Topic 1: Caste discrimination
Context: Seattle became the first US city to outlaw caste discrimination recently after its local council voted to add caste to the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
- The legislation will recognise caste as a unique basis of discrimination, similar to race or gender.
- Discrimination at workplace:
- The legislation banning caste-based discrimination will prohibit businesses from discriminating based on caste with respect to hiring, tenure, promotion, workplace conditions, or wages.
- Discrimination in public places:
- It will ban discrimination based on caste in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, public transportation, public restrooms, or retail establishments.
- Housing discrimination:
- The law will also prohibit housing discrimination based on caste in rental housing leases, property sales, and mortgage loans.
What is India’s caste system?
- India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification.
- The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups into four main categories:
- At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma’s head.
- Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms.
- The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs.
- At the bottom were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs.
- Outside of this Hindu caste system were the Dalits or the untouchables.
Constitutional Safeguards against caste discrimination in India:
- General rights:
- Article 14: Equality before the Law
- Article 15: Prohibition of Discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
- Article 17: Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden.
- Article 25: Freedom of Conscience and Free profession, practice and propagation of religion
- Political rights
- Article 330, Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha
- Article 332, Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States
- Economic and social rights
- Article 16: Equality of Opportunity in matters of public employment
- No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
- Article 335, Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts
- Article 46 says that the promotion of the educational and economic interest of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other weaker sections will be the responsibility of the state.
- Article 46 also states that the state has a responsibility to protect the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, peoples from social injustice, and all forms of exploitation in the society.
- Article 338 of the Indian Constitution deals with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
- It is a duty of the commission to investigate all types of atrocities, to inquire into specific complaints concerning the deprivation of rights, and to safeguard the scheduled caste people.
- Article 16: Equality of Opportunity in matters of public employment
- The Protection of Civil Rights, 1955, and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 prescribe punishment for a crime against the Dalit.
- There are many special courts and fast track courts have been established for speedy trial of cases.
Topic 2: The higher pension option offered by EPFO
Context: The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has issued guidelines to allow a section of its older members to opt for higher pension under the Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS).
Current pension structure:
- The Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 did not provide for a pension scheme.
- The EPS, administered by the EPFO, came into being in 1995.
- The contribution:
- The pension fund was to comprise a deposit of 8.33% of the employers’ contribution towards the PF corpus.
- Both employees and employers contribute 12% of the employee’s basic salary, dearness allowance and retaining allowance to the EPF.
- The employee’s entire contribution goes to EPF, while the 12% contribution by the employer is split as 3.67% to EPF and 8.33% to EPS.
- The Government of India contributes 1.16% for an employee’s pension.
- Employees do not contribute to the pension scheme.
- Pensionable salary:
- At the time of introduction of EPS, the maximum pensionable salary was Rs 5,000 per month.
- This was subsequently raised to Rs 6,500 and, from September 1, 2014, to Rs 15,000.
- The pension contribution currently is 8.33% of Rs 15,000 unless the employee and employer have opted to contribute at actual basic salary exceeding the pensionable salary.
Who gets pension under the EPS?
- The EPS provides employees with pension after the age of 58, if they have rendered at least 10 years of service and retired at age 58.
- If a member leaves employment between ages 50 and 57, they can avail early (reduced) pension.
2014 amendments in EPS
- The amendments raised the pensionable salary cap to Rs 15,000 a month from Rs 6,500, and allowed members along with their employers to contribute 8.33% on their actual salaries (if it exceeded the cap) towards EPS.
- Members opting for pension linked to actual salaries exceeding the wage ceiling were required to contribute an additional 1.16% of their salary towards the pension fund.
- Those who did not exercise the option within the stipulated or extended period were deemed to have not opted for contribution and the extra contributions were to be diverted to the provident fund account of the member, along with interest.
- For EPFO:
- This will mean a stream of sharply higher pension payouts, when linked to actual basic salary rather than the Rs 15,000 ceiling.
- It could create strain on the finances of the retirement fund body in future.
- The payouts could extend beyond the death of the member, with a provision for pension to the dependent family members as well.
- For members and employers:
- This would imply higher annuity after retirement.
- The choice for higher pension would then involve transferring of funds from provident fund to pension fund going back until September 2014.
