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Gaj Utsav 2023: Project Elephant celebrates 30 years

Tags: GS 2 Government Policies & Interventions GS 3 Conservation

In News

  • President Droupadi Murmu inaugurated the ‘Gaj Utsav 2023’ in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, to commemorate thirty years of Project Elephant.
  • Project Elephant is a Ministry of Environment-sponsored programme launched in 1992 to assist states in ensuring the long-term survival of elephants in their natural habitats.

Asian elephants

  • Scientific Name: Elephas indicus maximus.
  • Size: The Asian elephant is the continent’s largest terrestrial mammal.
  • Habitat and distribution: They inhabit dry to wet forest and grassland habitats in 13 South and Southeast Asian countries.
  • Population
  • There are approximately 50,000 to 60,000 Asian elephants in the world.
  • India has the largest population of wild Asian elephants, estimated at 29,964 by Project Elephant’s 2017 census; this represents approximately 60% of the species’ global population.
  • There are 33 Elephant Reserves in India (ER). 2022 saw the designation of Lemru ER (Chhattisgarh), Agsthyamalai ER (Tamil Nadu), and Terai ER (Uttar Pradesh).

Conservation Status

  • Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species (CMS). The decision was made at the 2020 Conference of Parties of CMS 13 in Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat.

Threats posed to Elephant Population

  • The demand for ivory leads to the illegal poaching of both African and Asian elephants.
  • The loss of habitat due to deforestation increases in mining and agricultural activities has become problematic, especially for Asian elephants.
  • It is a significant concern, as human populations increase and forest cover decreases, forcing elephants into close proximity with human settlements.
  • A lack of legislation regarding the care and treatment of elephants in zoos, circuses, and tourism often leads to their mistreatment.

Other Government Initiatives

  • The National Portal on human-elephant conflict called “Surakshya” for the collection of real-time information and the real-time management of conflicts.
  • The government is utilising LiDAR technology to supplement forage and water in forest areas so that animals can obtain food and water without leaving the forest.
  • Under Project RE-HAB, beehives will be used as a barrier to prevent elephant attacks.
  • Bee boxes are placed in the passageways of human-elephant conflict zones to prevent elephants from entering human settlements.

Source: PIB

WHO Celebrates 75 Years

Tags: GS 2 Important International Institutions Various Agencies & Fora, their Structure & Mandate

In News

  • On April 7, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) will celebrate its 75th anniversary.


  • In April 1945, world leaders gathered in San Francisco to form the United Nations.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) was established three years later, on April 7, 1948, when its constitution went into effect.
  • It states that health is a human right to which every person is entitled “without regard to race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition” and that “the health of all peoples is essential for the achievement of peace and security.”

World Health Organization (WHO)

  • It was founded in 1948 and has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It is a United Nations specialised agency with a mandate to act as a coordinating authority on international health issues.
  • It has 194 Member States, 150 country offices, and six regional offices;
  • It collaborates with its member states through their Ministries of Health.

Successes of WHO

  • Eradication of smallpox: In 1980, the WHO announced it had eradicated a common but deadly infectious disease that had existed for centuries. This was one of the organization’s greatest achievements in its quest to ensure the health of the global population.
  •  Smallpox eradication was a prime example of the WHO’s effectiveness.
  • Health as a human right: Efforts helped in realising the goal of health as a human right.

Failed attempts of WHO

  • The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is an example of subpar work by the World Health Organization.
  • The organization’s decision to abandon efforts to eradicate malaria in the 1960s is another instance of what some consider to be a botched job.
  • In 1955, the WHO initiated the Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP). In sub-Saharan Africa, however, the programme made little to no progress, and in many areas, the failure to sustain GMEP led to a resurgence of malaria. The programme was discontinued in 1969. The WHO was criticised during the COVID-19 pandemic for not doing enough to aid member states in their fight against the disease.

