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16th January 2023

The Pashu sakhi Model for generating social village capital

The Pashu sakhi initiative of the Jharkhand government which was started in 2013, for last mile coverage of livestock management has shown successful ground results and is seen to be implemented in other rural areas.

About the initiative:
  • Aim: To advise farmers about health check-ups for their livestock, vaccinations, de-worming, hygiene, breeding, feeding, and the management of animal waste.
  • The project was conceived under the National Rural Livelihood Mission, with the objective of building a line of community resource persons.
  • Pashu Sakhi, which means ‘friends of animals, is a woman from the village trained to handle routine medical requirements for animals, including cows, buffaloes, bulls, poultry and goats.
  • While they are not trained to handle surgical interventions, they can identify diseases, provide medication, and vaccinations, and suggest remedial or preventive actions.
  • Pashu Sakhi is a Community Animal care Service Provider (CASP) this will enable the last mile coverage in rural areas where clinical services for livestock are not available on time or expensive to afford for the rural poor.

Fund allocation: In 2017-18, the Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth (JOHAR) took the project under its wing and the World Bank began funding it.

A World Bank newsletter said that the pashu sakhi model under JOHAR had been selected by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Food Policy Research Institute as one of the top eight global best practice models for farmer service delivery.


  • The objective of this model is to make livestock-based livelihoods sustainable and viable enterprises for the rural poor.
  • There will be a specific focus on the ultra-poor households who have limited or no access to land or other factors of production.
  • It would build a strong extension network of livestock workers who are community-based practitioners and are accountable to community institutions.
  • The model would aim at strengthening the existing livelihoods of the rural poor by bringing a clear impetus to livestock-related activities.

Need of the initiative:

  • Jharkhand’s livestock production is in the hands of marginal and landless farmers, with women accounting for over 70% of the production. In fact, many of the pashu sakhisown livestock themselves.

Key features:

  • The pashu sakhisare put through a three-level (introductory, practical, and upper) 30-day training programme over seven-day tranches on how to take care of poultry, goats, and pigs.
  • After the training, they provide technical expertise on taking care of livestock, advise fellow villagers on the economic benefits of rearing livestock for sale, and connect farmers to producer groups and traders, helping them get better access to markets to sell their produce.
  • About 30 pashu sakhi have also been trained with 45 days of additional training in livestock management.
  • They will act as a medium of the interface between the Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Department and the rural poor by linking the HHS to the nearest Veterinary aid centre at the time of need.


  • The pashu sakhisor doctor didis of Jharkhand have contributed to achieving the mortality rate of goats which has come down by about 30% and of poultry by 40%.
  • It tends to develop livelihood options among the village women and respect among the villagers.
  • The initiative has included livestock rearing awareness across the tribal communities and makes them independent.

Ageing world: Elderly population expected to double over the next 3 decades


According to a new report by the United Nations (UN), the number of persons aged 65 years or older worldwide is expected to double over the next three decades.

About the report:
  • Report named: “World Social Report 2023: Leaving no one behind in an ageing world.”
  • Released by: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
  • Key findings:
  • The elderly population will reach 1.6 billion in 2050, accounting for more than 16 per cent of the global population.
  • North Africa, West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are expected to experience the fastest growth in the number of older people over the next three decades, while Europe and North America combined now have the highest share of older persons.
  • Inequality in ageing: Women live longer than men on average and the rich longer than the poor.
  • Economically, women’s lower levels of formal labour market participation, shorter working lives and lower wages during working years lead to more economic insecurity in later life.
  • Developed vs. developing countries: In more developed regions, public transfer systems, including pensions and health care, provide over two-thirds of the consumption by older persons.
  • In less developed regions, older persons tend to work longer and rely more on accumulated assets or family assistance.
  • Recommendations:
  • The report recommended that countries rethink long-held policies and practices associated with livelihoods and work. 
  • To employ old age people throughout people’s lifetimes to promote labour market participation, increase productivity, uphold good health and prevent poverty.
  • To set policies to reduce inequality and promote economic security at older ages in a fiscally sustainable manner, considering pensions and health care.

