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The Great Rift: Africa’s Splitting Plates

GS1, Important Geophysical Phenomena

In Context

  • Scientists projected in 2020 that a new ocean would form when Africa progressively breaks into two independent portions.

In news

  • East African Rift:
  • The East African Rift, a 56-kilometer-long fracture that developed in Ethiopia’s desert in 2005, is linked to the continent’s division.
  • A new sea has formed as a result of the crack.

Division of the continents:

  • This geological process would inevitably divide the continent, resulting in currently landlocked countries such as Uganda and Zambia gaining their own beaches in due time, which the study estimates will take five to ten million years.
  • If the Somali and Nubian tectonic plates continue to separate, the rift will form a smaller continent that will contain present-day Somalia as well as sections of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.
  • The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will eventually pour into Ethiopia’s Afar region and the East African Rift Valley, forming a new ocean.

द ग्रेट रिफ्ट: अफ्रीका की स्प्लिटिंग प्लेट्स



  • On the plus side, the formation of new coastlines will open up a plethora of new chances for economic expansion.
  • These countries will benefit from additional trade ports, fishing grounds, and subsea internet infrastructure, which will definitely boost their economic potential.


Evacuation & displacement:

  • The evacuation of people and the potential loss of lives will be an unintended consequence of this natural occurrence.
    • This occurrence will result in the displacement of communities, villages, and varied flora and fauna as the plates continue to split in the future.
    • Africa is the most hit region in terms of displacement, with more countries affected than any other continent or region.
    • According to a United Nations Environment Programme report on displacement and the environment, more than 15 million people were internally displaced in Africa in 2015.

Environmental degradation:

      • These changes will impact their habitats due to climate change, resulting in environmental degradation.
      • Rapid urbanisation and increased settlements will put pressure on natural resources, leading to a scarcity of water, energy and food.

Loss of biodiversity:

      • Furthermore, some species will disappear, while others will become endangered due to habitat changes.

Seismic activity & volcanism:

      • While the process of rifting may often go unnoticed, the separation of the Nubian and Somali plates can result in the formation of new faults, fissures and cracks or the reactivation of pre-existing faults, leading to seismic activity.
      • Additionally, the close proximity of the hot molten asthenosphere to the surface causes volcanism, further displaying the ongoing process of continental breakup.

Alternative theories of Continent formation

  • The most widely recognised hypothesis in place relates continent formation to tectonic plate movement.
  • Earth differs from the other planets and our moon in that its outer surface is separated into solid slabs, which Wegener referred to as tectonic plates in his theory.
  • While both surfaces show signs of recent deformation, neither planet possesses a plate-like surface.
  • As technology evolved, allowing for deeper research, the theories of continental drift and seafloor spreading gained scientific backing.
  • The two theories were combined to form modern plate tectonic theory.

Plate Tectonic Theory/Plate Tectonic

  • Plate tectonic theory began in 1915, when Alfred Wegener developed his “continental drift” idea.
  • The Earth contains a solid exterior layer known as the lithosphere, which is normally around 100 km (60 miles) thick and sits on top of a plastic (moldable, partially molten) layer known as the asthenosphere.
  • There are seven extremely big continental and ocean-sized plates, six or seven medium-sized regional plates, and several minor plates in the lithosphere.
  • These plates move in relation to one another.
  • They travel at a pace of 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) every year and interact along their borders.
  • They converge, diverge, or pass each other.


Mountain formation:

  • Mountains rise as a result of plate motions where plates push together or converge.

Ocean formation:

  • Where plates pull apart or diverge, continents fracture and oceans form.
  • The continents are embedded in the plates and drift passively with them, resulting in significant changes in Earth’s geography over millions of years.
  • Such interactions are thought to be responsible for the majority of Earth’s seismic and volcanic activity, though earthquakes and volcanoes can occur in plate interiors.

