CURRENT AFFAIRS – 28/12/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 28/12/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 28/12/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 28/12/2023

INS Imphal commissioned

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

INS Imphal (Pennant D68), the third vessel of the Visakhapatnam class stealth-guided missile destroyers, is set to be commissioned into the Indian Navy, following the INS Visakhapatnam and INS Mormugao.

  • The Visakhapatnam class is the latest addition to the lineage of indigenous destroyers, succeeding the Delhi and Kolkata classes.

Key Highlights

  • Historical Context:
    • Between 2014 and 2016, the Indian Navy commissioned the Kolkata class destroyers (INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, and INS Chennai) under Project 15A.
    • These ships marked advancements over the earlier Delhi class destroyers (INS Delhi, INS Mysore, and INS Mumbai), commissioned between 1997 and 2001 under Project 15.
  • Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL), a key Defense Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) in India, constructed all the destroyers in the Visakhapatnam class.
  • A ship class, indicating vessels with similar tonnage, capabilities, and weaponry, distinguishes these advanced destroyers.
  • Project 15B:
    • The Visakhapatnam class, a part of Project 15B, saw a contract signed in January 2011 for the construction of these guided missile destroyers.
    • INS Visakhapatnam, the lead ship, was commissioned in November 2021, followed by INS Mormugao in December 2022.
    • The fourth ship, D69 (to be named INS Surat upon commissioning), was launched in May the previous year.
    • Designed by the Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau and constructed by MDSL in Mumbai, the ships of Project 15B are named after major cities from different corners of India – Visakhapatnam, Mormugao, Imphal, and Surat.
    • The lead ship, INS Visakhapatnam, serves as the class identifier.
    • Strategic Significance:
      • The Visakhapatnam class destroyers represent a leap forward in technological assets, weaponry, and strategic capabilities for the Indian Navy.
      • The commissioning of INS Imphal adds another potent asset to India’s naval fleet, strengthening its maritime prowess.
    • Technological Characteristics:
      • The Visakhapatnam class destroyers, including INS Imphal, measure 163 meters in length, 17.4 meters in width, and have a displacement of 7,400 tonnes.
      • The propulsion system features a ‘combined gas and gas’ (COGAG) configuration with four gas turbines, enabling a maximum speed of 30 knots and a range of 4000 nautical miles.
      • The crew comprises approximately 350 members, with superior ergonomics and habitability compared to previous destroyer classes.
    • Advanced Features:
      • The Visakhapatnam class incorporates advanced features, including multiple fire zones, battle damage control systems, and distributional power systems for enhanced survivability.
      • The ships boast a total atmospheric control system (TACS) providing protection against chemical, biological, and nuclear threats.
      • A state-of-the-art combat management system evaluates threats, creating a tactical picture for resource allocation.
    • Armament and Weaponry:
      • The arsenal of the Visakhapatnam class includes BrahMos surface-to-surface cruise missiles and vertically launched Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles for engaging shore and sea-based targets.
      • The ship features a 127 mm main gun on the forward bow deck, four AK-630 30mm guns for close-point engagement, indigenously developed 533 mm torpedo launchers, and RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers.
      • Additionally, the destroyers can operate two multi-role helicopters, such as Sea King or HAL Dhruv, with rail-less helicopter traversing and hangar facilities.
    • Strategic Significance of Guided Missile Destroyers:
      • Destroyers, known for their high speed, manoeuvrability, and extended endurance, play a crucial role in naval formations like fleets or carrier battle groups.
      • Modern guided-missile destroyers, characterized by speed, stealth, and advanced weaponry, protect fleets and carrier battle groups from short-range attacks in surface, air, and sub-surface domains.
      • These vessels are instrumental in offensive naval operations, equipped with guided missiles for anti-aircraft, anti-surface, and anti-submarine warfare.
    • Visakhapatnam Class: An Advanced Naval Asset:
      • As an evolution from the Kolkata class, the Visakhapatnam class guided missile destroyers incorporate feedback from the Navy and introduce advanced features.
      • The state-of-the-art stealth technology grants the Visakhapatnam class a minimal radar signature, enhancing its strategic value.
      • With a significant indigenous component, these destroyers are among the most advanced in the Indian Navy, capable of operating independently or as part of a larger formation.
      • The class’s modern sensors and communication facilities position it as a key asset in network-centric warfare, utilizing information technology and computer networking for effective coordination in conflict scenarios.
    • Tribute to Imphal:
      • INS Imphal holds a distinctive position as the largest and most advanced destroyer named after a city from the North-east.
      • This naming choice is a tribute to Manipur’s historical sacrifices and contributions to India’s freedom struggle, including the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, Subash Chandra Bose’s INA flag hoisting in 1944, and the pivotal Battle of Imphal during World War II.
      • The commissioning of INS Imphal underscores the significance of Imphal, Manipur, and the broader North-eastern region in shaping national security, sovereignty, and prosperity.
      • It symbolizes the city’s historical importance and its role in shaping India’s destiny.

About Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL)

  • Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), previously known as Mazagon Dock Limited, is a significant shipyard located in Mazagaon, Mumbai.
  • Established in the 18th century, the shipyards have a rich history with ownership passing through various entities, including the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the British-India Steam Navigation Company.
  • The culmination of this evolution led to the registration of ‘Mazagon Dock Limited’ as a public company in 1934.
  • In 1960, the shipyard underwent nationalization, becoming a public sector undertaking managed by the Ministry of Defence, with the Government of India holding a substantial 84.83% stake.
  • Presently known as Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, the company is a key player in the defense and maritime industry.
  • The shipyard specializes in manufacturing warships and submarines exclusively for the Indian Navy, contributing significantly to the country’s naval capabilities.
  • Beyond naval vessels, MDL is involved in the construction of offshore platforms and support vessels for offshore oil drilling activities.
  • The shipyard’s diverse portfolio also includes the construction of tankers, cargo bulk carriers, passenger ships, and ferries.

Growth charts — WHO standards versus India crafted

Child undernutrition remains a longstanding issue in India, influenced by multiple determinants including food intake, dietary diversity, health, sanitation, women’s status, and poverty.

  • Anthropometric standards like height-for-age (stunting) and weight-for-height (wasting) are commonly used to measure undernutrition, with the World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Standards being the global benchmark.
  • However, debates have emerged in India regarding the applicability of these standards, particularly the Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) on which they are based.

