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18th September 2023

Santiniketan inscribed on Unesco World Heritage List


Santiniketan, founded in 1901 by the iconic poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, has earned a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

  • Santiniketan Ashram was originally founded by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore (Rabindranath’s father) in 1863.

This is India’s 41st World Heritage site and India stands 6th on the World Heritage List. 

  • Later on Rabindranath himself founded the Brahmo Vidyalaya school and later on in the year 1901 he established Santiniketan.
  • Shantiniketan was founded on the principles of the ancient Indian Gurukul system, where education was provided in a natural setting, fostering a strong connection between students and their environment.
  • In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • In 1921, Rabindranath Tagore founded Visva Bharati.
    • Visva-Bharati Universitywas later expanded to include a wide range of disciplines, including arts, sciences, and humanities.
    • It became a Central University and an Institution of National Importance in 1951, and is now one of the most prestigious universities in India.

About Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

  • Rabindranath Tagore was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore.

  • He was a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal and which attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads.

  • From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own non-sentimental and visionary way; and Gandhi, the political father of modern India, was his devoted friend.

  • He was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

  •  Rabindranath Tagore was Knighted by King George V in 1915. However, Tagore gave it up after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919.

  • Highly prolific, Tagore was also a composer – he wrote the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh – as well as an educator, social reformer, philosopher and painter.

  • Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was first of all a poet.

    • Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry are Manasi (1890), Sonar Tari (1894), Gitanjali (1910), Gitimalya (1914) and Balaka (1916).

    • English Poetry: The English renderings of his poetry, which include The Gardener (1913), Fruit-Gathering (1916), and The Fugitive (1921), do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali; and in spite of its title, Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912), the most acclaimed of them, contains poems from other works besides its namesake.

    • Major Plays: Raja (1910), Dakghar (1912), Achalayatan (1912), Muktadhara (1922) and Raktakaravi (1926).

    • Novels and Stories: He is the author of several volumes of short stories and a number of novels, among them Gora (1910), Ghare-Baire (1916), and Yogayog (1929)

PM Vishwakarma Scheme


In commemoration of 'Vishwakarma Jayanti', Prime Minister Narendra Modi  launched the 'PM Vishwakarma' scheme for the benefit of traditional artisans. 

What is PM Vishwakarma's scheme?

  • PM Vishwakarma's scheme has been launched to support the people engaged in traditional crafts. 
  • Objective: The prime focus of the scheme is improving the quality as well as the reach of products and services of artisans and craftspeople and ensuring that they are integrated with the domestic and global value chains.
  • Funding: PM Vishwakarma's scheme has been fully funded by the Union government with an outlay of ?13,000 crore.
  • Nodal ministry: Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprise is the nodal ministry of the PM Vishwakarma Yojana. 
    • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, would provide active support for implementation of the scheme for the wellbeing of the Vishwakarmas.
  • Under the scheme, the prospective beneficiaries will be registered free of charge through common services centres using the biometric-based PM Vishwakarma portal.
  • Coverage: The scheme will provide support to artisans and craftspeople in rural and urban areas across India. Initially, 18 traditional trades will be covered.
    • These include carpenter (Suthar); boat maker; armourer; blacksmith; hammer and tool kit maker; locksmith; goldsmith; potter (Kumhaar); sculptor, stone breaker; cobbler; mason; basket/mat/broom maker/coir weaver; doll and toy maker (traditional); barber; garland maker; washerman; tailor ; and fishing net maker.
  • In the first year, five lakh families will be covered and a total of 30 lakh families will be covered over five years from FY24 to FY28.
  • Certification: The beneficiaries of the scheme will be provided recognition through a PM Vishwakarma certificate and ID card, and skill upgradation involving basic and advanced training.

Parliament’s new home


The Parliament proceedings has now been shifted to the new Parliament building.

  • The new Parliament building as a reflection of the aspirations of India’s vast population of 135 crores. 
  • Constructed with an estimated expenditure of Rs 970 crore, the newly built four-story structure spans approximately 65,000 square meters and will exhibit an impressive assortment of nearly 5,000 art pieces.