Evidence of Plate Tectonic Theory:

Continent Puzzle:

  •  Pangaea was formed by the continents fitting together almost like puzzle pieces (one super-continent).

Fossil evidence:

  • Fossils from distant continents are similar to fossils from formerly related continents.
  • Different living forms evolved when the continents separated.

Distributions of rocks:

  • The majority of rock distributions within the Earth’s crust, including minerals, fossil fuels, and energy resources, are a direct result of plate motions and collisions, as well as changes in the layouts of continents and ocean basins.

Evidence of Plate Tectonic Theory:

Way ahead

  • While rapid occurrences such as dramatic splitting faults may impart a sense of urgency to continental rifting, the process itself is incredibly sluggish and can go unnoticed most of the time as it progressively splits Africa.
  • Weather patterns are changing landscapes and boosting sea levels as a result of global warming.
  • Although human displacement is not a new phenomenon, climate change exacerbates both slow and abrupt environmental catastrophes by increasing the intensity, frequency, and scope of these crises.

Source: DTE

Governor’s role in Floor Test

GS 2, Polity and Governance

In News

  • The Supreme Court recently heard cases brought in the aftermath of the Shiv Sena political crisis, which addressed whether the Governor can call for a floor test in the event of internal unhappiness within a party.


  • Since independence, the position of governor has been scrutinised for concerns like as selection criteria, abuse of authority, favouritism, participation in the affairs of the elected government, and so on.

Floor Test

  • A floor test is used to determine whether the executive has the confidence of the legislature, and this occurs in both the Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies.
  • It is a constitutional procedure by which a Chief Minister nominated by the Governor can be asked to demonstrate majority on the floor of the state’s Legislative Assembly.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 175(2) of the Indian Constitution: It empowers the Governor to summon House members and call for a floor test to determine if the incumbent government has a majority in the State Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha).
  • The President wields this power at the federal or national level.
  • Article 163 of the Indian Constitution: However, the Governor can only do so in accordance with Article 163 of the Constitution, which states that the Governor operates with the assistance and advice of the Council of Ministers, which is led by the Chief Minister.
  • Article 164 of the Indian constitution: It states that, “The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State.”
  • And so, if they do not enjoy the Legislature’s support, the Executive has to step down.

Supreme Court Recommendations

  • The Supreme Court has clarified the governor’s rights and functions in a number of decisions throughout the years, some of which and their recommendations are included below.

Sr Bommai Judgement 

  • It has been stated that the Governor’s discretion does not apply to hung assemblies.
  • The emphasis is on a floor test in the house within 48 hours (although it can be extended to 15 days) so that the legislature can determine the topic and the Governor’s decision is only a triggering point.

Rameshwar Prasad Judgement

  • A Governor, in his opinion, cannot completely exclude post-election partnerships as a means of forming a popular government.
  • Unsubstantiated charges of horse-trading or corruption in government formation efforts cannot be used to justify dissolving the Assembly.

Shamsher Singh Judgement

  •  In this case, a seven-judge Supreme Court Constitution Bench ruled that the President and Governor, as custodians of all executive and other powers under various Articles, shall exercise their formal constitutional powers only on the advice of their Ministers, except in a few well-known exceptional situations.

Nabam Rebia Judgement

  • In this case, the Supreme Court noted the words of B R Ambedkar: “The Governor under the Constitution has no function which he can execute by himself; no functions at all. While he has no functions, he does have some duties to fulfil, and the House should keep this distinction in mind.”
  • The Supreme Court found that Article 163 of the Constitution does not grant the Governor broad freedom to act against or against the recommendations of his Council of Ministers.

Various committees Recommendations

  • In addition to the Supreme Court, various committees have investigated the position of Governor. Among the suggestions are:

Sarkaria Commission Report (1988):

  • Governors must not be removed before the end of their five-year term, unless there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. Governors must not be removed before the end of their five-year term, unless there are exceptional and compelling circumstances.