Concerns highlighted:

  • The inequality in gender differences stems partly from poor nutrition and exposure to environmental and occupational hazards that are more common among men and people with limited income and education.
  • Public spending in most countries has not been sufficient to cover the growing demand for long-term care.

India’s ageing population profile:

  • There are nearly 138 million elderly persons in India in 2021, including 67 million men and 71 million women, according to the report.
  • An increase of nearly 34 million elderly persons was seen in 2021 over the population census of 2011. This number is expected to increase by 56 million by 2031.
State-wise statistics:
  • Kerala currently has the highest elderly population (16.5 per cent), followed by Tamil Nadu (13.6 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (13.1 per cent), Punjab (12.6 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (12.4 per cent) in 2021. 
  • Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam have the least proportion with 7.7 per cent, 8.1 per cent and 8.2 per cent, respectively.

Policy challenges posed by increased population:

  • Ensuring income security for the elderly
  • Mitigating the fiscal costs that arise from a high old-age dependency ratio
  • Lack of dedicated service and product outlets
  • Isolation of seniors in a changing society
  • Increasing healthcare costs
  • Mental health issues
  • Lack of financial support
  • In addition, most of the aged are not accorded the dignity of care they deserve in later life.

Why Elderly should be considered assets?

The elderly are assets not only for the family but also for the society and nation. It can be seen from their knowledge and experience in various domains below-

  • Economic aspects-
    • Many private and government companies retain the retired person to harness their knowledge and experience. Similarly, the government retains civil servants and many politicians continue to serve and get re-elected for a long time beyond retirement age. Thus, there is a need to recognise and replicate this model in other areas of economic relevance.
  • Personal life experience-
    • Elder people have faced many aspects of life in comparison to children and adults. The joint family system for generations has seen the passage of knowledge from generation to generation. It has benefitted adults to understand social change, become more Emotionally Intelligent to tackle problems of life, and understand the significance of many aspects like health and fitness.
  • Traditional knowledge-
    • Technology has given new aspects to life and brought many socio-economic benefits. But it is also important to realise the importance of the traditional and cultural values that the elderly possess. For instance, the COVID pandemic has made people realise the benefits of boosting immunity with traditional foods like ‘Golden milk’ and ‘Giloy’ which has gained mass acceptance.
  • Focus on balanced and sustainable life-
    • The greater focus on industrialisation has neglected the environmental aspects and thus leads to a loss of biodiversity. But the negative consequences of reckless industrialisation have made us realise old saying, which focussed less on monetary aspects and more on social and environmental aspects to maintain intergenerational parity.

Measures for the elderly-

Considering the potential of the elderly as assets, various constitutional, legislative and social steps are taken in India for the benefit of the elderly and to prevent discrimination against them.

Constitutional Protection:

Article- 41: Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases: The State shall, within the limits of economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.

Article- 46: The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

  • National Policy for Older Persons 1999- This policy included the following steps-
    • Setting up a pension fund for ensuring security for those persons who have been serving in the unorganized sector
    • Construction of old age homes and daycare centres for every 34 districts
    • Establishment of resource centres and reemployment bureaus for people above 60 years
    • Concessional rail/airfares for travel within and between cities, i.e., 30% discount on trains and 50% on Indian Airlines.
    • Enacting legislation for ensuring compulsory geriatric care in all public hospitals.
  • Insurance for the elderly-
    • Ayushmaan Bharat Scheme- It is the government’s health insurance scheme which includes various former schemes for the elderly such as Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY).
    • Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN)- The scheme provides financial assistance to patients, living below the poverty line and who are suffering from major life-threatening diseases, to receive medical treatment at any of the super speciality Hospitals/Institutes or other Government hospitals.
  • LIC Insurances schemes- It has been providing several schemes for aged persons like Jeevan Dhara Yojana, Jeevan Akshay Yojana and Medical Insurance Yojana.
    • Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act, 2007-
    • It was enacted to provide financial security, welfare and protection for senior citizens. It requires children to provide maintenance for their parents, and the government to provide old age homes and ensure medical care for senior citizens.
  • Other steps-
    • Tax benefits to elderly persons under Section- 88B, 88D and 88DDB of the Income Tax Act.
    • The government also proposed to allot 10% of the houses constructed under government schemes for the urban and rural lower-income segments to older persons on easy loans.