Notable features of the new Parliament building:

  • Optimized Space Utilisation:With a built-up area of approximately 65,000 square meters and a unique triangular design, the building ensures efficient space utilization.
  • Enhanced Capacity:
    • a larger Lok Sabha hall with a capacity of up to 888 seats
    • a Rajya Sabha hall capable of seating up to 384 members
    • For joint sessions of Parliament, the Lok Sabha may accommodate up to 1,272 seats
  • Symbolic Themes:The Lok Sabha hall is designed around the peacock theme, representing India’s national bird, while the Rajya Sabha hall features the lotus theme, symbolizing India’s national flower.
  • Constitutional Hall:A state-of-the-art Constitutional Hall will position Indian citizens at the core of the democratic process, both symbolically and physically.
  • Modern Office Spaces:The building features ultra-modern office spaces equipped with the latest communication technology, ensuring security and efficiency.
  • Advanced Committee Rooms:Large committee rooms are equipped with cutting-edge audio-visual equipment, offering an improved library experience.
  • Environmental Sustainability:Designed as a “Platinum-rated Green Building,” the new Sansad Bhavan demonstrates India’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
  • Cultural Integration:The new Parliament building will serve as a representation of Indian heritage, incorporating the vibrance and diversity of modern India, including cultural and regional arts and crafts.
  • Accessibility:It is divyang (specially-abled) friendly, allowing people with disabilities to move around freely within the premises.
  • Central Lounge and Courtyard:A Central Lounge will provide members with a space for interaction, complementing the open courtyard which will feature a banyan tree, India’s national tree.

Lok Sabha is ageing


The Lok Sabha, India's Lower House of Parliament, is experiencing an ageing trend despite the rising youth population, leading to implications for governance and representation in the world's largest democracy.

About Lok Sabha
  • The Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of people chosen by direct election on the basis of Universal Adult Suffrage.
  • The Constitution of India allows for a maximum of 550 members in the House, with 530 members representing the States and 20 representing the Union Territories.
  • At present, the Lok Sabha has 543 seats filled by elected representatives.
  • The term of the Lok Sabha, unless dissolved, is five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.
  • However, while a proclamation of emergency is in operation, this period may be extended by Parliament by law for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not extending in any case, beyond a period of six months after the proclamation has ceased to operate

What’s ‘trending’ in Lok Sabha?

  • Dwindling Youth Representation
    • In a country where around 66% of the population is below 35 years of age, the declining number of young parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha is a matter of concern.
    • The trend is starkly evident when comparing the First Lok Sabha's 82 young MPs to the current 17th Lok Sabha's mere 21.
    • This decline comes despite an increase in the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha from 499 to 545 over the years.
  • Impact on Average Age and Representation
    • As young MPs dwindle, the average age of Lok Sabha members has steadily risen from 46.5 years in the First Lok Sabha (1952-57) to 55 years in the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2023).
    • While experience and wisdom are invaluable, an ageing Parliament might find it challenging to resonate with the aspirations and concerns of India's youthful population.
    • It raises questions about whether the institution remains in touch with the evolving needs and aspirations of the nation's youth.
  • Gender Disparity Persists
    • The demographic transition is not the only challenge. Gender disparity in the Lok Sabha remains a persistent issue.
    • Despite a rising number of women candidates and voters, the representation of women in the Lok Sabha remains low.
    • The highest-ever count of 78 women MPs in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections still accounts for only 14.36% of the total members, far from the envisioned 33% representation as proposed in the women's reservation Bill.
    • The lack of gender diversity affects the quality of debate and decision-making, impacting the inclusive character of India's democracy.
  • No Deputy Speaker in the 17th Lok Sabha
    • Another unique aspect of the 17th Lok Sabha is the absence of a Deputy Speaker.
    • This is the first time in Independent India's history that the Lok Sabha has not had a Deputy Speaker.
    • The role of the Deputy Speaker is crucial for the smooth functioning of Parliament, and its absence raises questions about the efficacy of parliamentary proceedings.
  • Changing Dynamics of Parliamentary Sittings
    • The number of Lok Sabha sittings has also witnessed fluctuations over the years.
    • In 1956, the Lok Sabha held a record 151 sittings, but since 1974, it has not surpassed the 100-day threshold in a year.
    • The Covid-19 pandemic further reduced the sittings to a mere 33 days in 2020. This change in dynamics might have implications for the legislative output and effectiveness of Parliament.

