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Missing Antiquities in India

GS1 Art and Culture GS 2 Government Policies & Interventions

In News

  • It was recently found that the catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, includes at least 77 items with links to someone who is serving a 10-year jail term in Tamil Nadu for smuggling antiquities.

Data on missing antiquities 

  • Reported missing:
  • Only 486 antiquities have been reported missing from the 3,696 monuments protected and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) since independence, including 139 from Madhya Pradesh, 95 from Rajasthan, and 86 from Uttar Pradesh.
  • UNESCO estimates that more than 50,000 artefacts have been smuggled out of India since 1989, illustrating the threat posed by missing antiquities.

The RTI records:

  •  According to RTI records, 305 artefacts have been returned to India from abroad since 1976, including 292 since 2014.

Parliamentary Standing Committee:

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture notes, however, that these figures may only represent “the tip of the iceberg.”

ASI’s list of missing antiquities:

o Seventeen states and two Union Territories are included on the ASI’s list of missing artefacts. In addition to MP, Rajasthan, and UP, the list contains, among others, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, and West Bengal.

What is Antiquity?

  • The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, of 1972, (implemented in 1976), defined “antiquity” as: 

o “Any coin, sculpture, painting, epigraph, or other work of art or craftsmanship; any article, object, or thing detached from a building or cave; any article, object, or thing illustrative of science, art, crafts, literature, religion, customs, morals, or politics in bygone ages; any article, object, or thing of historical interest”

o This duration is “not less than seventy-five years” for “scientific, historical, literary, or aesthetic value” manuscripts, records, and other documents.

International conventions

  • The UNESCO Convention:
  • The UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property defined “cultural property” as the following: The property designated by countries as having “importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art, or science.”
    • On the matter of illicit export, the declaration says that:
  • “Illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property is one of the principal causes of the deterioration of the cultural heritage of the countries of origin of such property, and international cooperation is one of the most effective means of protecting each country’s cultural property.”
  • UN:
  • The United Nations General Assembly in 2000 and the United Nations Security Council in 2015 and 2016 also expressed concern over the issue.


  • According to a 2019 INTERPOL report, nearly 50 years after the UNESCO convention, “the illicit international traffic of cultural items and related offences are regrettably on the rise.”

Indian laws

  • Heritage of India:
  •  In India, Article 67 of the Union List, Article 12 of the State List, and Article 40 of the Concurrent List address the country’s heritage.

Pre-independence – Antiquities (Export Control) Act:

  •  In April 1947, the Antiquities (Export Control) Act was enacted to ensure that “no antiquity could be exported without a licence.”

Post-independence legislations:

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act was signed into law in 1958.
  • The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act (AATA) was enacted in 1972. (implemented from April 1976). The AATA states: “It shall be unlawful for anyone other than the Central Government or any authority or agency authorised by the Central Government in this regard to export any antiquity or art treasure.”
  • “No person shall engage in the business of selling or offering to sell any antiquity except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence,” the statute states.
    • The Archaeological Survey of India has granted this licence (ASI).

Can India bring back antiquities?

  • The biggest challenge the Government faces in its move to bring its heritage back into the country.
  • There are three categories to take note of: 
    • Antiquities taken out of India pre-independence;
    • Those which were taken out since independence until March 1976, i.e. before the implementation of AATA; and
    • Antiquities taken out of the country since April 1976.
  • For items in the first two categories:
    • Requests have to be raised bilaterally or on international fora. 
  • For instance, on November 10, 2022, the Maharashtra government announced that it was working to return the sword of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from London.
  • This sword was given to Edward, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), by Shivaji IV between 1875 and 1876.
  • Several artefacts, including Vagdevi of Dhar (Madhya Pradesh), the Kohinoor diamond, the Amaravati marbles, the Sultanganj Buddha, and artefacts associated with Rani Laxmibai and Tipu Sultan, are currently in foreign countries.

Antiquities in the second and third categories:

  • They can be easily recovered by filing a bilateral claim with proof of ownership and the aid of the UNESCO convention.

Source: IE

Inter-Services Organisations Bill

 GS2    GS 3 Governance

In News 

  • The government introduces a bill to empower commanders of the three services.


