Topic 1 : China launches first nuclear-powered guided missile submarine
Why in news: China has launched its first nuclear-powered guided missile submarines giving it land and sea attack options.
- In the short term, the Chinese navy “will have the ability to conduct long-range precision strikes against land targets from its submarine and surface combatants using land-attack cruise missiles, notably enhancing China’s power projection capability.
- China became the third country after the US and Russia to achieve this.
About Cruise missile submarines:
- Known as SSGNs (cruise missile submarines), conventionally armed missile submarines were developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War in part to target U.S. aircraft carriers.
- The U.S. Navy developed its own version by converting ballistic missile boats to carry large numbers of land-attack Tomahawk cruise missiles.
- Cruise missiles are typically long-range, precision weapons that, unlike ballistic weapons, fly at low altitudes or skim the surface of the sea.Topic 2 : Research flags heavy metal contamination in vegetables across Bengaluru
Why in news: Bengaluru: The use of wastewater to grow vegetables has led to a higher concentration of heavy metals in them, with researchers finding contamination above the permissible limits set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
- Bengaluru, which hosts over a fifth of the state’s population, gets its vegetables from farmers’ networks in the outlying areas of Bengaluru Urban.
- Researchers collected 400 samples from 20 stores across Bengaluru.
- The samples of 10 vegetables — brinjal, tomato, capsicum, bean, carrot, green chilly, onion, potato, spinach and coriander — were examined to analyse the presence of heavy metals.
- The study flagged that leafy vegetablesaccumulatemore heavy metals compared with others.
- This was due to the higher transpiration rate of plant to maintain growth and moisture.
Key findings of the researchers:
- Concentration of iron:
- The maximum permissible limit for iron is 425.5 mg/kg.
- Beans had a concentration of 810.20 mg/kg
- Coriander had a concentration of 945.70 mg/kg
- Spinach had a concentration of 554.58 mg/kg
- Onion had 592.18 mg/kg of iron.
- The FAO sets 0.2 mg/kg as the maximum limit for cadmium.
- Brinjal had cadmium of 52.30 mg/kg
- Coriander had 53.30/kg of cadmium
- Spinach had 53.50 mg/kg
- Carrot had 54.60 mg/kg.
- Cadmium is a dangerous element that can cause toxicity in liver and lungs and impair the immune system.
- Lead, described as “purely toxic”, should not exceed 0.3 mg/kg.
- Beans had 12.20 mg/kg.
- The prescribed limit of nickel is 67.9 mg/kg.
- The concentration of nickel was higher than the prescribed limit of 67.9 mg/kg in green chilly, carrot, potato, tomato and beans.
- It is clear from the present study that the edible portion of vegetables are hyper-accumulators of heavy metals.
- Taking into consideration the health risks associated with the consumption of these vegetables, it is suggested that cultivation should not use waste water as a source.
- Farmers should not resort to unethical farming practices such as irrigating crops with drainage and effluent waters.
- The source of the vegetables needs to be traced to further ensure an evidenced-based approach.
- We need to go deeper and prescribe maximum limits for each vegetable as well as exposure duration.
- How the exposure affects children, adults and older people needs to be worked out.
- A comprehensive study needs to be taken up to isolate the health impacts of vegetables on people.Topic 3 : Ghauri ballistic missile
Why in news: Pakistan launches Ghauri ballistic missile in test of readiness.
- The test was intended to determine the operational and technical readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command.
- ASFC operates Pakistan’s land-based, nonconventional ballistic and cruise missiles, most of which can be armed with nuclear warheads.
- The Ghauri missile’s survivability on a battlefield is unlikely given it would have to move with a convoy of support vehicles that provide fuel and prepare it for launch.
- That grouping of platforms would make it vulnerable to detection.
- The country has replaced the weapon with the more advanced and survivable Shaheen series of solid-fuel ballistic missiles.
- The Ghauri first underwent testing in 1998 and is still useful.
- It is the only liquid-fueled ballistic missile in Pakistan’s strategic forces.
- The Ghauri is fueled by TM-185 (a mixture of gasoline and mainly kerosene) and fuming nitric acid.Topic 4 : Significance of China-Bhutan boundary talks
Why in news: China and Bhutan held their 25th round of boundary talks in Beijing and signed a Cooperation Agreement on the “Responsibilities and Functions of the Joint Technical Team (JTT) on the Delimitation and Demarcation of the Bhutan-China Boundary.”
- This advances their 3-Step Roadmap initiated in 2021 for border resolution, building on the positive momentum since their last talks in 2016.