Venkatachaliah Commission (2002):

      • Governor’s appointment should be entrusted to a committee comprising the prime minister, the home minister, the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the chief minister of the concerned state.
      • If the governor has  to be removed before completion of term, the central government should do so only after consultation with the Chief Minister.

Punchhi Commission (2010): 

  • The word “at the pleasure of the President” should be removed from the Constitution; “Governor” should only be removed by a vote of the state assembly.


ICC Arrest warrant against Putin

GS 2, India & Foreign Relations

In News

  • The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin and a second Russian official for war crimes.

More about the news

The warrant was issued for the alleged war crime of illegally deporting and transporting minors from occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia.

ICC’s warrant:

  • According to the court, Putin is personally liable for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children after Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022.
  • The court has also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who has been the public face of a Kremlin-sponsored initiative that has brought Ukrainian children and teenagers to Russia.

About International Criminal Court(ICC)

  • About:
  • The ICC is based in The Hague, the Netherlands.
  • It was formed by the “Rome Statute,” a treaty signed in 1998.
  • Historically, the United Nations Security Council established ad hoc tribunals to address atrocities in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.


  • It “investigates and, where warranted, prosecutes those charged with the gravest crimes of international concern: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression.”
  •  The ICC can also exercise jurisdiction over cases referred to it by the UN Security Council.


  • The Rome Statute now has 123 signatories, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Afghanistan, and Germany.
  • The United States, on the other hand, has maintained that the ICC should not have jurisdiction over residents of nations that are not parties to it.
  • Similarly, India and China have opted out of membership.

Need of ICC:

  •  The International Criminal Court was founded to pursue the most egregious crimes only when a country’s own judicial system fails to act, as was the situation in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Difference between ICC & ICJ:

  •  Unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which deals with governments and inter-state conflicts, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutes people.


  • However, the ICC’s authority is confined to offences committed after its establishment on July 1, 2002.
  • Furthermore, the offences must be committed in a country that has ratified the agreement or by a national of a ratifying country.
  • Because the court lacks the authority to arrest or bring sitting heads of state to trial, it must rely on other leaders and nations to act as its sheriffs around the world. o A suspect who succeeds to elude capture may never receive a hearing to confirm the charges.


Independent International Commission of Inquiry Report on Ukraine

  •  It is a United Nations-mandated investigation body.

Report highlights:

·         The panel outlined the body of evidence and how it pointed to Russian authorities perpetrating a “broad spectrum of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in several parts of Ukraine and the Russian Federation” in its report dated March 16.

·         According to the report, many of these are war crimes, including deliberate killings, attacks on civilians, wrongful imprisonment, torture, rape, and forced transfers and deportations of minors.

·         Contending that the Russian military forces carried out strikes with explosives in inhabited areas with “an evident disregard for human injury and suffering”.

·         The report detailed the indiscriminate, disproportionate attacks, as well as the refusal to take measures, in violation of international humanitarian law.

·         The commission also determined that the Russian military’s waves of strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, as well as its use of torture, may constitute crimes against humanity.

  • It also advocated for additional investigations to hold the responsible agents fully accountable, taking into account both criminal liability and the victims’ rights to truth, recompense, and non-repetition.

Precursor to the ICC warrants:

  • The report, which was based on more than 500 interviews, satellite imagery, and trips to detention facilities and cemeteries, acted as a direct precursor to the ICC warrants.

Source: TH


MoU for LakhpatiDidis

GS 2, Governance

In News

  • The Ministry of Rural Development and the Ministry of Ayush signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work on the development of trained individuals.