  • The Indian government recently introduced the Inter-Services Organisations (Command, Control, and Discipline) Bill in the Lok Sabha.
  • The bill aims to grant the central government the authority to form Inter-services Organisations composed of personnel from multiple military services or branches of defence.
  • Currently, service personnel of the Air Force, Army, and Navy are governed by their respective Service Acts, and only officers of their respective services can exercise disciplinary powers over them.
  • Inter-Services Organisations (ISOs) will be crucial for India’s defence and security as they promote cooperation and coordination between the various services of the Indian Armed Forces.

Major highlights:

  • Empowering Tri-Services Commanders:
  •  The proposed legislation will grant the Heads of the Inter-services Organisations the authority to exercise effective command, control, and discipline over all regular Air force, Army, and Navy personnel.
  •  The bill permits commanders to exercise authority over personnel from different services under their command.
  • The bill’s authority will also be available to Inter-Services Organisations established before the new law takes effect.

Joint Command:

  • The bill authorises the central government to establish Inter-Services Organisations, including a joint services command composed of Air Force, Army, and Navy units and personnel.
  • Inter-services organisations may report to the Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command.

Importance of the step

  • Time-saving: For any disciplinary or administrative action, personnel serving in Inter-services Organisations must be returned to their parent Service units, which is both time-consuming and costly.
  • Joint Planning and Execution: ISOs facilitate joint planning and execution of military operations between different services, ensuring optimal resource utilisation and a coordinated approach to accomplishing mission objectives.
  • Intelligence Sharing: ISOs allow for the sharing of intelligence between different services, which enhances situational awareness and the ability to respond to threats quickly and effectively.
  • Specialized Training and Education: ISOs provide specialized training and education to military personnel from different services, which enhances their skills and expertise in specific areas and enables them to work together seamlessly.
  • Equipment Standardization: ISOs facilitate equipment standardisation and interoperability between services, ensuring that the military is equipped with the most advanced technology and that services can collaborate effectively.
  • Cost Savings: ISOs can help reduce costs by avoiding duplication of effort and resources and enabling the military to make the best use of available resources.

Challenge of Inter-Services Organisations (ISOs)

  • Competing Interests: Each service has its own unique mission, culture, and operational priorities, which can create competition and conflicts of interest within ISOs which can hinder the effectiveness of the organisation.
  • Communication: Effective communication between different services can be challenging due to differences in terminology, communication protocols, and operational procedures which can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and errors in decision-making.
  • Resources: ISOs require significant resources to function effectively, including personnel, equipment, and funding, which can be problematic as services may prioritise their own needs and interests over the ISO’s.
  • Leadership: Effective leadership in ISOs can be difficult, as leaders must navigate competing interests, communication barriers, and resource limitations.

Way ahead

  • Once enacted, the bill will provide the necessary authority for effective command, control, and discipline of Inter-services Organisations, as well as streamline the disciplinary and administrative process for personnel serving under different services.
  • Through joint planning and execution, intelligence sharing, specialised training and education, and equipment standardisation, ISOs can help India achieve its military objectives efficiently and effectively.
  • ISOs face a number of obstacles, such as competing interests, communication barriers, and resource constraints, but they are essential for India’s defence and security.
  • Overall, India’s national security infrastructure includes ISOs, which will continue to play a crucial role in the country’s defence and security in the future.

Source: TH

Pennaiyar River Dispute

GS 2 Government Policies & Interventions GS 3 Biodiversity and Environment

In News

  • The Supreme Court-imposed deadline of three months for the Pennaiyar river tribunal has passed.


  • In 2018, Tamil Nadu initiated a lawsuit against Karnataka for building check dams and diversion structures on the Pennaiyar river.
  • On November 30, 2019, Tamil Nadu made an official request to the Union government to establish a Tribunal for resolving disputes over the river’s waters.
  • At mid-December, the court gave the Centre three months to form the dispute-resolution tribunal between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Pennaiyar River

  • The river begins in the Nandi Hills in the Chikkaballapura district of Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The river empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is also known as the South Pennar River, Dakshina Pinakini in Kannada, and Thenpennai or Ponnaiyar or Pennaiyar in Tamil.
  • With a length of 497 kilometres, it is the second longest river in Tamil Nadu, after the Kaveri. It is the second largest interstate East-flowing river basin between the Pennar and Cauvery basins.
  • Important cities along the South Pennar river include Bangalore, Hosur, Tiruvannamalai, and Cuddalore.