Key Highlights

  • MGRS Foundation and Purpose:
    • The WHO standards originated from the MGRS conducted in six countries from 1997 to 2003, including India.
    • The study aimed to establish growth patterns for children from birth to five years who did not face known environmental deficiencies.
    • Unlike previous references based on U.S. data, the MGRS took a prescriptive approach, defining how children should grow in a healthy environment.
    • The Indian MGRS sample was drawn from privileged households in South Delhi, raising questions about representativeness.
  • Critiques of MGRS and differences in study in India:
    • Some researchers argue that MGRS standards overestimate undernutrition in India.
    • However, valid comparisons with other datasets require samples meeting MGRS criteria for a favourable growth environment.
    • Large-scale surveys in India often lack such samples due to high inequality and underrepresentation of the rich.
    • For instance, even among the highest quintile of households in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5, a mere 12.7% of children aged six to 23 months meet the WHO’s ‘minimum acceptable diet’ requirements.
    • Disparities in maternal education levels further complicate comparisons, as the MGRS sample predominantly comprised mothers with over 15 years of education, while only 54.7% of women in NFHS-5 had completed 12 or more years of schooling.
    • Comparisons between MGRS and prevalence studies may be misleading as they operate under different norms.
    • For example, MGRS involved counselling for appropriate feeding practices, absent in surveys like the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) or Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey.
  • Challenges and Considerations in Applying MGRS Standards for Child Growth in India
    • Genetic and Maternal Height Influences:
      • A critical set of issues surrounding the use of MGRS standards in India involves the differences in genetic growth potential among populations and the impact of maternal heights on child growth.
      • Maternal height, being a non-modifiable factor at an individual level, raises questions about the potential for improvement in one generation.
      • However, low average maternal heights are indicative of intergenerational poverty transmission and poor women’s status, highlighting the need for an indicator like stunting to capture this deprivation.
    • MGRS Standards and Regional Disparities:
      • Debates persist on whether MGRS standards are too adaptable or not, considering factors like maternal heights and genetic potential.
      • Some countries with similar or poorer economic conditions, particularly in South Asia, have demonstrated greater improvements in stunting prevalence using MGRS standards.
      • Regional variations within India, such as in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, indicate varying rates of reduction in stunting.
      • It also needs to be considered that gene pools also shift at the population level with greater socio-economic development.
      • The shifting gene pools with socioeconomic development challenge the notion of immutability of genetic potential, as seen in the increasing average heights of countries like Japan.
    • Concerns of Inappropriately High Standards:
      • There is a serious concern that excessively high standards may lead to a misdiagnosis of the situation, potentially resulting in the overfeeding of misclassified children.
      • This could be a consequence of government programs aimed at addressing undernutrition, leading to an increase in overweight and obesity.
      • Despite this worry, given the existing dietary gaps in children and inadequate coverage of nutritional schemes, fears of overfeeding appear largely unwarranted.
      • Improving the quality of meals under such programs, diversifying diets, and urgently implementing recommendations like including eggs and pulses in distribution systems are essential.
    • Comprehensive Interventions for Better Outcomes:
      • Recognizing that improving diets alone is insufficient, the need for multiple interventions, including better sanitation, access to healthcare, women’s empowerment and childcare services, to achieve improved nutritional outcomes is emphasized.
      • Addressing these broader determinants is crucial alongside enhancing the quality and diversity of nutritional programs to combat child undernutrition effectively.
      • Hence, it is highlighted that improvements in sanitation, healthcare access, and childcare services are integral to achieving better nutritional outcomes.
      • These determinants are integral to the overall development of a country, emphasizing the importance of equitable resource distribution.
      • The reflection of these factors in anthropometric indicators underscores their significance rather than diminishing it.
      • While individual children grow uniquely, anthropometric standards serve the purpose of understanding population trends, with trained health personnel using judgment in interpreting growth charts for individual care contexts.
    • ICMR’s Initiative for Growth References:
      • Acknowledging the need for a nuanced approach, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has formed a committee to revise growth references for India.
      • The committee reportedly recommends a comprehensive study across the country to assess child growth for potential development of national growth charts.
      • This initiative aligns with India’s ambitious development goals for 2047 and aims to enhance comparability.
    • Balancing Aspirations and Achievability:
      • Despite the push for newer and more precise information on child growth, it is suggested to adhering to the high yet achievable standards set by the WHO-MGRS.
      • While the ICMR’s recommendation for a detailed study is welcomed, maintaining continuity with established standards ensures international comparability and intra-country trend analysis.
      • Striking a balance between aspirational goals and practical achievability is deemed essential in guiding India’s efforts to combat child undernutrition effectively.

What is ‘Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS)’ of WHO?

  • The Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) is a landmark initiative conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop international growth standards for assessing the physical growth and nutritional status of infants and young children.
  • The study aimed to create growth charts that could be used globally to monitor the growth of children under the age of five.
  • The study included sites in Brazil, Ghana, India, Norway, Oman, and the United States.
  • The study followed a longitudinal design, collecting data on the growth of healthy, breastfed children from birth to 24 months of age.
  • The selection of study participants aimed to include children with favourable environmental and health conditions.
  • The MGRS collected data on key growth parameters such as weight, length, and head circumference.
  • The data collection included measurements taken at frequent intervals, providing a detailed picture of the growth trajectories of the studied populations.
  • The collected data underwent rigorous statistical analysis to develop growth curves and percentiles for weight, length, and head circumference.
  • These curves represent the range of normal growth for children of various ages.
  • The results of the MGRS were published by the WHO in 2006, and the new growth standards were endorsed by various health organizations worldwide.