‘Basmati’ as a paddy replacement in Punjab


The Basmati rice, which has fluctuating prices and no MSP, offers hope as the best alternative to paddy and is seen as a commercial crop by the farmers in Punjab.

  • Let us see the economics associated with Basmati in the region.

About the Basmati rice variety in India:
  • Basmati, meaning ‘Queen of Fragrance’ is a variety of long-grain rice, famous for its fragrance and delicate flavour.
  • Basmati rice has been reported in India since the early days of the 19th Century though it may have been named differently. Basmati is a variety of long-grain rice which is traditionally from India. It was also called Oryza Sativa.
  • Indian Basmati Rice is famous worldwide for its quality and aroma.
  • Varieties found: There are several varieties of basmati rice namely;
  • 1121 Sella/Steam/Raw, Pusa Sella/Steam/Raw, Sugantha Sella/Steam/Raw, Sharbati Sella/Steam/Raw.
  • Pusa & Sugantha is also called the name of super Kernel Basmati Rice.
  • This rice is different from other rice mainly due to the aroma and elongation post-cooking. No other rice has this combined characteristic.
  • The post-cooking elongation of more than twice its original length, the aroma and its sweet taste has made basmati rice a delicacy.

How much area could be increased under Basmati in Punjab?

  • In Punjab, nearly 30-31 lakh hectares (74 to 76 lakh acres) are dedicated to the rice crop (in the Kharif season), out of which 25-26 lakh hectares come under paddy.
  • The area under the Basmati crop has remained between 4-5 lakh hectares over the last several years.
  • Basmati’s early and late varieties are sown between June and July and harvested in September and October.
  • Rice exporters say there is a huge demand for Basmati, and the state has the potential to grow it in vast areas.
  • It is estimated by experts that at least 10 lakh hectares could easily be brought under the Basmati crop in the state, which will help reduce the area under paddy.

Why do farmers prefer Basmati over paddy cultivation?

  • Duration of crops: Punjab grows both short-duration and long-duration paddy varieties.
  • The average yield of short and long-duration paddy varieties is around 28 and 36 quintals per acre, respectively.
  • The average yield of these varieties is between 20 and 25 quintals per acre — which is 8-10 quintals less per acre as compared to paddy.
  • Less water intensive:
  • Experts say that 4,000 litres of water are required to grow a kilo of paddy.
  • Basmati cultivation, on the other hand, is largely dependent on rainwater as it takes place during the main monsoon season.
  • Basmati cultivation can also reduce stubble burning— farmers use its stubble for fodder.
  • Less use of fertilisers: It hardly needs any pesticides.
  • The state government bans the sale of around 10 pesticides during the Basmati-growing season for the past five years, which indicates that it does not need those chemicals.

How Basmati is procured?

  • Paddy is procured by the Union government on MSP for distribution under the Public Distribution System.
  • Basmati is neither procured by the government nor has any fixed price.
  • It is procured by traders and exporters as Indian Basmati has large demand abroad.

Benefits of basmati cultivation for Punjab farmers:

  • Basmati as a premier and heritage product of Punjab:
  • It is known for its flavour, length and taste due to Punjab’s excellent weather, soil and irrigation (through the river and canal water).
  • Also, Punjab is among the states and Union Territories (Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are the others) that have a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Basmati.
  • The annual Basmati rice export from India is around 4 million tons (worth Rs. 36,000 crores), out of which Punjab contributes between 35 to 40 per cent.

Suggestive measures for Government interventions:

  • A testing lab has already been set up in Amritsar to help farmers.
  • The government is educating farmers about the judicious use of only authorised pesticides.
  • Exporters also said that pesticides unregistered in the EU and the USA are freely available for sale in India, which needs to tighten regulatory control over the sale and distribution of such products.