Inter-state Dispute Resolution Mechanism

  •  Typically, attempts are made to resolve interstate disputes with the cooperation of both parties, with the Centre acting as a facilitator or neutral mediator.

Constitutional methods to resolve the inter-state disputes:

  • Judicial redressal: In accordance with Article 131 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court decides disputes:
  •   between the Government of India and one or more States;
  •   between the Government of India and one or more States and one or more other States; and
  • between two or more States.
  •  Interstate Council: Article 263 of the Constitution grants the President the authority to establish an Interstate Council for the resolution of interstate conflicts.
  • The Council is intended to serve as a forum for dialogue between the states and the centre. The Sarkaria Commission recommended in 1988 that the Council exist as a permanent body, and President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order establishing the Council in 1990.
  • Functions of the Council: 
  • In 2021, the Centre reconstituted the Inter-state Council and it now has 1 member. The Council’s standing committee has been reconstituted with the Home Minister as chairman. In addition to the finance minister, the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat are also members of the standing committee.
  • TH


GS 2 India & Foreign Relations

In News

  • South Africa recently commemorated the abolition of the apartheid system.


  • Apartheid The Afrikaans word for “separation” or “the state of being apart.”
  • It began officially in 1948, making segregation the law and a “fundamental fact” of South Africa.

Apartheid made it illegal for South Africans to pursue interracial relationships; citizens were classified into one of four racial groups: black, Indian, coloured (mixed race), and white.

  • Political and economic rights were denied to black South Africans, who were reduced to cheap labour for whites.

Resistance :

  • In South Africa, resistance to racism predates apartheid. Imbumba ya Manyama (Union of Blacks) was founded in the 1880s, articulating an African identity that transcended tribalism.
  • The African National Congress was founded in 1912 by the elite Blacks in opposition to their disfranchisement following the formation of the Union.
  • The ANC began as a group that expressed its demands through petitions and polite dialogue. However, as the severity of the oppression increased, their tactics changed.
  • In 1949, the African National Congress (ANC) introduced its Programme of Action, which supported strike action, protests, and other forms of nonviolent resistance. At this time, Nelson Mandela became an important figure.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement (ANC) initiated the Defiance Campaign in 1952, urging people to intentionally break apartheid laws and offer themselves for arrest.

None of these, however, were able to secure substantial concessions for black South Africans.

  • During a large demonstration in Sharpeville in 1960, the police opened fire, killing at least 69 black South Africans and wounding many others.
  • Following the massacre, the government declared a state of emergency and arrested more than 18 thousand individuals, including prominent black leaders. In 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested, and he would spend the next 27 years in prison.
  • In 1976, Soweto students protested the imposition of Afrikaans as the sole language of instruction by taking to the streets. The police fired upon protesters. After the Soweto Uprising, there were a series of brutal crackdowns on resisting organisations.
  • By the 1980s, anti-apartheid forces were largely united around a nonviolent resistance that could achieve maximum participation among non-whites and exert international pressure on the government. • The latter half of the 1980s witnessed some of the largest and most significant protests to date, with mass non-cooperation and strikes. In addition, resistors established alternative community-based institutions to replace discriminatory government institutions, such as community clinics and legal resource centres.

Fall of Apartheid:

  • In 1989, the culmination of the resistance to segregation was the Defiance Campaign, which included multiracial peace marches across the country, including in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.
  • In a 1990 address to parliament, President de Klerk declared, “The time for negotiations has arrived.” He lifted bans on political parties such as the ANC, freed thousands of prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, and lifted the state of emergency imposed in the 1980s in response to rising protests.
  • A referendum among the white population of South Africa inaugurated a new era in South Africa on March 17, 1992. While systemic disadvantages continue to impact black South Africans, 1992 marked the beginning of an era of political freedom and legal equality.

Nelson Mandela

  • From establishing the first black law firm in South Africa to forming the African National Congress Youth League to negotiating the end of apartheid in South Africa with State President F. W. de Klerk to becoming the first black president of South Africa.