About the MoU

  • LakhpatiDidis are women who earn Rs. 1 lakh or more per year via Self Help Organizations (SHGs).
  • SHGs are small groups of impoverished people. SHG members confront similar challenges. They assist one another in resolving their concerns.
  • SHGs encourage their members to make tiny saves. The savings are held in a bank. The SHG’s common fund is referred to as this. The SHG uses its common fund to make small loans to its members.
  • Personnel will be trained through providing training to rural impoverished youth and women for the Ayush healthcare system as part of the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya-Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY).
  • The initial goal is to train a huge number of women, which will be enhanced as time goes on.
  • The initial goal is to train a significant number of women, which will be increased in the future.
  • The Agreement is expected to foster synergy and convergence between both ministries, allowing for the achievement of the greater goal of rural community development and poverty alleviation.
  • It will also train 22000 rural poor youth in National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF)-compliant courses such as Panchakarma Technician, Panchakarma Assistant, Ayurveda Masseur, Kshara Karma Technician, Cupping Treatment Assistant, and so on.
  • To enable this, the Ministry of Rural Development would ensure funding, i.e., Central Government and State Government, based on the DDU-GKY criterion.

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) 

  • DDU-GKY is one of the main poverty reduction programmes introduced on September 25, 2014 by the Ministry of Rural Development’s National Rural Livelihoods Program. It aims to train the poorest of the poor youngsters in Rural India between the ages of 15 and 35.
  •  As part of the Skill India campaign, it plays an important role in supporting the government’s social and economic programmes such as Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities, and Start-Up India, Stand-Up India campaigns to position India as the globally preferred manufacturing hub, while also contributing significantly to the nation’s other flagship programmes.
  • A total of 13.88 lakh candidates have been trained and 8.24 lakh candidates have been placed under DDU-GKY so far.



Western Ghats

GS 3, Biodiversity and Environment

In News

  • The Supreme Court has ordered the Environment Ministry to prepare a counter-affidavit to a plea seeking judicial intervention to save the Western Ghats.


  • The Western Ghats are a 1600-kilometer-long mountain chain that runs along India’s west coast from the Tapi River in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. They pass through Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu states (6 in number). They are recognised by many regional names such as Sahyadri, Nilgiris, and so on.
  • The climate in the Western Ghats is tropical and humid.
  • Because of the windward effect, the western side of the Ghat receives more rainfall than the eastern side.
  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization designated the Western Ghats as a world heritage site in 2012. (UNESCO).


  • The Western Ghats provide water to many perennial rivers in peninsular India, notably the three major eastward-flowing rivers Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri. Peninsular India gets the majority of its water from rivers that originate in the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats have an impact on Indian monsoon weather patterns. They are the cause of the severe rains around the western coast.
  •  The Western Ghats, with their forest eco systems, sequester a significant quantity of carbon.
  • It is estimated that they neutralise approximately 4 million tonnes of carbon per year, accounting for approximately 10% of all emissions neutralised by Indian forests.
  •  The Western Ghats are one of the world’s eight biodiversity hotspots.
  • The Western Ghats have high levels of plant and animal endemism . It is estimated that 52% of  tree species and 65% of amphibians found in western Ghats are endemic.


Mining: Mining activities have expanded swiftly and frequently in violation of all rules, causing severe environmental harm and societal upheaval.

  • Unsustainable mining has increased landslide vulnerability, harmed water sources, and harmed agriculture, all of which have harmed the livelihoods of those who live in such areas.

Extraction of Forest Produce: Human communities in the Western Ghats generally rely on protected areas for the exploitation of forest products to meet a variety of subsistence and economic needs.

Livestock Grazing: Livestock grazing within and bordering protected areas is a serious problem causing habitat degradation across the Western Ghats.

  • Plantations: Agroforestry systems in the Western Ghats are replacing native endemic species with tea, coffee, rubber and monocultures of various species, including the recently introduced oil palm.
  • Encroachment by Human Settlements: Human settlements exist both within and outside of protected areas throughout the Western Ghats, posing a substantial hazard.
  • Hydropower Projects: The environmental impacts of large dam constructions in the Western Ghats have been enormous.

Committees and Recommendations

  • Gadgil Committee Report, 2011:
  • Under the Chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil, the Ministry of Environment and Forests established the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) in 2010 to primarily demarcate ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats and recommend measures for management of these ecologically sensitive areas.