- The Boundary talks between Bhutan and China were held after a gap of seven years.
- Bhutan and the Tibetan Autonomous Region share a contiguous border to Bhutan’s north and west.
- Since 1984, Bhutan and China had held 24 rounds of talks to resolve the disputes until 2016, but the 25th round appeared to have been held up after the Doklam Standoff between Indian and Chinese armies in 2017, and then the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-2021.
- The two sides used the pause to hold talks at other levels in rapid succession, especially after China threatened to open a new front for a border dispute to Bhutan’s east.
- Since then, the Expert Group of diplomats on both sides met in 2021 to agree on a 3-step roadmap.
- The first boundary delimitation technical talks were held in 2023.
What is the 3-Step Roadmap?
- The 3-Step roadmap MoU and the JTT established to implement the roadmap by the Expert Group in August are hoping to draw a line clearly delineating Bhutanese and Chinese territory for the first time.
- Bhutan and China don’t have diplomatic ties, as Bhutan has traditionally avoided diplomatic relations with all the United Nations Security Council permanent members.
- The 3-Step Roadmap involves:
- agreeing to the border on the table
- then visiting the sites on the ground and
- formally demarcating the boundary
Significance for India:
- The Doklam issue:
- New Delhi is watching the demarcation discussions over Doklam, as amongst the proposals China has placed on the table is an agreement to swap areas in Doklam under Bhutanese control with areas in Jakarlung and Pasamlung which China claims.
- The Doklam trijunction cuts very close to India’s Siliguri corridor a narrow area that connects the North Eastern States to the rest of India and India would not like to see China gain access to any area closer to it.
- Since the Doklam standoff in 2017, China has doubled down on its control of the Doklam plateau and has continued to build underground storage facilities, new roads and new villages in disputed areas in neighbouring Bhutan.
- It erased many of the strategic gains that New Delhi had hoped for after China agreed to step back from the standoff point in 2017.
- Chinese embassy in Bhutan:
- India’s worry is over China’s demand for full diplomatic relations with Bhutan, and opening an Embassy in Thimphu.
- Chinese projects in Bhutan:
- Given India’s challenges with Chinese projects and funding in other neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, any Chinese presence in Bhutan would be problematic.
- However, Bhutan’s leadership has thus far said that all decisions would consider India’s interests and that it has always consulted India on issues of concern.Topic 5 : India-Qatar relations
Why in news: Eight former Indian Navy personnel have been sentenced to death by a court in Qatar.
- They were arrested by Qatari authorities on August 30, 2022 and have since been under solitary confinement.
- Their trial began this year.
- The eight former Navy personnel were working at Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a defence services provider company.
- The company is owned by an Omani national, a retired squadron leader of the Royal Oman Air Force.
- This man too, was arrested along with the eight Indians, but he was released.
- The charges against the men were never made public, but the fact they were put in solitary confinement led to speculation that they had been detained in connection with a security-related offence.
Nature of the relationship between India and Qatar
- Political visits:
- Since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Qatar in 2008, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, the relationship has burgeoned.
- The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, visited India in 2015, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Qatar in 2016.
- Economic Relations
- In 2021, India was among the top four export destinations for Qatar.
- It is also among the top three sources of Qatar’s imports.
- The bilateral trade is valued at $15 billion, which is mostly LNG and LPG exports from Qatar worth over $13 billion.
- Exports from India:
- The important materials which Qatar imports from India include:
- textile products,
- cotton clothes,
- transport equipments,
- meats and
- The important materials which Qatar imports from India include:
- Imports to India from Qatar:
- Ethylene Prop byline,
- urea and
- The remittances which the Indian expatriate community in Qatar send to India are estimated to be around 750 million dollar per annum.
- Cooperation In the Field of Energy
- Qatar is the largest supplier of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to India.
- India imports around 70% of its needs for the natural gas from Qatar under an agreement signed by both sides in 1990 to buy and purchase the LNG amounting to 7.5 million tonne annually for a period of 25 years.
- Later on, both sides agreed in 2015 that Qatar would provide India an additional quantity of the LNG amounting to one million annually.
- Defence co-operation has been officially described as a pillar of Indian-Qatar ties.
- The India-Qatar Defence Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2008 was a significant turning point.
- The agreement was extended for another five years in 2018.
- Qatar participated in two maritime exercises in India in 2021.
- Two editions of a joint naval exercise called Zair Al Bahr have been held.