Topic 3: Keeladi
Context: The excavations in Keeladi from 2015 prove that an urban civilisation existed in Tamil Nadu in the Sangam age on the banks of the Vaigai river.
- Where is Keeladi?
- Keeladi is a tiny hamlet in south Tamil Nadu located along the Vaigai river.
- Link with Sangam age
- The unearthed artefacts from Keeladi are dated to a period between sixth century BCE and first century BCE.
- The Sangam age is a period of history in ancient Tamil Nadu which was believed to be from the third century BCE to the third century CE.
- The excavations have pushed the Sangam age further back.
- Keeladi could provide crucial evidence for understanding the missing links of the Iron Age (12th century BCE to sixth century BCE) to the Early Historic Period (sixth century BCE to fourth century BCE) and subsequent cultural developments.
- Links to Indus Valley
- The unearthed Keeladi artefacts have been described as part of the Vaigai Valley Civilisation.
- Some of the symbols found in pot sherds of Keeladi bear a close resemblance to Indus Valley signs.
- Keeladi has all the characteristics of an urban civilisation, with brick structures, luxury items and proof of internal and external trade.
- What has been unearthed so far?
- Over 120 potsherds containing Tamil Brahmi inscriptions have been found.
- Spindle whorls, copper needles, terracotta seal, hanging stones of the yarn, terracotta spheres and earthen vessels to hold liquid suggest various stages of a weaving industry.
- There also existed a dyeing industry and a glass bead industry.
- Gold ornaments, copper articles, semi-precious stones, shell bangles, ivory bangles and ivory combs reflect the artistic, culturally rich and prosperous lifestyle of the Keeladi people.
- Agate and carnelian beads suggest import through commercial networks.
- Terracotta and ivory dice, gamesmen and hopscotch have also been unearthed.
Topic 4: Mukaab
Context: Saudi Arabia unveiled its latest grand plan to transform its capital city with a new project coming up in Riyadh.
- The Mukaab will be constructed in central Riyadh.
- It will house residential units, hotel rooms and office space, as well as dozens of entertainment and culture venues.
- The project is named as Murabba project.
- The Mukaab will be the highlight of this project.
- Architectural style:
- The Mukaab will be built using the modern Najdi architectural style – a twist on the traditional Najdi architectural style from the Najd region in the centre of the Arabian peninsula.
- This architectural style is best suited for the region’s desert climate.
- Its design focuses on naturally controlling the climate inside the structure.
- Hence, the cube shape will serve a functional purpose by limiting energy requirements inside it.
Topic 5: Mohiniyattam
Context: Mohiniyattam exponent Kanak Rele passed away recently.
- In 1973, Dr. Rele established the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya offering undergraduate, post-graduate and Ph.D. degrees affiliated to the Bombay University.
- In 2022, Dr. Rele released the book, Me and My Mohini Attam.
- In 2013, Dr. Rele was conferred the Padma Bhushan.
- What is it?
- Mohiniyattam (Mohiniattam) is a classical dance form of Kerala.
- It is one among the eight Indian classical dance forms.
- Mohiniyattam is a solo recital by women.
- The term Mohiniyattam comes from the words mohini meaning a woman who enchants onlookers and aattam meaning graceful and sensuous body movements.
- Thus, the word Mohiniyattam literally means – dance of the enchantress.
- The origin and popularity of this dance form is closely tagged to the great Tamil dance master Vadivelu.
- Link with Devdasis:
- Mohiniyattam used to be performed by Devadasis (temple dancers) in temples, during the rule of the Chera kings from 9 to 12 C.E.
- External influence:
- This dance form also has elements of other performing art forms of Kerala viz. Koothu and Kutiyattam in it.
- Mohiniyattam also came under the influence of Bharatanatyam and Kathakali.
- The dance form Mohiniyattam has love and devotion to God as its major themes, with usually Lord Vishnu or his incarnation Lord Krishna as the lead character.
- Dancing style:
- Mohiniyattam comprises about 40 different basic movements called adavukal.
- This dance follows the sign language (mudra) as described in the ancient treatise on Hastha Lakshanadeepika to convey the story.