In conclusion, India's Lok Sabha is undergoing significant demographic and structural changes. While experience and wisdom are valuable, the need for youth and gender diversity in Parliament is essential for fostering a dynamic and inclusive democracy. Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure that India's Parliament remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of its diverse population.

India’s Basmati is reaping the rewards of research


While many scientific research projects may not have immediate tangible results, there are notable success stories like the significant increase in basmati rice exports from India, largely attributed to the work of scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi.

The Basmati Revolution (the First Revolution)

  • Traditional Basmati: Until the late 1980s, Indian basmati rice varieties were tall, prone to lodging, and had low yields (e.g., Taraori and Dehraduni).
  • PB-1 Breakthrough (1989): Pusa Basmati-1 (PB-1), developed by IARI scientists, revolutionized basmati with shorter plants, resistance to lodging, and higher yields.
  • Yield Revolution: PB-1 doubled India's basmati exports, contributing significantly to the industry.

Important Facts

  • India is the largest exporter of rice globally.  India ranked second for the consumption of rice globally.
  • In 2022, the export volume of basmati rice from India amounted to over three billion metric tons globally.
  • Basmati is a distinctive type of aromatic long-grain rice. There are about 34 varieties of basmati rice grown in India.
    • Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh make up the main states where this variety of rice is grown.

The PB-1121 Phenomenon (the Second Revolution)

  • PB-1121 Introduction (2003): Pusa Basmati-1121 (PB-1121), although with slightly lower yields, featured extraordinarily long grain length upon cooking.
  • KRBL's Innovation: Companies like KRBL Ltd. capitalized on PB-1121's unique grain, creating the 'India Gate Classic' brand and boosting exports.
  • Export Surge: PB-1121 propelled basmati rice exports, with over 70% of the share attributed to this variety.

The Arrival of PB-1509 and Disease Resistance (the Third Revolution)

  • PB-1509 Introduction (2013): Pusa Basmati-1509 (PB-1509) offered comparable yields to PB-1 but matured faster, allowing multiple cropping.
  • Disease Resistance: IARI scientists focused on preserving yield gains by incorporating disease-resistant genes in basmati varieties.
  • New Resistant Varieties: In 2021, IARI released Pusa Basmati-1885 and Pusa Basmati-1847, equipped with in-built resistance against diseases, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Challenges and Uncertainties

  • No MSP: Basmati paddy lacks a minimum support price, exposing farmers to market fluctuations.
  • Export Dependency: The industry heavily relies on exports, making it susceptible to shifts in government policies.
  • Recent Restrictions: The government's restrictions on basmati shipments underscore the industry's vulnerability to policy changes.

The transformation of basmati rice from traditional strains to internationally acclaimed varieties reflects the power of scientific research and agricultural innovation in India.

Short News Article

Polity & Governance (GS-II)

Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai Thittam

Tamil Nadu Government recently launched the social welfare initiative — Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai Thittam (Kalaignar Women's Rights Grant Scheme).


  • Under this scheme, Rs 1,000 per month is being deposited to the accounts of all eligible women beneficiaries. 
  • A sum of Rs 7,000 crore was set aside for the scheme in the state budget that was presented this year, making it the highest-spending social welfare scheme for the Tamil Nadu government.
  • Aim: To promote women's entrepreneurship and business development in the state.
  • Eligibility:
    • women and transgender individuals above 21 years of age
    • Applicants need to have an annual income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh
    • Applicants who own less than 10 acres of dry land or five acres of wetland.
    • Annual domestic power consumption of the family should be less than 3,600 units.

