Topic 1: Clouded leopards
Context: Scientists have found that the clouded leopard in western Assam’s Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve seems to play a mysterious game of hide-and-seek in the tropical canopy forests.
- The clouded leopard is also called mainland clouded leopard.
- It is a wild cat inhabiting dense forests from the foothills of the Himalayas through Northeast India and Bhutan to mainland Southeast Asia into South China.
- The clouded leopard is locally extinct in Singapore, Taiwan and in Hainan Island and Vietnam.
- Its total population is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with a decreasing population trend.
- IUCN status: Vulnerable.
- CITES: Appendix I
- large–scale deforestation
- commercial poaching for the wildlife trade.
- its body parts are offered for decoration and clothing.
- The clouded leopard is categorised into two species:
- the mainland clouded leopard distributed from central Nepal to peninsular Malaysia, and
- the Sunda clouded leopard native to Borneo and Sumatra.
- In India, it occurs in the states of Sikkim, northern West Bengal, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
Topic 2: Kuttikkanam Palace
Context: The 130-year-old Kuttikkanam Palace, once the summer residence of the kings of erstwhile Travancore, is set to be declared a historical monument.
- It was also called Ammachi Kottaram.
- It was built around 1890 by the British.
- The palace was constructed during the reign of Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma who ruled the Travancore princely state from 1885 to 1924.
- British planter J.D. Munro supervised its construction.
- It was the summer palace of the erstwhile Travancore royal family.
- The palace is built in a unique style that combines British and Indian architectural elements.
- The exterior of the palace is made of white stone, and the interior is decorated with traditional Keralan artwork.
Topic 3: Emblems and Names Act
Context: A PIL has contended that the use of the acronym INDIA by the opposition parties violates provisions of The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.
About the Act:
- The Act was passed in 1950 to prevent the improper use of certain emblems and names for professional and commercial purposes.
- The Act defines emblem as any emblem, seal, flag, insignia, coat-of-arms, or pictorial representation specified in the Schedule.
- Name includes any abbreviation of a name.
- The Act prohibits the improper use of certain emblems and names.
- It prohibits the improper usage of the name, emblem, or official seal of the Government of India (GOI) or of any state.
- It also bars such usage of the national flag, the Prime Minister, the President, and the Governor’s seal, name, and emblem.
- Using names, emblems, or seals of historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Indira Gandhi is also prohibited.
- Any name that suggests the Indian government’s or a state’s patronage or a connection with any local authority, corporation, or body established by the government under any law in force for the time being will amount to improper use under the legislation.
- For example, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research is a registered body under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation.
- Any name beginning with the words “Indian Council of” can mislead the public into believing that the institute has government backing or patronage.
What powers are exercised by the Centre under this Act?
- The Act prohibits the registration of certain companies by a competent authority if it bears a title containing any name or emblem in contravention of the Act.
- If any question arises before such an authority as to whether any emblem falls under the ones specified in the Schedule, the authority may refer the question to the Centre, following which the latter’s decision will be final.
- Any person who violatesthe provisions of the 1950 Act shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.
- However, no prosecution for any offence punishable under this Act shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or of any officer authorized in this behalf by general or special order of the Central Government.
- Thus, even the competent authority’s power to initiate prosecution is subject to the Centre’s approval.
- The Centre’s power has been extended to amending the Act’s Schedule.
- The government also has the power to make rules to fulfil the objectives of this Act.
- Every such rule will be laid before both Houses of Parliament for thirty days while in session, following which, if a modification or cancellation of the same is suggested, the rule will have effect only in such modified form or no effect at all.
Topic 4: Havana Syndrome
Context: The Central government has told the Karnataka High Court that it will look into the matter of the ‘Havana Syndrome’ in India
About Havana Syndrome
- Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
- In general, the word ‘syndrome’ simply means a set of symptoms.
- It does not mean a unique medical condition, but rather a set of symptoms that are usually experienced together whose origins may be difficult to confirm.
- The Havana Syndrome typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and balance issues.
Causes of Havana Syndrome
- Study by scientists in the US and medical examination of the victims began to suggest that they may have been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either damaged or interfered with the nervous system.