Making health our top priority in 2024

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

The 2023 Navaratri celebrations in Gujarat were marred by the shocking news of 10 reported deaths from heart attacks within a 24-hour period.

  • Notably, victims ranged from a 13-year-old to middle-aged individuals, challenging the misconception that heart-related issues primarily affect the elderly.
  • This alarming trend extends beyond Gujarat, signalling a nationwide shift in India’s disease burden.
  • While communicable diseases persist as threats, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases have become the predominant public health concern.

Key Highlights

  • WHO Report on NCDs in India:
    • According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report titled ‘Invisible Numbers,’ a significant 66% of deaths in India in 2019 were attributed to NCDs.
    • The report highlights that 22% of individuals aged 30 or older in India are projected to succumb to NCDs before their 70th birthday, surpassing the global average of 18%.
  • While the specter of NCDs presents a significant challenge, deaths caused by NCDs are largely preventable.
    • The key lies in the daily choices individuals make in terms of lifestyle, diet, and other behavioral factors.
    • The silent epidemic of NCDs is attributed to common behavioral risk factors on the rise in India, including unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, and the use of tobacco and alcohol.
    • Genetic predisposition and sedentary lifestyles further contribute to conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Alarming Health Statistics:
    • India holds the title of the diabetes capital, with 101 million diabetics and 136 million individuals with prediabetes.
    • Cardiovascular diseases lead the mortality charts, and cancer incidence is projected to rise significantly by 2040.
    • The health crisis not only affects individuals but also poses a substantial economic burden, with the World Economic Forum estimating a staggering cost of $4.58 trillion between 2012 and 2030 due to NCDs and mental health conditions.
  • Resolving to Combat Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in 2024
    • As India targets becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2027, the rising incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is identified as a significant concern.
    • Despite government initiatives like the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Stroke, and the 75/25 initiative, the responsibility now shifts to individuals to prioritize their health.
    • Urgent Resolution for Health:
      • Entering the new year, the resolution emphasizes the critical need to prioritize health, acknowledging the severity of the NCD issue.
      • Unlike typical New Year resolutions, this commitment to health is deemed non-negotiable.
    • Individual Responsibility in Health:
      • While factors like urban planning and environmental pollution may be beyond individual control, the resolution underscores personal control over lifestyle choices, particularly diet and physical activity.
      • Micro-habits, small actions seamlessly integrated into daily routines, are highlighted as instrumental in making a difference.
    • Integration of Natural Movement:
      • The resolution suggests incorporating more natural movement into daily life, such as walking instead of using a vehicle.
      • Just 30 minutes of daily walking is cited as beneficial for cardiovascular fitness, bone strength, fat reduction, and muscle power.
    • Embracing ‘Slow Food’:
      • Choosing ‘slow food’ over fast food is recommended, emphasizing the connection between food choices and environmental, community, and personal health.
      • Mindful eating with appreciation is encouraged.
    • Comprehensive Health Check-ups:
      • A proactive approach to health is advocated, urging individuals to undergo comprehensive health check-ups annually.
      • The shift in attitude from avoiding information to proactively seeking it is emphasized.
    • Normalizing Health Conversations:
      • The resolution proposes making health a regular topic of conversation at dinner tables and water coolers.
      • Normalizing discussions about physical activity, mental well-being, and overall health is seen as crucial for staying ahead of health issues.
    • Collective Commitment:
      • The resolution extends beyond personal improvement, representing a collective dedication to shaping a healthier and more prosperous India.
      • Winning the battle against NCDs is positioned as not only vital for individual well-being but as a decisive factor in safeguarding the nation’s health.
    • Sustainable Habits for a Healthier Future:
      • By embracing sustainable healthy habits, the resolution calls for a commitment to making healthier choices every day and beyond.
      • It envisions a healthier and more prosperous India achieved through collective efforts and individual choices.
    • Building a Healthier Nation through Collective Action
      • By committing to Resolution 2024, the significance of small, consistent actions taken by individuals is acknowledged.
      • It highlights the transformative impact that such actions, when multiplied across millions, can have on the health landscape.
      • Resolution 2024 is portrayed as a call-to-action, resonating with the belief that the strength and prosperity of a nation are inherently linked to the vitality and health of its people.
      • The collective commitment to healthier choices is presented as a catalyst for a seismic shift in the health landscape, suggesting that the cumulative effect of individual actions can bring about significant positive change.