Need for WHO Reforms

  • Lack of funding: Any effort to strengthen the WHO must begin with increased mandatory funding from member states.
  • Providing more powers: It is time to provide the agency with more powers to demand that member states comply with the norms and to alert WHO in case of disease outbreaks that could cause global harm.
  • WHO does not have the authority to enforce its recommendations.
  • Lack of information sharing: The protracted delay and China’s reluctance to freely and promptly share vital information regarding the novel coronavirus, including the Wuhan outbreak, are concerning.
  • Member states do not face penalties for non-compliance: This has to change for any meaningful protection from future disease outbreaks.

Changes Made 

  • Following the 2014-2016 Ebola pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) made significant structural adjustments. It now relies less on national governments for vital health information, thereby reducing the likelihood of missing the onset of another serious disease outbreak. WHO also collaborates with technology companies.

Way Forward/ Suggestions

  • Build global solidarity for worldwide health security: WHO will collaborate with countries to enhance their pandemic and health emergency preparedness. However, for this to be successful, we will ensure that countries collaborate.
  • Advance health for all: WHO will work across all three levels of the Organisation and with partners worldwide to help countries strengthen systems so that they can respond to COVID-19 and deliver all the essential health services required to keep people of all ages healthy close to home and without falling into poverty.
  • Tackling health inequities: The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the persistent disparities between and within nations, some of which are being exacerbated and risk widening further.
  • Provide global leadership on science and data: WHO will monitor and evaluate the latest scientific developments around COVID-19 and beyond, identifying opportunities to harness those advances to improve global health.
  • Revitalise efforts to tackle communicable diseases: WHO and partners have worked resolutely to end the scourge of polio, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and to avert epidemics of diseases like measles and yellow fever.
  • Build back better: The Manifesto for a Healthy Recovery from COVID-19, with its objectives of addressing climate change and health, reducing air pollution, and enhancing air quality, can play a significant role in achieving this goal.
  • Source: IE


Program called Mera Gaon Meri Dharohar

Tags: GS 2 Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of Population & their Performance

In News

  • In an effort to capitalise on the unique cultural heritage of rural India, the government has identified and catalogued unique characteristics of more than one million villages across the country.
  • The entire exercise was conducted as part of the National Mission for Cultural Mapping’s Mera Gaon Meri Dharohar (My Village My Heritage) programme (NMCM).

National Mission for Cultural Mapping (NMCM)

  • The National Mission for Cultural Mapping (NMCM) seeks to compile a national database of art forms, artists, and other cultural resources. Initiated in 2017 by the Ministry of Culture, the programme got off to a sluggish start before being transferred to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in 2021.
  • IGNCA was founded in 1987 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture to serve as a centre for research, academic pursuit, and dissemination in the arts.
  • The IGNCA intends to cover all 6,500,000 villages in the nation. As of today, 750 cluster villages have been the subject of short films. The films, which provide a 360-degree perspective of the village, were captured using drones.

Significance & Need

  • The programme seeks to document the cultural identity at the village level by asking residents to share what makes their village, block, or district special.
  • The programme also seeks to document the cultural identity at the block level by asking residents to share what makes their block, neighbourhood, or In this cultural asset mapping, villages have been divided into seven-eight categories based on their ecological, educational, and economic significance, as well as whether or not they produce a famous textile or product and whether or not they are associated with historical or mythological events such as the Independence struggle or epics such as the Mahabharata. The mapping project aims to compile a comprehensive database of art forms, artists, and other national resources.

About the survey process 

  • During the survey process, a CSC Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) meets with locals and uploads interesting information about their village, its points of interest, customs and traditions, famous personalities, festivals and beliefs, art and culture, etc., onto a specialised application.

Source: TH

Khelo India Games Certificates are integrated with Digilocker by the Indian Sports Authority.

