative burden:Implementing a new pension scheme like CGPS may involve additional administrative burden and costs for the government, which could be challenging to manage efficiently.
- Uncertainty of market returns:While the CGPS guarantees a fixed pension amount, it does not provide any certainty on the market returns. If the market returns are lower than expected, the government will have to bear the burden of paying the difference between the guaranteed pension and the actual pension.
Way ahead –
- The government could consider implementing the Contributory Guaranteed Pension Scheme (CGPS) as an alternative to the New Pension Scheme (NPS) for public sector workers.
- The CGPS would allow the state to pocket any excess returns from the market, rather than bearing the entire burden of uncertain market returns as in the NPS.
- The government should consider rationalizing taxes, such as implementing inheritance and wealth taxes, to increase its revenue and reduce its dependence on fixed fiscal revenues.
- The government should set up a special task force to rationalize pensions and address the issue of pension sustainability in the long run.
- A possible downside to the CGPS is that it may require a higher contribution from employees, which could affect their take-home pay during their working life. However, this could be addressed by offering tax breaks or other incentives to encourage employees to contribute to the scheme.
GS 2 : Issues relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
Tele-MANAS : Helping people in distress –
The Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Srinagar has received 10,500 calls from people in distress across Jammu and Kashmir over the past six months.
What is Tele-MANAS?
- Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking across States (Tele-MANAS) initiative has been launched by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare during October 2022.
- It aims to provide free tele-mental healthservices all over the country round the clock, particularly catering to people in remote or under-served areas.
Implementation of the scheme –
- Counselling:The programme includes a network of 38 tele-mental health centres of excellence spread across 27 States and UT’s working in over 20 languages.
- Helpline:A toll-free, 24/7 helpline number (14416) has been set up across the country allowing callers to select the language of choice for availing services. Service is also accessible with 1-800-91-4416.
Two-tier working –
- Tele-MANAS will be organised in two-tier system; Tier 1 comprises of state Tele-MANAS cells which include trained counsellors and mental health specialists.
- Tier 2 will comprise of specialists at District Mental Health Programme (DMHP)/Medical College resources for physical consultation and/or e-Sanjeevani for audio-visual consultation.
Expansion of the scheme –
- The initial rollout providing basic support and counselling through centralized Interactive Voice Response system (IVRS) is being customized for use across all States and UTs.
- It is being linking with other services like National tele-consultation, e-Sanjeevani, Ayushman Bharat, mental health professionals, health centres, and emergency psychiatric facilities for specialized care.
- This will not only help in providing immediate mental healthcare services, but also facilitate continuum of care.
- Eventually, this will include the entire spectrum of mental wellness and illness, and integrate all systems that provide mental health care.