Topic 1 : INFUSE mission and Cygnus Loop
Why in news: A NASA rocket will study a stellar event about 2,600 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
- A massive star, perhaps 20 times the size of our sun, exploded in a brilliant supernova that would have been bright enough for those on Earth to see with an unaided eye, even during the day.
- Although the blast occurred some 20,000 years ago, star matter ejected during the explosion is still fanning out at 930,000 miles every hour
- It spanned three times the size of a full moon back in 2012 and is now thought to be 120 light-years across.
- The remnant, known to astronomers as the Cygnus Loop reflects an ongoing supernova blast.
- It is showing us in real time how heavy elements that formed in the late star’s heart are returned back into the universe, where the next generation of stars and galaxies will inherit them and manifest across eons.
- The INFUSE mission (short for “Integral Field Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Experiment”) is expected to collect information about the remnant for a few minutes from a height of 150 miles (240 km).
- Specifically, the instrument will gather light streaming from the Cygnus Loop in far-ultraviolet wavelengths.
- INFUSE will observe how the supernova dumps energy into the Milky Way by catching light given off just as the blast wave crashes into pockets of cold gas floating around the galaxy.What is a supernova?
- A supernova is a powerful and luminous explosion of a star.
- A supernova occurs during the last evolutionary stages of a massive star or when a white dwarf is triggered into runaway nuclear fusion.
- The peak optical luminosity of a supernova can be comparable to that of an entire galaxy before fading over several weeks or months.
Topic 2 : Chinese research vessel Shiyan 6
Why in news: Chinese vessel begins research off the coast of Sri Lanka amid India’s concerns
- Chinese research vessel Shiyan 6 is set to begin its two-day research off the Sri Lankan coast.
- The research will be pursued off Sri Lanka’s western coast, and in collaboration with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) and the University of Ruhuna.
- Nature of research:
- It is a marine scientific research.
- The Ministry had earlier said the vessel was at the Colombo port for replenishment.
About Shiyan 6
- Research ship Shiyan 6 was added to China’s fleet of marine research vessels in 2020.
- It is said to be the country’s first scientific research vessel focusing on geophysical exploration.
Research vessels of India:
- Some of the research vessels of India are:
- INS Anvesh (A41)
- ORV Sagar Kanya
- ORV Sagar Nidhi
- FORV Sagar Sampada
- INS Sagardhwani (A74)
Topic 3 : Notifying a tiger reserve in Goa
Why in news: Recently, the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court directed the Goa government to notify a tiger reserve in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) and other contiguous areas of the state within three months.
- The court also directed the state to determine and settle the rights and claims of Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers within a year.
- The Goa government had approached the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the High Court’s judgement.
- The Goa Foundation filed a contempt petition before the Bombay HC at Goa seeking action against the Goa government for not complying with the directions of the High Court to notify a tiger reserve within three months.
- The 2014 Status of Tigers (Co-predators & Prey) in India report, released by the statutory body National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) formed under the Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972, speaks about the tiger presence in the region.
- The report said the Cotigao-Mhadei forest complex of Goa comprises five protected areas:
- Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary,
- Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park,
- Bhagwan Mahavir National Park,
- Netravali Wild ife Sanctuary and
- Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
- They together cover an area of 750 sq mts, forming a contiguous belt connecting the forests of Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- It further added that Goa has a persistent tiger presence with about three to five tigers.
Status of proposals for a tiger reserve in Goa
- In 2011 a proposal was made to declare the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve.
- The proposal said that there is evidence to show that tigers in Goa are not merely transient animals but are a resident population as well.
- Mhadei is a contiguous tiger landscape to Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka to its south-east and to Anshi Dandeli Tiger Reserve to its south which has around 35 tigers.
- A 2008 study carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India, said protected areas of Goa and their contiguous forests in Karnataka and Maharashtra were possibly some of the best potential tiger habitats in the Western Ghats region and needed protection.
- State government to notify tiger reserve:
- In 2016, the NTCA recommended that the state government should notify a tiger reserve in the Cotigao-Mhadei forest complex.
- Over the next 18 months, the Forest Department prepared a tentative map for the reserve – comprising largely undisturbed areas with few human hamlets as the core zone, its most protected area.
- A Special Tiger Protection Force:
- Protections for the area would be enhanced and lead to stricter security measures, such as a ‘Special Tiger Protection Force’ for guarding purposes.
- A map demarcating the protected zones:
- A draft proposal in 2018 mentioned that a map has been drawn to demarcate the contiguous forest habitat in existing protected areas in Western Ghats as the core zone.