What are Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)?

  • Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are a group of medical conditions or diseases that are not primarily caused by infectious agents and cannot be transmitted directly from person to person.
  • These diseases typically have a chronic and long duration, and they progress slowly. NCDs are also often referred to as chronic diseases.
  • The four main types of non-communicable diseases include:
    • Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs):
      • Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Common examples include coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke.
    • Cancer:
      • A group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. Various types of cancer affect different organs and tissues in the body.
    • Chronic Respiratory Diseases:
      • Conditions that affect the lungs and airways, leading to breathing difficulties. Examples include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
    • Diabetes:
      • A metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels. There are different types of diabetes, including Type 1 and Type 2.
    • Other notable non-communicable diseases include:
      • Neurological Disorders:
        • Conditions affecting the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
      • Musculoskeletal Disorders:
        • Conditions affecting the muscles, bones, and joints, including arthritis.
      • Mental Health Disorders:
        • Conditions that impact mental well-being, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
      • Metabolic Disorders:
        • Conditions related to abnormal chemical processes in the body, including conditions like obesity and metabolic syndrome.
      • Key Characteristics of NCDs:
        • Chronic Nature: NCDs typically develop over an extended period and often persist throughout an individual’s life.
        • Lifestyle-Related Risk Factors: Many NCDs are associated with modifiable risk factors related to lifestyle choices, including unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.
        • Global Health Burden: NCDs are a significant contributor to the global burden of disease, causing a substantial number of deaths and disabilities worldwide.
        • Preventability and Manageability: Many NCDs are preventable through lifestyle modifications and early detection.
          • Moreover, effective management can often control the progression of these diseases and improve quality of life.

Will SLIM revolutionise lunar landings?

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit at 1.21 pm IST on December 25.

  • This achievement comes ahead of SLIM’s planned moon-landing attempt on January 19, making Japan the potential fifth country to soft-land a robotic craft on the moon.
  • The outcome of SLIM’s mission will impact the upcoming Chandrayaan 4 mission.