  • Overdependence on commercial crops
  • less production of paddy and local rice varieties
  • Maximum use of soil is an exploitative regime
  • More exports can make a shortage of rice distribution for the poor.
  • The advantage to exporters and middlemen as no MSP has been set up by the government

James Webb telescope discovers its first Earth-sized exoplanet


Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered its first new exoplanet named LHS 475 b, of the same size as Earth.

The James Webb Telescope:

  • NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the agency's successor to the famous Hubble telescope, launched on Dec. 25, 2021, on a mission to study the earliest stars and peer back farther into the universe's past than ever before.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built.
  • It is able to observe objects in our solar system from Mars outward, look inside dust clouds to see where new stars and planets are forming and examine the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope will use its infrared cameras to see through dust in our universe.
  • Stars and planets form inside those dust clouds, so peeking inside could lead to exciting new discoveries.
  • It will also be able to see objects (like the first galaxies) that are so far away that the expansion of the universe has made their light shift from visible to infrared Webb has a sun shield to protect its instruments and mirrors as the Webb telescope’s cameras are sensitive to heat from the Sun.

What are exoplanets?

  • Exoplanets are planets that orbit other stars and are beyond our solar system.
  • According to NASA, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered.
  • Scientists believe that there are more planets than stars as each star has at least one planet orbiting it.
  • Characteristics:

  • They can be gas giants bigger than Jupiter or as small and rocky as Earth.
  • They are also known to have different kinds of temperatures, from boiling hot to freezing cold.

The LHS 475 b exoplanet:

  • It is located just 41 light-years away and the planet orbits very close to a red dwarf star and completes a full orbit in just two days.
  • LHS 475 b is relatively close, 41 light-years away, and belongs to the constellation Octans.

Why they are studied?

  • Studying exoplanets broadens our understanding of other solar systems and also helps us piece together information about our own planetary system and origin.
  • However, the most compelling reason to learn about them is to find the answer to one of the most profound and thought-provoking questions of humankind.
  • Finding out the distance between an exoplanet and its host star helps scientists determine if a discovered world is habitable or not.
  • If an exoplanet is too close to the star, it might be too hot to sustain liquid water. If it’s too far, it might only have frozen water.
  • When a planet is at a distance that enables it to have liquid water, it is said to be in the “Goldilocks zone”.

How they are discovered?

  • Discovering exoplanets is quite tough as they are small and hard to spot around their bright host stars.
  • Scientists rely on indirect methods, such as the transit method, which is measuring the dimming of a star that happens to have a planet pass in front of it.


Short News Article

Environment (GS-III)

Saltie census 2023

According to the annual reptile census, the population of saltwater crocodiles in the water bodies of Bhitarkanika National Park and its nearby areas in Odisha’s Kendrapara district has marginally increased in 2023.

About the Census:

  • The total count of crocodiles remained at 1,793.
  • These included 20 whitish individuals. Last year, officials had sighted 1,784 reptiles.
  • The peak winter, exposure of more than 50 per cent of mud banks and the lunar cycle are suitable periods for counting the reptiles.
  • The crocodile species found in India:
  • India is home to three crocodile species – Gharial, Mugger, and Saltwater Crocodile.
  • Usually spotted on banks of the aquatic systems, crocodiles are cold-blooded animals that spend a large part of their day basking under the sun.
  • Threats:
    • o    Crocodiles too are facing threats due to climate change, habitat degradation, irreversible development activities, and illegal poaching. 
  • In order to conserve crocodiles in the wild, the Government of India initiated the Crocodile Conservation Project in 1975 to rebuild the crocodilian population.
  • Numerous breeding centres have been established along their native habitat that rear hatchlings and reintroduce them upon maturity.
  • Other action interventions, including building of artificial nesting and basking sites, are also being carried out.

The saltwater crocodile:

  • It is also the largest reptile in the world. The species inhabits a few coastal regions in India including Odisha, West Bengal, and the Indian Islands.
  • A long and powerful tail, webbed digits, and powerful jaws make the animal an excellent predator in aquatic habitats.
  • Protection status:
  • o    It has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 1996.