- Musical instruments:
- The musical accompaniment of Mohiniyattam dance involves chollu.
- The lyrics are in Manipravalam, which is a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam.
- The attire for Mohiniyattam consists of white sari, bordered with broad golden brocade called kasavu in Malayalam.
|Classical dances of IndiaClassical dance forms of India, also known as Shastriya Nritya, come from the words, Shastriya meaning classical and Nritya meaning the act of dancing.Sangeet Natak Akademi has recognised 08 classical dance forms whereas the Ministry of Culture has recognised 09 classical dance forms.Treaties on classical dance:Acharya Nandikeshawara’s Abhinaya DarpanSharangdev’s Sangeeth Ratnakar (Nartanadhyaya)Natya ShastraClassical dances recognised by the Sangeet Natak AkademiBharatanatyam, from Tamil NaduKathak, from Uttar PradeshKathakali, from KeralaKuchipudi, from Andhra PradeshManipuri, from ManipurMohiniyattam, from Kerala[a]Odissi, from OdishaSattriya, from AssamAdditional dances recognised by the Ministry of CultureChhau, from Eastern India (Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal)|
Topic 6: The Chicago Convention
Context: Cabinet approves the ratification of three Protocols on Article 3 and Article 50 (a) & Article 56 relating to amendments in the convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), 1944.
- The Chicago Convention has undergone a few amendments and India has been ratifying such amendments from time to time.
- The ratification has been approved in the following three protocols:
- To refrain member States from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight;
- For raising the strength of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council from 36 to 40;
- For raising the strength of the Air Navigation Commission from 18 to 21.
About Chicago Convention:
- The Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
- ICAO a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with coordinating international air travel.
- The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, security, and sustainability, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel.
- The Convention also contains provisions pertaining to taxation.
- The document was signed on December 7, 1944, in Chicago by 52 signatory states.
- The Chicago Convention currently have 193 state parties, which includes all member states of the United Nations (including India) except Liechtenstein.
- The Cook Islands is a party to the Convention although it is not a member of the UN.
Topic 7: High Seas
Context: While the high seas make up more than 60% of the world’s oceans, they have long drawn far less attention than coastal waters. The UN wants to protect them in a global treaty.
What are High Seas?
- The high seas are defined by international law as all parts of the ocean that aren’t included in the exclusive economic zone, the territorial sea, or the internal waters of a country, or in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic country.
- The high seas and associated resources are not directly owned or regulated by any country.
- Legal boundaries:
- Coastal countries generally control the 200 nautical miles of ocean extending out from their coasts.
- These 200 nautical miles are known as a country’s “exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” where the exploration and use of marine resources is a sovereign right.
- The high seas refers to the ocean water column that lies beyond the boundaries of any one country, also known as areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
- The Area:
- The seafloor beyond the limits of the coastal continental shelf is what is termed “the Area” by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is mandated to regulate the exploration for, and exploitation of, seabed mineral resources in the Area for the benefit of humankind.
- The BBNJ Treaty:
- Since 2017, an Inter-Governmental Conference been negotiating an agreement under UNCLOS that would allow for more effective management and protection of the high seas.
- This internationally legally binding instrument is often referred to as the Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty, or “BBNJ treaty.”
- This treaty focuses on four main areas:
- Conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ, including marine genetic resources
- Area-based management tools, including marine protected areas
- Environmental impact assessments
- Capacity building and the transfer of marine technology
- The final form of the BBNJ treaty has still to be agreed upon.
Significance of High Seas
- Although the high seas make up more than half of the surface of the Earth and 61% of all oceans, only 1% of international waters are under protection.
- Economic significance:
- The resources of the ocean sustain almost 3 billion people worldwide.
- The entire sea industry has a worth of $3 trillion (€2.8 trillion) — that’s 5% of the world’s gross domestic product.
- Medicinal significance:
- Some agents used to fight leukemia are derived from a shallow water sponge called Tectitethya crypta, which can be found in the waters of the Caribbean.
- The poison of the fish-eating sea snail Conus magus is being used to develop an effective painkiller.
Climate change and Oceans
- CO2 in the oceans:
- More than half of the total amount of oxygen in our atmosphere is created by creatures in the ocean.