Key Highlights

  • Chandrayaan 3’s Success:
    • Japan’s SLIM mission follows India’s successful Chandrayaan 3 mission in August, where India became the fourth country to soft-land a robotic craft on the moon.
    • The comparison between SLIM and Chandrayaan 3 highlights the international significance of lunar exploration efforts.
  • SLIM’s Background:
    • SLIM is a spacecraft developed and launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on September 7, 2023.
    • Weighing only 590 kg at launch, SLIM is significantly lighter than Chandrayaan 3, which weighed 3,900 kg.
    • SLIM’s primary goal is a moon landing attempt, marking Japan’s second attempt in the year.
    • SLIM was launched alongside XRISM, a next-generation X-ray space telescope, aboard an H-2A rocket.
    • Delays in XRISM’s readiness led to SLIM’s launch date being postponed from 2021 to 2023.
    • The joint launch underlines the multifaceted nature of space missions.
  • Orbital Parameters:
    • On December 25, SLIM entered an elliptical orbit around the moon, with an apogee (farthest point) at 4,000 km and a perigee (closest point) at 600 km above the lunar surface.
    • These orbital details are critical for mission planning and execution.
    • JAXA launched SLIM just two weeks after India’s Chandrayaan 3 succeeded and Russia’s Luna 25 spacecraft faced a failure.
    • SLIM’s mission follows another Japanese attempt earlier in the year with the HAKUTO-R M1 lander, which unfortunately crashed during its landing attempt.
  • Potential Impact on Chandrayaan 4:
    • The success or failure of SLIM’s moon landing attempt holds significance for the upcoming Chandrayaan 4 mission.
    • The outcome may influence international collaborations and advancements in lunar exploration.
  • SLIM’s Lunar Journey and Fuel-Efficient Trajectory
    • SLIM’s lighter weight, compared to Chandrayaan 3, is attributed to carrying significantly less fuel.
    • This design choice allowed SLIM to follow a longer but more fuel-thrifty route to the moon, demonstrating a different approach to lunar travel.
    • Hohmann Transfer Orbit vs. Weak-Stability Boundary Theory:
      • Chandrayaan 3, with its propulsion module weighing 2.1 tonnes, followed a quicker route to the moon using the Hohmann transfer orbit.
      • In contrast, SLIM opted for a four-month journey by employing the weak-stability boundary theory, demonstrating a more fuel-efficient strategy.
    • After launching into Earth’s orbit, SLIM executed multiple orbits around the planet, gradually building up kinetic energy with each swing.
    • This approach was aimed at optimizing its velocity for the journey to the moon.
    • As SLIM neared the moon, it deviated from the conventional approach.
    • Instead of slowing down and being captured by the moon’s gravity, SLIM allowed itself to be deflected by the combined gravitational forces of the Earth and the moon.
    • This unique deflection strategy was previously employed in the late 1980s for another JAXA mission named ‘Hiten.’
    • Following the deflection, SLIM embarked on a larger, more loopy path that brought it back near the moon in December.
    • This intentional sacrifice of time was a strategic choice to enhance fuel efficiency during the lunar journey.
    • SLIM’s well-planned trajectory resulted in orbital capture around the moon on Christmas Day, marking a crucial milestone in its mission.
  • SLIM’s Lunar Mission Objectives
    • SLIM distinguishes itself as the “moon sniper” due to its remarkable mission objective on the moon, scheduled for January 19.
    • This title is derived from SLIM’s attempt to land within an extremely tight limit of 100 meters from its chosen landing site.
    • SLIM’s landing precision is notably tight compared to historical moon-landing missions.
    • For instance, the Chandrayaan 3’s Vikram lander had a descent area tolerance of 4 km downrange and 2.5 km cross-range, eventually landing 350 meters away.
    • NASA’s Curiosity rover landed 2.4 km away from its target on Mars, and China’s Chang’e 3 spacecraft achieved remarkable precision by landing 89 meters away from its chosen spot on the moon.
    • SLIM aims to set a record by attempting to soft-land with the smallest ever area tolerance on the moon.
    • Chosen Landing Site:
      • The designated landing site for SLIM is near the Shioli Crater, situated at 13.3º S and 25.2º E on the lunar surface.
      • The mission aims to explore this specific area with unprecedented precision.
    • Similar to Chandrayaan 3’s Vikram lander using data from the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter, SLIM will leverage data from JAXA’s SELENE orbiter (ended in 2009) to guide its descent to the lunar surface.
    • Rover Deployment and Lunar Surface Study:
      • Prior to landing, SLIM will deploy two small rovers named Lunar Excursion Vehicle (LEV) 1 and 2.
      • These rovers, along with SLIM, will conduct a comprehensive study of the lunar surface near the landing point.
      • The mission objectives include collecting temperature and radiation readings and attempting to study the moon’s mantle.

In Image: A diagram illustrating SLIM’s path from the earth to the moon, spanning four months.