Conventions against Racial Discrimination

  • International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.: It was enacted in 1969 after being adopted in 1965. It remains the primary international human rights instrument that defines and prohibits racial discrimination in all spheres of private and public life.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) : A United Nations General Assembly-adopted international document outlining the rights and liberties of all people.
  • Source: IE

PM MITRA scheme

GS 2 Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of Population & their Performance GS 3 Indian Economy & Related Issues

In News

  • In the near future, the Ministry of Textiles will identify the states designated for implementation of the Prime Minister’s MITRA (Mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel) scheme.


  • Through the challenge route, states are identified, and the PM MITRA parks will provide the best ecosystem for the textile industry to be collectively present in one location, with plug-and-play infrastructure, and improve the competitiveness of the textile value chain.
  • Achieving an economic value of $250 billion in production and $100 billion in export of textiles, apparel, and related products by 2030 is attainable, despite the industry experiencing a minor setback this year.


  • The PM MITRA scheme is inspired by the 5F vision – Farm to Fibre to Factory to Fashion to Foreign.
  • It seeks to realise the vision of constructing an Aatmanirbhar Bharat and to place India prominently on the global textiles map.


  • PM MITRA Parks provide the opportunity to create an integrated textiles value chain at a single location, including spinning, weaving, processing/dying, and garment manufacturing.
  • It is anticipated that these parks will be located on sites with inherent advantages for the textile industry’s growth and the necessary connections for success. The scheme intends to leverage the Public Private Partnership model for rapid, time-bound implementation.
  • Integrated textile value chain in a single location will reduce industry logistics costs.
  • Each park is expected to generate 1 million direct jobs and 2 million indirect jobs.
  • Sites for PM MITRA Parks will be chosen using the Challenge Method and objective criteria.


Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD)

GS 3 Biodiversity and Environment

In News

  • The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) is working to eliminate emissions from the Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination process.


  • Desalination is the removal of mineral components from salty water. It is utilised in areas where freshwater supplies are limited and seawater is abundant.
  • Desalination is easily scalable and can be utilised regardless of the weather.
  • LTTD, which stands for Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination, takes advantage of the temperature difference (approximately 15°C) between the ocean water at the surface and at depths of approximately 200 metres.
  • This cold water is utilised to condense surface water.

Using vacuum pumps, the water at the surface is kept warmer and at a low pressure.

  • At such low pressures and ambient temperatures, water evaporates, and the resulting vapour, when condensed with cold water from the depths, is free of salts and contaminants and safe for consumption.


National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT)

  • • The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) was founded in 1993 as an autonomous society within India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences. NIOT aims to develop reliable indigenous technologies to solve diverse engineering problems associated with the harvesting of non-living and living resources in India’s exclusive economic zone, which encompasses approximately two-thirds of India’s land area.
  • NIOT is the hub institution for the Deep Ocean Mission, which encompasses all aspects of ocean technology, such as the development of manned submersibles, offshore large-scale desalination, and ocean thermal energy conversion, among others.

Source: TH

ISRO proposes Space Tourism

GS 3 Space

In News

  • ISRO plans to begin passenger “Space Tourism” by 2030


  • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is creating a space tourism module that will enable space travel for enthusiasts.
  • The estimated cost of the trip is Rs 6 crore, and space travel will be available to enthusiasts by 2030.
  • Sub-orbital or orbital space travel has not yet been announced as a feature of the module.
  • Traveling to outer space for recreational purposes while ensuring its safety and reusability constitutes the relatively new concept of space tourism.

Major highlights of the proposal:

  • Price: The estimated price per ticket is approximately Rs 6 crore, and passengers will be able to call themselves astronauts.
  • Type of Space Travel: The module is likely to feature sub-orbital space travel, which typically entails 15 minutes at the edge of space and a few minutes in a low-gravity environment before returning to Earth.
  • Partnership with Private Firms: ISRO is likely to collaborate with private companies via the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre to develop the space travel module (IN-SPACe).
  • Safety Measures: ISRO will also use the Reusable Launch Vehicle—Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) to learn more about the safety of spaceflights as it brings space experiences to the general public.
  • Major challenges of space tourism are:
  • Cost: Currently, space tourism is extremely expensive, and only a small number of people can afford it, which is a significant barrier for the majority of people.
  • Safety: Space tourism entails a high degree of risk, and safety will be a major concern for both tourists and operators. Spacecraft and launch vehicles must be reliable, and contingency plans must be in place.
  • Medical issues: Space tourism can pose significant medical challenges to tourists, such as changes in gravity, radiation exposure, and other physiological and psychological effects.
  • Regulations: There is currently no international regulatory framework for space tourism, and governments will need to work together to establish standards and regulations to ensure the safety and sustainability of the industry.
  • Environmental impact: Space tourism can have a significant environmental impact, including increased emissions, waste, and damage to the atmosphere and the ozone layer.