Tags: GS 2 Government Policies & Interventions

In News

  •  The Sports Authority of India integrates Khelo India Games Certificates with Digilocker. • Athletes who participate in the Khelo India Games are awarded Khelo India Games certificates.
  •  The certificate recognizes the participation of the athlete in the games and serves as proof of their achievement.


  • Athletes, support staff, technical officials, and competition managers will have digital access to their certificates. It would also enable Certificate verification in real time.

Sports Authority of India (SAI) 

  • In 1982, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) was established. SAI was established as a Society under the Societies Act of 1860.
  • SAl has been tasked with promoting sports at the national and international levels and achieving sporting excellence.
  • SAI has played a significant role in shaping India’s sports development by providing elite athletes with training and implementing a variety of programmes for the identification and development of young talent.


  • DigiLocker is a flagship initiative of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under the Digital India initiative.
  • DigiLocker aims to promote the ‘Digital Empowerment’ of citizens by granting access to authentic digital documents in the digital document wallet of each citizen.
  • DigiLocker is a secure cloud-based platform for document and certificate storage, sharing, and verification.

Source:  PIB

India Genome Project

Tags: GS 3 Bio-technology

In News

  • It is anticipated that 10,000 genomes will be completely sequenced by the end of 2023 as part of the Genome India Project.

Genome India Project

  • About:
  •  This Department of Biotechnology (DBT) initiative to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes in three years and create a database is supported by the Centre.
  • Progress & the target:
  • The project has sequenced close to 7,000 genomes, of which 3,000 have already been made accessible to researchers.
  • Stakeholders:
  • About 20 institutions across India are involved in the project though the analysis and coordination is done out of the Centre for Brain Research, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
  • Data collection:
  •  The project has sequenced close to 7,000 genomes, of which 3,000 have already been made accessible to researchers.
  • Priority areas:
  • Some of the priority areas are Precision health, Rare genetic disorders, Mutation spectrum of genetic and complex diseases in the Indian population, Genetic Epidemiology of Multifactorial Lifestyle Diseases, and Translational Research.

Significance of the Project

  • Disease-based human genetics:
  • • The Indian population of 1.3 billion is comprised of more than 4,600 distinct population groups, many of which are endogamous. These factors have contributed to the current population’s genetic diversity. Therefore, population-based or disease-based human genetics research conducted on other populations cannot be extrapolated to the Indian population.
  • Help in customising drugs and therapies:
  •  By creating a database of Indian genomes, researchers from all over the world will be able to learn about genetic variants that are unique to India’s population groups and use this information to develop personalised drugs and therapies.
  • There are programmes in place in the United Kingdom, China, and the United States to sequence at least one million genomes.
  • Boost to biotechnology sector:
  • It will also boost India’s biotechnology sector to expand and have more valuable companies and start-ups.
  • Designing of genome-wide association chips:
  • This would aid in the designing of genome-wide association chips which will facilitate further large-scale genetic studies in a cost-effective manner.

What Is Genome Sequencing?

  • A genome is the complete set of genetic instructions contained in the DNA of an organism.
  • Sequencing is the order of the four nucleotide bases adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T) (T).
  • The human genome is composed of more than 3 billion genetic letters.
  • The entire genome cannot be sequenced at once due to the fact that available DNA sequencing methods can only handle short stretches of DNA at a time.
  • Human genomes are composed of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), whereas a virus’s genome can be composed of either DNA or RNA (Ribonucleic acid).
  • Coronavirus is RNA-based. Every organism has a unique genome sequence.
  • Genome sequencing is a method for reading and interpreting genetic information found in DNA or RNA.