  • SLIM’s Impact on Chandrayaan 4 and Lunar Exploration
    • The Significance of Moon’s South Pole Region:
      • Scientists are particularly interested in the moon’s south pole region due to permanently shadowed craters that experience extremely low temperatures.
      • These areas contain water-ice, making them valuable sites for exploration and potential resource extraction.
      • The successful soft-landing of a robotic craft during Chandrayaan 3 on August 23 marked the conclusion of the second phase of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) lunar exploration program.
    • Joint Indian-Japanese Venture:
      • The subsequent mission in the third phase is the Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission, also known as Chandrayaan 4.
      • LUPEX is planned as a joint venture between India and Japan, although final approval from India is pending.
      • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has already approved LUPEX.
      • The earliest launch date for LUPEX is set for 2026.
      • LUPEX will explore an area closer to the moon’s South Pole compared to Chandrayaan 3.
      • The South Pole region is rocky, marked by craters, and has steep slopes, presenting challenges for landing.
      • The success of SLIM’s technologies, particularly the feature-matching algorithm and navigation systems, will be crucial for LUPEX’s mission objectives.
    • Technological Integration from SLIM to LUPEX:
      • The technologies tested by JAXA through SLIM, including the feature-matching algorithm and navigation systems, are expected to play a crucial role in LUPEX’s mission.
      • These technologies will be essential for precise landings in challenging terrains near the moon’s poles.
    • Collaborative Efforts:
      • While JAXA is expected to provide the launch vehicle and lunar rover for LUPEX, India will contribute the lander module.
      • The collaborative effort leverages the strengths of both space agencies.
      • The specific landing site for LUPEX is yet to be determined.
      • However, LUPEX is expected to land closer to the moon’s South Pole compared to Chandrayaan 3.
      • The Vikram lander of Chandrayaan 3 landed 600 km away from the South Pole, highlighting the need for more precise landings in future missions.

Centre hikes copra MSP

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has decided to raise the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for copra.

  • The new MSP for milling copra will be ₹11,160 per quintal, reflecting an increase of ₹300 per quintal from the previous season.
  • The MSP for ball copra will be ₹12,000 per quintal, marking a ₹250 per quintal increase.
  • The revised rates will be effective from the next year.

Key Highlights

  • Government’s Decision Amid Global Price Fall:
    • Despite a global decline in copra prices, the government has opted to provide an MSP at least 50% higher than the production cost.
    • The MSP increase of ₹250-300 per quintal for the 2024 season aims to support coconut growers.
    • The new rates ensure a margin of 51.84% for milling copra and 63.26% for ball copra.
    • Milling copra is primarily used for oil extraction, while ball copra serves as a dry fruit and is used for religious purposes.
    • Kerala and Tamil Nadu are major milling copra producers, while Karnataka predominantly produces ball copra.
  • MSP Growth Over a Decade:
    • Over the past 10 years, the government has raised the MSP for milling copra and ball copra from ₹5,250 per quintal and ₹5,500 per quintal in 2014-15 to ₹11,160 per quintal and ₹12,000 per quintal in 2024-25, registering growth rates of 113% and 118%, respectively.
  • The increased MSP aims to incentivize farmers to expand copra production, meeting growing domestic and international demand for coconut products.
  • In 2023, the government has procured over 1.33 lakh metric tonnes of copra at a cost of ₹1,493 crore, benefiting approximately 90,000 farmers.
  • The procurement for the current season indicates a significant rise of 227% over the previous season (2022).
  • Central Nodal Agencies for Procurement:
    • The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation (NCCF) will continue to act as Central Nodal Agencies (CNAs) for the procurement of copra and de-husked coconut under the Price Support Scheme (PSS).

Note: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is a high-level committee in the Government of India that makes decisions on economic policy matters. The CCEA is chaired by the Prime Minister of India.


  • NAFED, established on October 2, 1958, is a prominent apex organization in India dedicated to the coordination of marketing cooperatives for agricultural produce.
  • Registered under the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002, NAFED has evolved into one of the country’s largest procurement and marketing agencies for agricultural products.
  • The key objectives of NAFED encompass the organization, promotion, and development of marketing, processing, and storage of agricultural, horticultural, and forest produce.
  • Additionally, NAFED engages in the distribution of agricultural machinery and implements, along with participating in inter-state, import, and export trade, whether wholesale or retail.
  • The organization also provides technical assistance for agricultural production, supporting the activities of its members, partners, associates, and cooperative marketing, processing, and supply societies across India.