Science & Technology (GS-III)

Army to induct Dhanush guns by 2026

The Army which has ordered 114 Dhanush artillery guns, and has one regiment operational already, is expecting to receive all the guns by 2026.


  • Dhanush is a 155 mm, 45-calibre towed artillery gun with a range of 36 km, and it has demonstrated a range of 38 km with specialised ammunition.
  • It is an upgrade of the existing 155 mm, 39-calibre Bofors FH 77 gun. 

Economy (GS-III)

RBI's Financial Inclusion index (FI-Index)

The RBI's composite Financial Inclusion index (FI-Index) has increased to 60.1 in March 2023, indicating growth across all criteria.


  • The FI-Index measures the level of financial inclusion across the country
  • It comprises three broad parameters –
    • Access (35 per cent)
    • Usage (45 per cent)
    • Quality (20 per cent)
  • Essentially, it tracks how well the financial services have been extended to the unbanked population of the country.
  • The index ranges between 0 and 100, with 0 meaning complete financial exclusion and 100 meaning complete financial inclusion.
  • The index covers banking, investment, insurance, postal and pension sectors, tracking their delivery and usage amongst the population.

Environment (GS-III)

World Ozone Day

World Ozone Day is celebrated every year on September 16 to preserve the ozone layer that protects the Earth from the direct impact of the ultraviolet rays of the Sun.


  • World Ozone Day aims to make people aware of the ODS situation and how further deterioration can be stopped.
  • The day is celebrated to commemorate the Montreal Protocol.
    • It is an agreement related to the environment regulating the production as well as consumption of around 100 man-made chemicals that cause depletion in the ozone
    • The agreement was signed in 1987 and in 1992 the UN General Assembly declared that September 16 would be celebrated as World Ozone Day.
  • Theme 2023: “Montreal Protocol: Fixing the Ozone Layer and Reducing Climate Change.”

About Ozone

  • The ozone layer is a thin layer made of gas that protects our planet from the Sun’s harmful rays.
  • But due to industrial and other types of pollution holes have been created in this ozone layer.
  • It has directly impacted the temperature on Earth leading to a global warming situation.
  • Depletion in the ozone layer was first detected in 1970 and it was found that the depletion has been caused because of the release of ozone-depleting substances or ODS in the atmosphere.



Invisible women of science


The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, an esteemed scientific award in India, has consistently overlooked women scientists, with only 19 out of nearly 600 recipients being women, despite women constituting 14% of the country's working scientists.

Gender Disparity in Scientific Awards

  • Persistent Gender Gap: The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, a prestigious scientific award in India, has faced consistent criticism for its failure to recognize women scientists. Out of nearly 600 awardees, only 19 have been women, highlighting a significant gender disparity in this recognition.
  • Impact of the Bhatnagar Prize: Beyond individual recognition, the Bhatnagar Prize also elevates the profile of the recipient's institution. This ongoing gender disparity not only affects women scientists' careers but also reflects on the scientific community's inclusivity and fairness.
  • Inadequate Justification: While women constitute about 14% of India's working scientists, the argument that "there aren't enough women" to justify this persistent gap is undermined by the continued underrepresentation of women in scientific awards.

Opaque Selection Process and Lack of Transparency

  • Non-transparent Selection Process: The main issue contributing to gender disparities in the Bhatnagar Prize is the lack of transparency in the selection process. Nominees are chosen by senior figures in the scientific community, primarily men, leading to biases and discrimination.
  • Need for Representation: The absence of gender diversity in the bodies responsible for nominations perpetuates gender biases and discrimination, making it crucial to increase the representation of women in nominating bodies and decision-making processes.
  • Calls for Accountability: To address these disparities effectively, there is an urgent need for transparent nomination processes, the inclusion of more women in key nominating roles, and public statements of intent from institutions to promote gender equity, fostering inclusivity and fairness in the Indian scientific community.