- Main villages and human habitation were to be kept outside this zone and placed in the proposed buffer zone, as far as possible.
- The proposed map said that out of 745.18 square kilometres of protected areas, 578.33 sq km was proposed as core zone and 166.85 sq km as the buffer zone.
Goa government’s contentions:
- WPA section is not mandatory:
- Referring to the recommendations by NTCA, the state government argued before the court that the provisions of section 38-V (1) of the Wildlife Protection Act were only directory and not mandatory.
- Rights of forest dwellers needs settlement first:
- The government said it was not opposed to notifying the area as a tiger reserve but further studies were necessary and the rights of the forest dwellers needed to be settled entirely before such steps could be taken.
- Proposing these areas as tiger reserves without settlement of rights and claims of the forest dwellers may be premature and will adversely affect larger public interest and further aggravate man-tiger conflict.
- No separate protection for tiger necessary:
- Another contention put forth by the state was that the protected areas enjoy the same level of protection for all flora and fauna as in a tiger reserve and no additional protection was necessary for the tiger, because all wild animals deserved equal protection.Topic 4 : The stance of the Maldives President-elect on India
Why in news: Since his win in the Maldivian presidential election in September 2023, President-elect Mohamed Muizzu has emphasised his desire to send Indian troops out of the country, while pledging to safeguard the Maldives’s independence and sovereignty.
Indian military presence in Maldives:
- 75 Indian military personnel stay in the Maldives to maintain and operate the Dornier aircraft and two helicopters gifted to the Maldives by the Government of India.
- The helicopters have been present in the Maldives for over a decade.
- The Dornier aircraft was presented to the Maldives in 2020, following a request from Male.
- The choppers and the aircraft are used for a range of functions such as:
- medical evacuation,
- search and rescue operations,
- surveillance, and
Why is Mr. Muizzu opposed to them?
- Mr. Muizzu’s frequent pledges to removeany Indian military presence in the Maldives appear to have two obvious reasons in the current context.
- One, most of the international media, which framed the Maldives elections as a referendum on India and China tend to quiz the incoming President on his stance on the geopolitical rivalry, more than on any other domestic issue.
- Two, in repeating his position on the removal of Indian boots from Maldivian soil, Mr. Muizzu is able to demonstrate consistency with his own pre-poll pledge to supporters.
Current economic condition of Maldives:
- The Maldives is facing a major economic challenge, as it prepares to pay about $570 million annually in 2024 and 2025 to service external debt.
- In 2026, Mr. Muizzu’s government will have to service a record $1.07 billion in external debt.
- Mitigating the looming debt crisis may prove rather challenging without the cooperation of India and China, the Maldives’s main lenders and development partners.
- India’s investments:
- In the past four years, India has emerged as the Maldives’s main security and economic partner, committing $1.4 billion towards the socio-economic development needs of Maldivians.
- India’s security needs:
- The Indian establishment sees its own security interests closely tied to the Indian Ocean island nation, amid its concerns of a growing Chinese presence in the region.
- Maldives is a member of the ‘Colombo Security Conclave’, that began as a trilateral initiative with India and Sri Lanka, and later included Mauritius, for maritime cooperation in the region.Topic 5 : Maratha quota protest
Why in news: As Maratha quota protests intensify in Maharashtra, the state government has formed a panel of three former High Court judges to advise it on the legal battle over the issue in the Supreme Court.
- The Marathas are a group of castes comprising peasants and landowners, among others, constituting nearly 33 per cent of state’s population.
- The first protest over this was held 32 years ago by Mathadi Labour Union leader Annasaheb Patil in Mumbai.
Bombay High Court ruling in 2019
- In 2018, the then government in Maharashtra passed a Bill proposing 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the Maratha community.
- This was challenged in court.
- In 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
- While ruling that the 16 per cent quota granted by the state was not ‘justifiable,’ the HC reduced it to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in government jobs, as recommended by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission.
- The HC said that while the reservation ceiling should not exceed 50%, in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed if quantifiable data reflecting backwardness is made available.
GM Gaikwad Commission:
- The High Court relied heavily on findings of the 11-member Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) headed by retired Justice G M Gaikwad.
- Number of Marathas:
- The Committee surveyed about 45,000 families, from two villages in each of the 355 talukas that had more than 50 per cent Maratha population.
- Level of backwardness:
- The November 2015 report found the Maratha community to be socially, economically and educationally backward.
- In social backwardness, the Commission found that :
- around 76.86 % of Maratha families are engaged in agriculture and agricultural labour for their livelihood
- nearly 70% reside in Kachha dwellings,
- only 35- 39 % have personal tap water connections.