About MSP

  • The Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a price at which the government commits to purchasing agricultural commodities from farmers, ensuring a minimum guaranteed price for their produce.
  • MSP acts as a safety net for farmers by providing them with a price floor and protecting them from market fluctuations.
  • The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) assesses the cost of production and recommends MSP for various crops.
    • It considers factors like input costs, labor costs, and the overall economic conditions affecting farmers.
  • The CACP’s recommendations are submitted to the government for approval.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) or the Cabinet may make the final decision on MSP after considering various factors.
  • Government agencies like the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state procurement agencies implement the MSP by procuring crops directly from farmers at the announced prices.

Indian banks’ asset quality improved to decadal high: RBI

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) report titled ‘Trend and Progress of Banking in India’ reveals a notable improvement in the Gross Non-Performing Assets (GNPA) ratio of Indian Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) in the second quarter of the current financial year.

  • The GNPA ratio dropped to a fresh decadal low, reaching 3.2% at the end of September 2023.

Key highlights

  • The report highlights the positive trend in asset quality, noting that the GNPA ratio of SCBs decreased to 3.9% at the end of March 2023 and further reduced to 3.2% by the end of September 2023, marking a decadal low.
  • This improvement has been consistent since the financial year 2018-19.
  • Factors Contributing to Improvement:
    • During the financial year 2022-23, the report indicates that approximately 45% of the reduction in GNPAs of SCBs can be attributed to recoveries and upgradations, underscoring the positive impact of proactive measures.
    • The consolidated balance sheet of SCBs, excluding Regional Rural Banks, exhibited robust growth, recording a 12.2% increase in the financial year 2022-23.
    • This growth rate is reported to be the highest in nine years.
    • The acceleration in the asset side of the balance sheet was primarily driven by rapid expansion in bank credit, marking its fastest pace of growth in over a decade.
    • Higher lending rates and lower provisioning requirements played a role in enhancing the profitability of banks.
    • The Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of SCBs stood at 16.8% at the end of September 2023, with all bank groups meeting the regulatory minimum requirement, including the Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio requirement.
  • Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) and NBFCs’ Performance:
    • In the financial year 2022-23, the combined balance sheet of UCBs expanded by 2.3%, primarily driven by loans and advances.
    • The capital buffers and profitability of UCBs also witnessed improvement during this period and in Q1:2023-24.
    • For NBFCs, the consolidated balance sheet expanded significantly by 14.8% in 2022-23, propelled by double-digit credit growth.
    • The sector exhibited improved profitability and asset quality during 2022-23 and H1:2023-24.
    • The report emphasizes that the NBFC sector remained well-capitalized, with the Capital to Risk (Weighted) Asset Ratio (CRAR) exceeding regulatory requirements.
  • Outlook and Caution for Banks in 2024:
    • Looking ahead to 2024, the RBI cautions banks to be vigilant against potential credit losses, despite the presence of higher capital buffers and a robust provision coverage ratio (PCR) providing cushions.
    • In addition to regulatory capital and liquidity requirements, the report underscores the importance of qualitative metrics such as enhanced disclosures, a strong code of conduct, and clear governance structures for ensuring financial stability.
    • Unsecured Retail Segment:
      • The report notes a notable trend in the recent period where the rate of growth in the unsecured retail segment has outpaced total bank credit growth.
      • However, it emphasizes that the asset quality of unsecured retail loans has not shown any deterioration so far.
    • Acknowledging the highly uncertain global environment, the RBI expresses confidence in the resilience of the Indian banking system.
    • The system is well-positioned for further improvement, characterized by better asset quality, high capital adequacy, and robust profitability.

What is Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR)?

  • CRAR, also known as Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR), is a measure of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk-weighted assets.
  • It represents the proportion of a bank’s capital to its risk-weighted assets and serves as a regulatory requirement to ensure financial stability.
  • CRAR is calculated to ensure that banks maintain an adequate level of capital to cover the potential losses arising from their risk-weighted assets.
  • Basel III, a global regulatory framework, provides guidelines for calculating CRAR.
  • Components of CRAR:
    • CRAR is typically expressed as a percentage and is the ratio of a bank’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital to its risk-weighted assets.
    • Tier 1 capital includes common equity, while Tier 2 capital includes subordinated debt and other instruments.