Significance of Genome Sequencing

  • Understands the Virus: 
  •  The goal of genome sequencing is to comprehend the role of specific mutations in increasing the infectivity of a virus. Several mutations explain immune evasion or the virus’s ability to evade antibodies, which has implications for vaccines.
  • Studying Efficacy: 
  •  It aids in determining whether the currently available vaccines are effective against mutant strains of the virus and whether they can prevent reinfection and transmission.
  • Tracing Mutations: 
  •  From a “know-thy-enemy” perspective, sequencing the genomes of viral strains is important because it makes it easier to trace mutations. Scientists can detect mutations much more efficiently and rapidly.
  • Developing Vaccines: 
  •  Knowledge generated through vital research aids in the development of diagnostics, potential therapeutics, and vaccines for current and future diseases.
  • Vital Information: 
  • The Genome sequencing of individuals who tested positive for COVID or any other virus of concern can yield significant information and conclusions.

Challenges in Genome Sequencing in India

  • Very High target: 
  •  The objective was to sequence at least 5% of the samples, the bare minimum necessary to monitor virus variants. This has been around 1% thus far, primarily due to a lack of reagents and equipment required to scale up the process.
  • Low Capacity: 
  • The ten laboratories together can sequence about 30,000 samples a month, or 1,000 a day, six times less than what is needed to meet the target.
  • Sample Collection: 
  • The healthcare system is already overburdened, and this adds to their workload by requiring them to regularly sort and package samples and RNA preparations for shipment via cold chain to sequencing centres, as well as record extensive metadata to make sequence information useful.

Way ahead

  •  As a result of a series of large historical migrations, this project enables India to capitalise on its vast genetic diversity, thereby significantly enhancing our understanding of the human species.
  • This initiative reflects India’s advancements in gene therapies and precision medicine, as well as its progression towards emerging next-generation medicine, which offers the potential for greater customization, safety, and earlier detection.


IndiGen Project

•         The CSIR launched the IndiGen Genome Project in April 2019. New Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and Hyderabad’s CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) implemented it.

•         The primary objective of the IndiGen project is to sequence the genomes of 1008 Indian individuals.

•         Usefulness: Once such knowledge is established, the CSIR anticipates forming partnerships with multiple pathology laboratories that can provide commercial gene testing services.

·         Project proponents say this will widen public understanding in India about genomes and the information that genes hide about one’s susceptibility to disease.

Source: TH

The TEMPO mission (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution)

Tags: GS 3 Space

In News

  • NASA’s high-resolution air pollution monitoring instrument TEMPO was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.


  • It is the first project funded by NASA’s Earth Venture Instrument programme, which consists of small, targeted scientific investigations intended to supplement NASA’s larger research missions.
  • This initiative is a component of the agency’s Earth System Science Pathfinder programme.
  • It will take important scientific observations, including those of ozone, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and formaldehyde levels, across the majority of North America, from Mexico City to the Canadian tar/oil sands, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. o It covers not only the continental United States, but also Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and a portion of the island of Hispaniola.


  • TEMPO’s measurements of tropospheric ozone, ozone precursors, aerosols, and clouds from geostationary orbit (GEO) will produce a revolutionary dataset that improves understanding and prediction of air quality (AQ) and climate forcing.
  • TEMPO data will play a significant role in the scientific analysis of pollution, including studies of rush-hour pollution, the possibility of improved air quality alerts, the effects of lightning on ozone, the movement of pollution from forest fires and volcanoes, and even the effects of fertiliser application.


Geostationary orbit (GEO)

• Satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) circle the Earth from west to east above the equator by travelling at the exact same speed as Earth, which takes 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds.

• This gives the appearance that satellites in GEO are’stationary’ over a fixed location.

• To perfectly match the rotation of the Earth, the speed of GEO satellites should be approximately 3 kilometres per second at an altitude of 35 786 kilometres.

·         This satellite is much farther from Earth’s surface than most others.

• It is utilised by satellites that must maintain a constant altitude above a specific location on Earth, such as communications satellites.

• It can also be utilised by weather monitoring satellites, which can continuously monitor specific regions to determine how weather patterns develop there.

In FY 2022–2023, CBDT signs 95 advance pricing agreements.