- Farmer’s suicide:
- The report said that in 2013-2018, a total of 2,152 (23.56%) Maratha farmers died by suicide, against total 13, 368 farmer suicides.
- Maratha women:
- The Commission also found that 88.81 % Maratha women are involved in physical labour for earning a livelihood, besides the physical domestic work they perform for the family.
- Educational backwardness:
- In educational backwardness, it found that:
- 13.42 % of Marathas are illiterate,
- 35.31 % primary educated,
- 43.79 % HSC and SSC,
- 6.71 % undergraduates and postgraduates and
- 0.77 % technically and professionally qualified.
- In educational backwardness, it found that:
Why did the Supreme Court strike down Maratha reservation?
- In 2021, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court struck down the Maratha quota, which took the total reservation in the state above the 50 per cent ceiling set by the court in its 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment.
- The Apex court said that the 50% ceiling, although an arbitrary determination by the court in 1992, is now constitutionally recognised.
- It said there was no extraordinary circumstance to cross the 50% mark, adding Marathas were a dominant forward class and are in the main stream of National life.
- In 2022, after the SC upheld the 10 per cent quota for Economically Weaker Sections, the Maharashtra government said that until the issue of Maratha reservation was resolved, economically weaker members of the community could benefit from the EWS quota.
- After the SC turned down its review plea, the state government said it would file a curative petition and form a new panel for a detailed survey of the ‘backwardness’ of the community.
Latest step by the Maharashtra government
- The state formed a five-member committee under Justice (retired) Sandeep K Shinde to study the procedure of giving Kunbi (OBC) certificates to Marathas, based on documents, including revenue records, from Nizam period.
- The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court dismissed a plea against the formation of the panel.
- The state Cabinet recently accepted the first report of the panel.
Existing reservation in Maharashtra
- In the state, following the 2001 State Reservation Act, the total reservation is 52 per cent. This included quotas for:
- Scheduled Caster (13%),
- Scheduled Tribes (7%),
- Other Backward Classes (19%),
- Special Backward Class (2%),
- Vimukta Jati (3%),
- Nomadic Tribe B (2.5%),
- Nomadic Tribe C-Dhangar (3.5%) and
- Nomadic Tribe D-Vanjari (2%).
- With the addition of the 12-13 per cent Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state had gone up to 64-65 per cent.
- The 10 % EWS quota is also effective in the state.
- Besides Marathas, communities including Dhangar, Lingayats and Muslims have also raised demands for reservation.
Topic 6 : One nation, one registration platform
Why in news: The National Medical Commission (NMC) is all set to launch its “one nation, one registration platform”.
- This platform will be for doctors across the country to eliminate duplication and red tape and allow the public to access information on any physician working in India.
- The NMC will unveil a patch pilot of the National Medical Register (NMR) in the next six months where doctors will be allotted a unique identification number and then can also apply for their licence to work in any State depending on where they are.
- The data of nearly 14 lakh doctors registered in the system will be transferred to the NMR.
- Meanwhile, the panel has signed an MoU with the Quality Council of India for rating medical institutions.
- Both government and private medical colleges will be rated based on the quality of education they provide, from the 2024-25 academic session.About National Medical Commission
- National Medical Commission (NMC) is a regulatory body which regulates medical education and medical professionals.
- It replaced the Medical Council of India in 2020.
- The Commission:
- grants recognition of medical qualifications,
- gives accreditation to medical schools,
- grants registration to medical practitioners,
- monitors medical practice and
- assesses the medical infrastructure in India.Topic 7 : Regional Committee for South-East Asia
Why in news: India, along with other South Asian and South East Asian countries, will choose between candidates from Bangladesh and Nepal for the post of Regional Director of the World Health Organization (WHO).
- The candidates will need six votes to win the contest.
- Ten of the 11 member countries will take part in the vote.
- The countries are being mostly represented by their Health Ministers.
- Myanmar, where the regime is under sanctions for the coup in 2020, has not sent a delegation to the meeting, while North Korea is being represented by its Ambassador to India.
About the Regional Committee:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
- It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has six regional offices.
- The Regional Committee for South-East Asia is WHO’s governing body in the Region.
- It is comprised of representatives from the Region’s 11 Member States, as well as Associate Members.
- The member states are:
- North Korea,
- Sri Lanka,
- The Regional Committee meets every year.
- WHO South-East Asia is home to over a quarter of the world’s population.
- WHO South-East Asia headquarters – New Delhi, India.