Importance of space tourism:

  • Economic benefits: Space tourism can contribute to the expansion of the space industry and generate revenue for space companies in addition to creating jobs, stimulating innovation, and attracting investment in hospitality and entertainment industries.
  • Promoting space exploration: It can increase public interest in space exploration and motivate more people to learn about the universe, astronomy, and space technology, resulting in increased funding for space research and development.
  • Advances in technology: The development of space tourism necessitates the advancement of space technology and infrastructure, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, and space habitats, which can have positive spillover effects on other sectors, including transportation, energy, and communication.
  • Environmental benefits: Space tourism can potentially help reduce the environmental impact of tourism on Earth by providing an alternative destination for travelers which could help reduce the strain on natural resources and ecosystems.

Other countries with Space Toursim modules:

  • United States: Several private companies, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, have already completed several test flights and plan to launch commercial flights in the near future.
  • Russia:It has been involved in space tourism since 2001, and has sent several paying tourists to the International Space Station (ISS) on its Soyuz spacecraft.
  • China: It is a relatively new player in the space tourism industry, but has ambitious plans to build its own space station and potentially offer space tourism in the future.
  • United Arab Emirates: The UAE recently sent its first astronaut to the ISS, and has expressed interest in developing space tourism as part of its efforts to diversify its economy.
  • Japan: It has sent several astronauts to the International Space Station and is collaborating with private companies such as PD Aerospace to develop space tourism.


Mission Gaganyaan

  • • Gaganyaan is India’s first human spaceflight mission, with the goal of launching three astronauts into space by 2022. ISRO is developing a mission to demonstrate India’s ability to send humans into space and return them safely.
  • • The spacecraft will consist of an Orbital Module and a Crew Module, and will be propelled by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) rocket.
  • The spacecraft will orbit the Earth at 400 km altitude for 5-7 days.
  • • The crew will receive training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow, Russia.
  • The crew module will have an emergency escape system to ensure the astronauts’ safety in the event of a launch or ascent malfunction.
  • The mission will have substantial scientific, technological, and socioeconomic benefits for India, including the development of new technologies and capabilities, the inspiration of future generations, and international collaboration.



  • ISRO’s safe and reusable space tourism module is an important step towards advancing India’s space exploration programmes and providing the public with the opportunity to experience space travel. Future technological advancements could make space tourism more accessible and affordable, allowing more people to experience the wonder and excitement of space exploration.

Source: TH

Exercise Sea Dragon

GS 3 Defence

In News

  • The Indian Navy is participating in the SEA DRAGON 23 exercise off the coast of Guam, United States, from 15 to 30 March.


  • It is a biennial coordinated multilateral anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercise for long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
  • The exercise is hosted by the United States Navy and includes the participation of friendly navies from Japan, Canada, South Korea, and India.


  • An Indian Navy P8I aircraft, as well as aircrafts from other nations, will participate in the exercise.
  • This exercise will test the abilities of participating aircraft to track simulated and real underwater targets, as well as facilitate the exchange of knowledge.

About P8I Aircraft

  • The P8I aircraft is a maritime reconnaissance aircraft with advanced sensors, radars, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
  • The aircraft is designed to detect, track, and engage in combat with hostile submarines and other maritime threats.
  • This is the third coordinated multilateral ASW exercise for Long Range MR ASW aircraft.

In 2015, it was held for the first time.

Other Exercises between India and USA

  • Exercise Malabar: The Malabar series of exercises began in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between the navies of India and the United States. With the addition of the navies of Australia and Japan, the exercises gained greater prominence.
  • VAJRA PRAHAR: Special Forces Exercise
  • Yudh Abhyas: Exercise in Military Exercise
  • Source: PIB