- It was said to have built pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard.
- Greater exposure to high-powered microwaves is said not only to interfere with the body’s sense of balance but also to impact memory and cause permanent brain damage.
- It was suspected that beams of high-powered microwaves were sent through a special gadget that Americans then called a “microwave weapon”.
Topic 5: The language used in courts
Context: Recently, the Supreme Court observed that although there are at least 22 official languages in the country, Hindi is the national language.
- More than 100 languages and 270 mother tongues are spoken across the country.
- However, the Constitution does not list any one language as India’s national language.
- Article 343 says that the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.
- The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
- Article 351 says that it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
- This must be done without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule.
What is the Eighth Schedule?
- There are 22 languages listed under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
- There were only 14 languages in this Schedule initially.
- English is absent from the list of 22 in the Eighth Schedule.
- It is one of the 99 non-scheduled languages of India.
Status of English
- English, alongside Hindi, is one of the two official languages of the central government.
- It was to be in force for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of the Constitution, for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement.
- Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of:
- the English language, or
- the Devanagari form of numerals, for such purposes as may be specified in the law.
Language to be used in courts
- Article 348 says that until Parliament by law otherwise provides, all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court, and all Bills, Acts, ordinances, rules, and orders etc. at the Union and state levels, shall be in the English language.
- Article 348 (2) permits the use of the Hindi language, or any other language used for any official purposes of the State, in proceedings in the High Court having its principal seat in that State after authorisation by the Governor and with the previous consent of the President.
- While the proceedings could be in any official language, any judgment, decree or order passed or made by such High Court must be in English.
- The Governor of a state can, with the President’s consent, authorise the use of Hindi or the official language of the State, in addition to the English language, for the purposes of any judgment, decree or order passed or made by the High Court for that State.
- It shall be accompanied by an English translation issued under the High Court’s authority.
What about subordinate courts?
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, states that the State Government may determine what shall be, for purposes of this Code, the language of each Court within the State other than the High Court.
- The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, states that the language which, on the commencement of this Code, is the language of any Court subordinate to a High Court shall continue to be the language of such subordinate Court until the State Government otherwise directs.
- The State Government may declare what shall be the language of any such Court and in what character applications to and proceedings in such Courts shall be written.
Topic 6: Zafar Mahal
Context: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is expected to begin conservation work at Zafar Mahal — a 19th-century monument in Mehrauli.
About Zafar Mahal:
- Zafar Mahal in South Delhi is considered as the last monumental structure built as a summer palace during the fading years of the Mughal era.
- The building has two components:
- The Mahal or the palace, which was built first by Akbar Shah II in the 18th century, and
- The entrance gate – Hathi Gate that was reconstructed in the 19th century by Bahadur Shah Zafar II.
- It is the last structure built by Mughals, and was acting as the royal palace for Mughals during the Urs of Hz. Bakhtiyar Kaki.
- The building, then called Lal Mahal and Rang Mahal, was started by Akbar Shah II.
- Later, the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II (aka Bahadur Shah Zafar) built the Hathi Gate and eventually, gave it its present name, the Zafar Mahal.
- The emperor started festival Sair-e-Gul Faroshan (Phoolwaalon ki sair) in Hz. Kaki’s honor used to celebrate his urs from this palace.
- The building was made in two parts.
- First part, constructed by Emperor Akbar Shah II was a single floor comprising of few rooms, some open area, Moti Masjid and Naubat Khana.
- Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar added another floor to it and erected the majestic Hathi Gate.
- He also constructed Chajja/Chhatri in the center of palace.
Topic 7: Zoological Survey of India report
Context: A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) points out that about 5% of the birds found in the country are endemic and not reported in other parts of the world.
- India is home to 1,353 bird species, which represents approximately 12.4% of the global bird diversity.
- Of these, 78 (5%) are endemic to the country.
- Three of the 78 species have not been recorded in the past few decades.
- The Manipur bush quail (Perdicula manipurensis), listed as “endangered” with its last recorded sighting in 1907;
- the Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa), listed as “critically endangered” with its last recorded sighting in 1876; and
- the Jerdon’s courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus), listed as “critically endangered” with its last confirmed sighting in 2009.