- India regularly participates in the biennial Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) in Qatar
- Indian Community
- Indian community is the largest expatriate group in Qatar which is estimated to be around 700 million people.
- Indians are employed in almost every local establishment, governmental or private, in various capacities.
Challenges in the relationship:
- Derogatory statements from India:
- The first big challenge to the relationship came in 2022 over a spokesperson’s derogatory references to the Prophet on a TV show.
- Qatar was the first country to object, and demand a public apology from India soon after the controversy erupted.
- The Indian Ambassador was summoned for a dressing down.
- India’s damage control by sacking the spokesperson promptly as outrage spread across the Islamic world, contained the fallout.
- The recent arrest and sentencing of ex-Navy personnels:
- The jailing of the eight ex-Navy personnel is the second big challenge of recent years.
- The development blindsided New Delhi in a country where 800,000 Indians live and work.
- Indians are the largest expatriate community in Qatar.
- The news of the death penalty for the Indians has come at time when the Middle East is on the boil over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
Topic 6 : Osteoporosis
Why in news: Though there are no large-scale studies on osteoporosis in India, projected data shows that at least 46 million women in India currently live with post-menopausal osteoporosis, which is only one type of osteoporosis.
- Osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decreases, or when the structure and strength of bone changes.
- This can lead to a decrease in bone strength that can increase the risk of fractures (broken bones).
- Osteoporosis is a silent disease because one typically does not have symptoms until you break a bone.
- Osteoporosis is the major cause of fractures in postmenopausal women and in older men.
- Fractures can occur in any bone but happen most often in bones of the hip, vertebrae in the spine, and wrist.
- Causes of Osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis occurs when too much bone mass is lost and changes occur in the structure of bone tissue.
- Factors that may increase the risk for osteoporosis include:
- Your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater if you are a woman.
- As you age, bone loss happens more quickly, and new bone growth is slower
- Body size:
- Slender, thin-boned women and men are at greater risk to develop osteoporosis.
- White and Asian women are at highest risk whereas African American and Mexican American women have a lower risk.
- Family history:
- Risk for osteoporosis and fractures may increase if one of the parents has a history of osteoporosis or hip fracture.
- Changes to hormones:
- Low levels of certain hormones can increase chances of developing osteoporosis.
- A diet low in calcium and vitamin D can increase your risk for osteoporosis and fractures.
- Long-term use of certain medications may make one more likely to develop bone loss and osteoporosis.
- Low levels of physical activity and prolonged periods of inactivity can contribute to an increased rate of bone loss.
- A 2019 study revealed that India was the highest contributor to osteoporosis fracture-related deaths/disabilities worldwide.
- Considering that Indian women have many micronutrient deficiencies and do not set aside time for exercise, there needs to be a high index of suspicion for osteoporosis in every patient.
- Most of the Indian population does not have access to DEXA or the bone mineral density scan – the gold standard test for osteoporosis.
- A study found that in India, there are only 0.26 DEXA machines per million of the population.Topic 7 : The Tamil Nadu experience on caste survey
Why in news: Looking at Tamil Nadu’s past, a caste census alone may not lead to increased other backward class (OBC) reservations.
Backward commissions in Tamil Nadu:
- The Second Backward Classes Commission (1982-85) in Tamil Nadu recommended a reduction in reservation percentages.
- The First BC panel (1969-70), led by A.N. Sattanathan, suggested raising BC reservations, but the idea of a creamy layer hasn’t gained political backing.
About the Second BC Commission:
- In 1980, the TN government announced the hike in the share of reservation for BCs from 31% to 50%, taking the total quantum to 68% that included:
- 18% for Scheduled Castes (SC) & Scheduled Tribes (ST).
- After STs got one per cent exclusive reservation in 1990, the overall tally went up to 69%.
- Once the decision became a subject matter of litigation in the Supreme Court, the State government gave an undertaking in 1982 that it would set up a panel to review the existing enumeration and classification of BCs.
- The panel was constituted with the former Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Public Services Commission, J.A. Ambasankar, as the head.
- The BC panel submitted its report to the government in 1985.
Highlights of the Commission’s work:
- The Socio-Educational-cum-Economic Survey was conducted in two stages during 1983-84.
- In the first stage, a cent per cent door-to-door enumeration was conducted for the enumeration and classification of BCs.
- The Second BC panel drew up a list of 298 communities, classified under main groups such as BCs, Most BCs, Denotified Communities (DNCs), SCs, STs.
- The panel confined itself essentially to the BCs, without giving an exhaustive break-up of all the communities.