Tags: GS 3 Indian Economy & Related Issues Growth & Development

In News

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) signed a record 95 Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) with Indian taxpayers in fiscal year 2022-23.
  • This consists of 63 unilateral and 32 bilateral APAs (BAPAs).


  • This year, the CBDT recorded the most APA signings in any fiscal year since the program’s inception. This year, the CBDT also signed the highest number of BAPAs ever for a fiscal year.
  • The BAPAs were signed as a result of India’s entry into Mutual Agreements with Finland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, Singapore, and Japan.

Advance Pricing Agreement (APA)

  • An APA is an agreement between a taxpayer and tax authority that establishes the transfer pricing methodology for pricing the taxpayer’s future international transactions.
  • The methodology is to be applied for a specific period of time based on the satisfaction of certain terms and conditions (called critical assumptions).
  • Effective 1 July 2012, Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) provisions were added to the Income-tax Act, 1961 (Act).

Different types of APAs

  • An APA can be unilateral, bilateral, or multilateral.
  • Unilateral APA: In a unilateral APA, only the taxpayer and the tax authority of the country in which the taxpayer resides are involved.
  • Bilateral APA (BAPA): It involves the taxpayer, the associated enterprise (AE) of the taxpayer in the foreign country, the tax authority of the country in which the taxpayer resides, and the foreign tax authority.
  • Multilateral APA (MAPA): an APA involving the taxpayer, two or more AEs of the taxpayer in different foreign countries, the tax authority of the country in which the taxpayer resides, and the tax authorities of AEs.


  • The APA programme has contributed significantly to the Government of India’s mission of promoting ease of doing business, especially for MNEs which have a large number of cross-border transactions within their group entities.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) 

• The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory body operating under the Central Board of Revenue Act of 1963.

• The officials of the Board, in their ex-officio capacity, also serve as a Division of the Ministry dealing with issues pertaining to the levy and collection of direct taxes.

  • Composition and Functions of CBDT:

• The Central Board of Direct Taxes is composed of a Chairman and the six members listed below:

• Chairman

• Member (Income Tax and Revenue)

• Member (Legislation)

• Member (Administration)

• Member (Investigations)

• Member (TPS and System)

• Member (Audit & Judicial)

Source: PIB

Amount Sponsored by an Application (ASBA)

Tags: GS 3 Indian Economy & Related Issues

In News

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) approved a framework for a secondary market trading facility similar to Application Supported by a Blocked Amount (ASBA).

SEBI’s recent decision 

  • It approved an ASBA-like facility for secondary market trading.
  • The facility is based on blocking funds for secondary market trading through UPI (Unified Payments Interface).
  • Currently, ASBA is only available on the primary market, wherein only the initial public offering (IPO) funds are blocked upon application and debited upon allotment.

About ASBA

  • It was first introduced in 2008 by SEBI.
  • It is an application by an investor that authorises a Self Certified Syndicate Bank (SCSB) to block the application money for subscribing to an issue in a bank account.
  • A SCSB is a recognised bank able to offer ASBA services to its clients.
  • The application fee will only be deducted from an investor’s bank account if her application is selected for allotment after the basis for allotment has been finalised.
  • In public offerings and rights offerings, all investors must apply through ASBA.


  • It offers an alternative mode of payment for issues in which the application funds remain in the investor’s account until the basis of allotment in the issue is finalised.
  • The ASBA process enables investors with bank accounts to apply through Self-Certified Syndicate Banks (SCSBs) when bidding on multiple options.
  • The use of ASBA in secondary market trading will ensure that clients continue to earn interest on blocked funds in their savings account until the debit occurs.
  • Transactions will be settled directly with Clearing Corporation (CC), bypassing the intermediaries’ pool accounts.
  • As a result, it will provide CC with settlement visibility at the client level and help mitigate the risk of client funds and securities becoming commingled.
  • It will eliminate the risk of custody associated with client collateral currently held by members and not transferred to the CC.

Source: TH