- Oceans store 50 times more carbon dioxide than what’s currently found in our atmosphere.
- The warmer the ocean gets, the less CO2 it can store.
- The warmer it gets, the less our oceans can protect the planet from even more extreme weather events.
- If the CO2 content in the seawater increases, the PH level in the water changes.
- The increasing acidity hampers the creation of the chalky shells of the animals.
- This could threaten entire economic sectors, such as the breeding of oysters and mussels.
- Changes in ocean currents and coral bleaching:
- The rising temperatures in the atmosphere triggered by the burning of coal, oil and gas also change ocean currents as the water gets warmer.
- This can lead to death for many creatures, such as corals.
- Corals live in symbiosis with colorful algae which help feed them.
- The warming of the water can lead to algae death, leading to many losing their color, which is also known as coral bleaching.
- If nothing changes, half of all sea dwellers will be critically endangered by the end of this century.
- Improve fishing practices:
- Every year, we toss away 10 million tons of fish because of bad fishing practices and processing.
- This could be prevented, and in turn directly decrease pressure on our oceans.
- Better management of sewage:
- Around 80% of global wastewater is currently being diverted into oceans, unfiltered.
- In the poorest countries of the world it’s even up to 95%.
- This wastewater pollutes, contaminates and destroys oceans and coastal regions.
- Building sustainable sewage systems, especially in developing countries, would protect ocean ecosystems and contribute to better drinking water supplies in many places.
- New International Treaty:
- According to the UN’s environment program, international treaties are one of the best ways to stop the destruction of oceans.
- The European Union is pushing for an ambitious new treaty for species protection and the implementation of the historic 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
- Part of this historic agreement is to put 30% of the globe under protection until 2030.
UN High Seas treaty
- It is also referred to as the ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean’.
- The treaty will deal with Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and it has been under discussion for several years.
- The proposed treaty concerns the ocean existing beyond the Exclusive Economic Zones.
- Waters beyond that are known as open seas or high seas.
- The treaty was to be negotiated under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 which governs the rights of countries regarding marine resources.
|UNCLOSThe United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an international agreement that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities.The Convention resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982.UNCLOS replaced the four treaties of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas.UNCLOS came into force in 1994.While the Secretary-General of the United Nations receives instruments of ratification and accession and the UN provides support for meetings of states party to the Convention, the United Nations Secretariat has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention.A UN specialized agency, the International Maritime Organization as well as other bodies such as the International Whaling Commission and the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which was established by the Convention itself, plays an important role for implementation of the Convention.It divides marine areas into five main zones:Internal Waters,Territorial Sea,Contiguous Zone,Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)the High Seas.It is the only international convention which stipulates a framework for state jurisdiction in maritime spaces.|
Topic 8: Gross Domestic Climate Risk Report
Context: The Indian economy is likely to suffer a major beating alongside China and the United States due to climatic impacts, a global report on climate risk predicted recently.
About the report:
- The report XDI’s Gross Domestic Climate Risk is modelling based and primarily aimed at helping investors with their choice of long-term investment destinations.
- It shows that 14 Indian states are set to remain within the top 100 most climate risk-prone territories of the world by 2050, within a list that has more than 2,600 regions.
- It has been prepared by XDI (The Cross Dependency Initiative) – an independent specialist in analysing physical climate risk and adaptation established in 2006.
Key predictions for India:
- Bihar is set to be the most climate-vulnerable region in India by 2050 with a global rank of 22nd.
- It is followed by Uttar Pradesh and Assam with 25th and 28th ranks respectively.
- Assam is the global topper within the top 50 vulnerable regions in terms of increase of climatic impacts during 1990-2050, a whopping 330 per cent.
- States like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Kerala are within the top 50 climate risk regions.
- Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are other Indian states remaining within the top 100 most climate vulnerable regions.
- Two of China’s largest sub-national economies — Jiangsu and Shandong — are in first and second place and over half of the provinces in the global top 50 are in China.
- After China, the US has the most high-risk states with 18 states in the top 100.
- Other highly-developed and globally-significant economic hubs in the top 100 include Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Taiwan and Mumbai.
- Together, China, India and the US make up over half the states and provinces in the top 100.