History (GS-I)

Gandhi Smarak Bhawan














A day after lodging an FIR against Dev Raj Tyagi, the former in-charge of the Gandhi Smarak Bhawan in Punjab, and 12 others facing charges of registering a trust in the name of Gandhi Smarak Bhawan, and allegedly diverting the funds received in the name of the original trust to his individual trust.


  • It was inaugrated by Dr. Zakir Hussain then Vice-President of India.
  • Dr Rajendra Prasad, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Shri Jagjivan Ram, among others, were the founder trustees.
  • It is being run by GANDHI SMARAK NIDHI PUNJAB, HARYANA & HIMACHAL PRADESH & since its inception.
  • It aims in contributing its share spreading Gandhian thought and Idealogy through Seminar, Meetings, Discussions and personal contacts.
  • In 1963, the Punjab State Gandhi Smarak Nidhi was registered as an independent trust named Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Punjab.
  • From 1952 to 1959 the work of the GSN was conducted from Delhi.
  • Later in 1962-63 separate state bodies were established and registered as a State Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.


  • The Bhawan has a public library which has about 5,000 books on Gnadhi Ji and by Gandhi Ji and other allied subjects and national topics.
  • Besides, there are about 18,000 selected books on such diverse subjects such as literature, History, Geography, Religion, Science and Sociology.

Environment (GS-III)

Neelakurinji sanctuary stays on paper













Polity and Governance (GS-II)

India’s First Centre Of Excellence to be set up in Shillong



The sanctuary was announced in Idukki in 2006, but its demarcation is yet pending. After 16 years, the proposed sanctuary is still on paper.


  • On October 6, 2006, former forest minister Benoy Viswom had announced a 32-sq km Neelakurinji sanctuary at the Kottakamboor-Vattavada area in Devikulam taluk, Munnar.
  • The park aimed at protecting Neelakurinji plants.

Significance of the region:

  • Neelakurinji are flowers that are believed to bloom every 12 years.
  • They grow at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 metres.
  • Neelakurinji or 'Strobilantheskunthiana' blooms in 40 or so varieties, a majority of them being blue in colour.
  • 'Neela' literally translates to 'blue' and kurinji is the name given to it by the tribals of the area.
  • Last seen in 2018, the time for viewing them begins in August and lasts up to October.
  • In Munnar District, these flowers bloom across the region of Kovilur, Kadavari, Rajamala and Eravikulam National Park.
  • All these neelakurinji species are endemic to the Western Ghats and spread over nearly 200 acres of the Kallippara hills.
  • In fact, the neelakurinji population here can be considered one of the biggest of the species after the protected areas of Munnar.

The Centre has released country’s first Centre of Excellence (CoE) for online gaming would be set up in Meghalaya’s Shillong by March this year. 

About the initiative:

  • The CoE will be set up under Digital India Startup Hub through the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).
  • The STPI was set up in 1991 as an autonomous society in the field of Science and Technology under the MeitY.
  • The MeitY has set a target to skill around 60,000 youth in Tripura and 35,000 in Nagaland under PMKVY 4.0.
  • Recent developments:
  • The government has implemented various projects for the development of the North-East region.
  • In a move to accelerate connectivity with the region, the government has set a target of 500 days to provide complete telecom connectivity in the region by end of 2023.


In Defence of Basic Structure


  • The chances made by the governments to dismantle the basic structure has seen several times and also tried to restrict the supremacy and autonomy of the Supreme Court regarding the judgements for the same.

The continuous attempts to break the democratic structure:

  • The 39th Constitution Amendment Bill passed: In 1975, the government made the proclamation of the Emergency non-justiciable and protected the provision of the President’s “satisfaction” from judicial scrutiny not only in the matter of Article 352 (Proclamation of Emergency) but also with regard to Article 123 (Proclamation of Ordinances) and Articles 356 (Imposition of President’s Rule in States).
  • The 40th Constitution Amendment Bill: It aimed at preventing the courts from hearing petitions challenging the election of the President, Vice President and MPs holding the office of Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  • The 41st Amendment Bill: By amending Article 361, it sought, in the main, to confer upon the Prime Minister immunity against criminal proceedings in just about every conceivable case.
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