- The Commission had worked out that the population of the BCs accounted for 67.15% of the State’s overall population.
- In 1989, an exclusive quota – 20% – was provided for MBCs and DNCs within the total share of BCs of 50%.
- Finally, to ascertain the representation of BCs in public services, it arranged a full-scale survey of ‘public servants’ in each grade as of July 1, 1983.
Recommendations of the Commission:
- Two sets of recommendations, one from the Chairman and another from the members, were furnished to the government.
- It chose not to disturb the status quo with regard to the quantum of reservation – 50% for BCs.
- The government did not agree with the recommendation of deletion of 24 communities even though it toed the line of the panel for the inclusion of 29 communities.
How did the 1992 Supreme Court judgment affect State reservations?
- In the wake of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Mandal Commission case in 1992, the State was forced to enact a law to safeguard the 69% quota and have it placed under the Ninth Schedule.
- During 2007-09, the DMK government had exclusively provided 3.5% each for Muslims and Christians within the quota of BCs.
- Subsequently, the separate quota for Christians was withdrawn.
- In 2009, Arunthathiyars, a constituent of SCs, were given 3% within the 18% quota for the SCs.
- In 2021, the AIADMK regime got a bill adopted by the Assembly for 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars or Vanniyakula Kshatriyas in education and employment within the overall quantum of 20% for the MBCs.
- However, the Supreme Court struck down the law on the ground that the data of the Ambasankar panel were not contemporaneous.Topic 8 : India’s 800-year-old connection with Jerusalem
Why in news: Long before the city of Jerusalem became one of the world’s most contested places (Israel and Palestine), India established its presence there in the 12th century.
- Within the ancient city’s walls stands a brown two-story stone building.
- It displays a plaque that reads, “Indian Hospice, Estd. 12th century A.D., supported by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi.”
- The street leading to the hospice bears the name ‘Zawiyat El-Hunud’, meaning “the Indian corner.”
- In 2021, External Affairs Minister of India unveiled this new plaque emphasising the 800-year connection between India and Jerusalem.
How did this connection come to be?
- Baba Farid, a Sufi saint from Punjab, spent 40 days in deep meditation at the above place.
- Although he returned to Punjab, Indian Muslims going to Mecca started visiting the walled city of Jerusalem to pray at this spot.
- Over time, this place transformed into a shrine and a hospice for travelers from India.
Who was Baba Farid?
- Baba Farid, born in 1173 CE in the village of Kothewal near Multan, hailed from a family that had migrated from Kabul to Punjab.
- He followed the Chishti order and, was one of the first Sufi saints to write his verses in Punjabi.
- Many of these verses are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs.
- During his travels in Punjab and beyond, he visited Jerusalem, where he prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque and composed verses.
- Lore has it that he found a modest lodge within one of the gates of Old Jerusalem, known as Bab-az-Zahra among Muslims and Herod’s Gate among Christians.
- This lodge was situated within a compact khanqah atop a small hillock within Herod’s Gate:
- Khanqahs are dedicated structures for Sufi orders, serving as both seminaries for the order’s followers, and hospices for travelers
- After Baba Farid’s departure, the khanqah evolved into a hospice for travelers from India, earning the name Zawiya Al-Hindiya, meaning “the Lodge of Hind.”
- The medieval traveller Evliya Chelebi described Zawiya Al-Hindiya as one of the largest Zawiyas in the city in 1671.
- Repair of the lodge:
- In 1921, the Grand Mufti informed leaders of the Indian Khilafat Movement about the ‘Indian Lodge’ in dire need of repair.
- Khwaja Nazir Hasan Ansari, a young man from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, took on the task.
- By 1924, he had completely renovated the lodge, which provided sanctuary to numerous travelers and pilgrims from British India for the next 15 years.
- During World War II in 1939, the lodge served as a refuge for soldiers from British India fighting in North Africa.
How did the lodge get associated with independent India?
- After India gained independence, Nazir Ansari sought official recognition for the lodge from the Indian embassy in Egypt, cementing its Indian identity.
- It also hosts the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the Jerusalem Health Centre within its premises.
- Today, Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari, born in Jerusalem in 1928, serves as its administrator.
- In 2011, he was honoured with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Overseas Indian Award), the highest accolade conferred by the Government of India on overseas Indians.
- Every August 15, the Ansaris mark Independence Day with the song: “Saare jahaan se achha, Hindustan hamara.”
- This property is under the ownership of the Waqf Board of India and is accessible only to individuals of Indian citizenship or heritage.