    • The group established the Western Ghats’ borders for ecological management.
    • It proposed that the entire area be recognised as an ecologically sensitive area (ESA), with smaller sections within the territory labelled as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II, or III based on their current state and degree of threat.
    • It recommended dividing the territory into around 2,200 grids, with 75% falling under ESZ I or II or previously existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
    • The committee advocated establishing a Western Ghats Ecological Authority to oversee these operations in the region.
    • None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee.

Kasturirangan Committee 2012:

  •  The Environment Ministry then established the Kasturirangan High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats to “review” the Gadgil Committee findings in a “holistic and multidisciplinary manner in light of replies received” from states, central ministries, and others.


  • The Kasturirangan report aimed to classify only 37% of the Western Ghats as Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA).
  • It distinguished between cultural (58% of the Western Ghats are inhabited by it, such as human settlements, agricultural areas, and plantations) and natural landscape (90% should be protected under ESA, according to the committee).
  • A prohibition on mining, quarrying, and sand mining.
  • No new thermal power projects are permitted, however hydropower projects are permitted with limits.
  • A prohibition on the establishment of new harmful industries.
  • Construction and construction projects of up to 20,000 square metres were permitted, but townships were prohibited.
  • Forest diversion could be allowed with extra safeguards.
  • The Environment  Ministry  decided to implement the Kasturirangan Committee report on the Western Ghats and declared ESA over 37% of the Western Ghats under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Way Forward

  • There is a need to strike a balance between conservation efforts and development by ensuring that human behaviours that benefit livelihoods but harm biodiversity protection are limited.

Source: TH


GS 3 Science & Technology

In News 

  • The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) researchers have created a low-cost star sensor for astronomy and small CubeSat class satellite operations.


[Exploded view of Starberry-Sense star sensor]

Image Courtesy: TH

About Starberry-Sense

  • The Starberry-Sense star sensor can assist small CubeSat class satellite missions in determining their orientation in space.
  • The Starberry-Sense is ready for launch on ISRO’s PS4-Orbital Platform and can be utilised in the future for CubeSats and other small satellite missions.
  • Benefits: Because it is made from commercial/off-the-shelf components, this star sensor costs less than 10% of those on the market.
  • The instrument’s brain is a single-board Linux computer known as the Raspberry Pi, which is popular among electronics hobbyists.
  • Researchers combined some highly optimised algorithms with a Raspberry Pi to create StarBerry-Sense, a powerful star sensor.


Star sensor

  • Any satellite must know where it is in space, and the equipment used to do so is known as a star sensor.
  • Because the location of stars in the sky is fixed relative to each other, it can be utilised as a stable reference frame to calculate the orientation of a satellite in orbit. The star sensor functions as a celestial compass.


·          Small spacecraft (SmallSats) are spacecraft weighing less than 180 kilogrammes and roughly the size of a big kitchen fridge. Even among small spacecraft, there is a wide range of sizes and masses that may be distinguished.


  • They are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites.
  • The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart, and weigh about 3 pounds

• CubeSat development has progressed into its own industry, with government, industry, and academia collaborating for ever-increasing capabilities.

• They now provide a cost-effective platform for science investigations, new technology demonstrations, and advanced mission concepts utilising constellations and swarms disaggregated systems.

  • CubeSats and small satellite missions have grown in popularity in recent years. These missions are designed and developed using commercially available components.



Source: TH

AFINDEX and African Chiefs Conclave

GS 3, Defence

In News

  • At Pune, the Indian Army will host the second edition of the Africa-India field training exercise (AFINDEX-23), as well as the African Chiefs Conference.
  • About 22 countries are slated to attend the conclave, with another 20 anticipated to participate in the exercise.