- The highest number of endemic species have been recorded in the Western Ghats such as:
- the Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus);
- Malabar parakeet (Psittacula columboides);
- Ashambu laughingthrush (Montecincla meridionalis); and
- the white-bellied sholakili (Sholicola albiventris).
|About Zoological Survey of IndiaThe Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) was founded in 1916 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.It is a premier Indian organisation in zoological research and studies to promote the survey, exploration and research of the fauna in the country.|
Topic 8: Artificial Intelligence and the environment
Context: Artificial intelligence has a big CO2 footprint and is being used to boost activities that make climate change worse.
About artificial intelligence
- AI is defined as a machine’s ability to perform a task that would’ve previously required human intelligence.
- Today’s AI systems might demonstrate some traits of human intelligence, including learning, problem-solving, perception, and even a limited spectrum of creativity and social intelligence.
Key issues with Artificial Intelligence:
- High carbon footprint:
- In order to carry out the tasks they’re supposed to, AI models need to process mountains of data.
- This data crunching happens in data centers.
- It requires a lot of computing power and is energy-intensive.
- The entire data center infrastructure and data submission networks account for 2-4% of global CO2 emissions.
- High Costs of Creation:
- As AI is updating every day the hardware and software need to get updated with time to meet the latest requirements.
- Machines need repairing and maintenance which need plenty of costs.
- It’ s creation requires huge costs as they are very complex machines.
- Making Humans Lazy:
- AI is making humans lazy with its applications automating the majority of the work.
- Humans tend to get addicted to these inventions which can cause a problem to future generations.
- As AI is replacing the majority of the repetitive tasks and other works with robots, human interference is becoming less which will cause a major problem in the employment standards.
- Every organization is looking to replace the minimum qualified individuals with AI robots which can do similar work with more efficiency.
- No Emotions:
- There is no doubt that machines are much better when it comes to working efficiently but they cannot replace the human connection that makes the team.
- Machines cannot develop a bond with humans which is an essential attribute when comes to Team Management.
- Lacking Out of Box Thinking:
- Machines can perform only those tasks which they are designed or programmed to do, anything out of that they tend to crash or give irrelevant outputs which could be a major backdrop.
- Lack of transparency of AI tools:
- AI decisions are not always intelligible to humans.
- AI is not neutral:
- AI-based decisions are susceptible to inaccuracies, discriminatory outcomes, embedded or inserted bias.
- Surveillance practices for data gathering and privacy of court users.
- New concerns for fairness and risk for Human Rights and other fundamental values.
What can be done to tackle AI’s footprint?
- Inclusion in designs of AI:
- Environmental concerns need to be taken into account right from the start — in the algorithm design and training phases.
- Using less data and smaller data models:
- Rather than building bigger and bigger AI models, as is the current trend, companies could scale them down, use smaller data sets and ensure the AI is trained on the most efficient hardware available.
- Use of renewable energy:
- Using data centers in regions that rely on renewable energy and don’t require huge amounts of water for cooling could also make a difference.
- Huge facilities in parts of the US or Australia, where fossil fuels make up a significant chunk of the energy mix, will produce more emissions than in Iceland, where geothermal power is a main source of energy and lower temperatures make cooling servers easier.
- Commitment of tech giants:
- Tech giants have a fairly good record when it comes to using renewable energy to power their operations.
- Google says its carbon footprint is zero, thanks to investment in offsets.
- It aims to be operating exclusively on carbon-free energy by 2030.
- Microsoft has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030, using carbon capture and storage technologies.
- Meta plans to reach net-zero across its value chain by 2030.
- There should be more focus on the way AI is being used to speed up activities that contribute to climate change.
- Regulation is crucial to ensuring AI development is sustainable and doesn’t make emissions targets harder to reach.
- In the EU, lawmakers have for the past two years been working on the AI Act, expected to be a landmark piece of legislation, to govern AI and classify tools according to perceived risk.
- Meanwhile, other governments are also working out how to deal with AI — to encourage innovation in the field and reap the benefits this new technology brings, while avoiding the potential dangers and protecting citizens.