  • The first Africa-India field training exercise, attended by 20 African nations, was held in Pune in March 2019.
  • On the margins of DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow, the India-Africa Defence Ministers Conclave endorsed the Lucknow Declaration, which lays the groundwork for India-Africa defence cooperation.
  • As a follow-up, on the margins of DefExpo 2022, an India-Africa defence conversation was held in Gandhinagar.


  • AFINDEX: The exercise is divided into four sections, the first of which is training for trainers.
  • This would be followed by a phase of humanitarian mine action and peacekeeping activities.
  • Maximum use of indigenous equipment is being made during the exercise, and new generation equipment built in India will be exhibited during the exercise to offer troops from participating nations a sense of their efficacy, in keeping with the drive to promote defence exports.
  • Conclave: The Chiefs Conclave will take place on March 28 and will be divided into two sessions: the first will focus on the fundamental components of defence partnership, while the second will focus on the Indian defence industry’s outreach to Africa.
  • Objectives and Need 
  • While India is eyeing Africa as a significant market for indigenous defence equipment, it is also seeking to meet the capacity enhancement needs of African forces.
  • The goal is to expand on previous initiatives to promote India-Africa relations, with an emphasis on strengthening peace and security and generating opportunities to exchange ideas and perspectives.
  • It is also an opportunity to learn from African experience in cooperative security and crisis management.

Source: TH

Horseshoe Crabs

GS 3, Biodiversity and EnvironmentSpecies in News

In News

  • Experts have asked the Odisha government to develop a strong protection mechanism quickly, before horseshoe crabs go extinct as a result of damaging fishing methods.

About Horseshoe Crab

  • Horseshoe crabs are the only living members of the order Xiphosura and are marine and brackish water arthropods of the family Limulidae.

Horseshoe crabs have four extant species:

  • The Atlantic or American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, is found along the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Southeast Gulf of Mexico.
  • The tri-spine horseshoe crab (Tachypleustridentatus), coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas), and mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpiusrotundicauda) in Indian, Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Japanese coastal waters.
  • They have been around for more than 300 million years, making them even older than dinosaurs. They look like prehistoric crabs, but are actually more closely related to scorpions and spiders.
  • The horseshoe crab has a hard exoskeleton and 10 legs, which it uses for walking along the seafloor.
  • Female horseshoe crabs are about one-third larger than the males.

हॉर्सशू केकड़े नर की तुलना में लगभग एक तिहाई बड़ी होती हैं।


  • Horseshoe crabs use varied habitats depending on their developmental stage.
  • Horseshoe crab eggs are laid on coastal beaches in late spring and summer. The juvenile horseshoe crabs can be found offshore on the sandy ocean floor of tidal flats after hatching. Mature horseshoe crabs feed deeper in the ocean until they return to the beach to breed.
  • The Odisha coast has the highest density of horseshoe crabs, with Balasore being the major spawning ground.


  • The blue blood crab population is dwindling by the day. There will be no Horseshoe crab in India in ten years.
  • Overharvesting for food, bait, and biomedical testing, as well as habitat loss caused by coastal reclamation and development.
  • Shoreline changes designed to preserve beaches from erosion and sea-level rise caused by climate change have an impact on their spawning habitats.
Medicinal Use 

  • • The vivid blue blood of a horseshoe crab is used to test vaccinations, medications, and medical gadgets to verify that they are not contaminated with hazardous bacterial toxins. The blood of a horseshoe crab contains the clotting agent limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), which identifies a contaminant known as endotoxin. Even trace levels of endotoxin can be lethal if they get into vaccines or injectable medications. As a result, it has been vital for verifying the safety of biomedical goods since the 1970s, when rabbit testing was substituted.
  • Every year, pharmaceutical corporations capture half a million Atlantic horseshoe crabs, bleed them, then release them back into the ocean, where many die.



Conservation Status:

  • On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the American horseshoe crab is classed as Vulnerable to extinction, while the tri-spine horseshoe crab is classified as Endangered.
  • Horseshoe crabs are included in Schedule IV of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.