Challenges and the Path Forward

  • Diverse Challenges: Women in science continue to face challenges like ageism, casteism, sexism, and the dominance of old boys' clubs, hindering their careers and limiting inclusivity in the Indian scientific community.
  • Recent Initiatives: Some steps have been taken to address gender disparities, including the appointment of N. Kalaiselvi as the first woman chief of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and a gender parity survey conducted by CSIR.
  • Urgent Need for Accountability: Despite these initiatives, the ongoing gender gap in prestigious scientific awards calls for greater accountability and proactive measures to ensure equal recognition and opportunities for women scientists in India.
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India is at a pivotal moment in its health-care journey


In recent years, India has excelled globally in climate change, electrification, manufacturing, and space exploration, yet it grapples with a growing health crisis from non-communicable diseases, endangering its demographic dividend and development prospects.

Emerging Global Role and Concurrent Health Crisis:

  • India's Global Leadership: India is emerging as a global leader in areas like climate change, electrification, manufacturing, and space exploration.
  • Health Crisis: Simultaneously, India faces a growing health crisis with rising cases of diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, cancer, respiratory issues, and depression.
  • NCDs' Economic Impact: If unaddressed, India's non-communicable diseases (NCDs) could cost nearly $4 trillion by 2030, posing a significant obstacle to the country's development and demographic dividend.

Healthcare Industry's Role in Combating NCDs:

  • Awareness and Lifestyle Advocacy: The healthcare industry should raise awareness, advocate healthier lifestyles, and offer comprehensive health check-ups with advanced scans for early disease detection.
  • Healthcare Progress: India has made remarkable progress in healthcare, including improvements in infant and maternal mortality rates and increased life expectancy.
  • MVT Hub: India boasts world-class healthcare infrastructure and clinical talent, making it a fast-growing destination for medical value travel (MVT) due to quality and cost-effectiveness.

Potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare:

  • AI-Driven Solutions: India's healthcare sector is actively adopting AI-driven solutions, especially in diagnostics, to enhance accuracy and efficiency.
  • AI's Transformative Role: AI can predict disease outbreaks, analyze healthcare data, revolutionize drug discovery, and significantly improve patient outcomes.
  • India's AI Potential: With a substantial pool of data scientists, engineers, and healthcare professionals, India is positioned to lead in AI-driven healthcare solutions, potentially adding $1 trillion to its economy by 2035.
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Crafting a new chapter in parliamentary conduct


The recurring disruptions in India's Parliament, characterized by members' preference for disruption over debate, have eroded the effectiveness and credibility of the legislative body, raising concerns about the state of India's democracy.

Parliamentary Disruptions in India: A Growing Concern

  • Deteriorating Parliamentary Conduct: Recent years have seen a disturbing trend of frequent disruptions in India's Parliament. Rather than engaging in substantive debates, many parliamentarians resort to disruption tactics, undermining the core purpose of the legislative body.
  • Historical Embrace of Westminster Model: Post-independence, India embraced the Westminster-style parliamentary system, with its traditions inspired by the British model. Indian MPs initially adhered to decorum, including desk-thumping and the use of "aye" during votes, signifying their commitment to democratic principles.
  • Erosion of Parliamentary Decorum: However, over seven decades of independence, Indian Parliament has witnessed a decline in parliamentary decorum. Unruly behavior, shouting slogans, and flouting codes of conduct have become commonplace, resulting in sessions marred by disruptions and chaos.

British Parliamentary Practices for Reform:

  • Opposition Day: India can learn from the British practice of allocating an "Opposition Day" each week. This would provide the opposition with a dedicated platform to set the parliamentary agenda, fostering meaningful debates and reducing the incentive for disruptions.
  • Prime Minister's Question Time (PMQs): Emulating the UK's PMQs in India could enhance accountability. This practice allows MPs to question the Prime Minister on various issues, promoting transparency and rigorous scrutiny of the executive.
  • Reforming the Role of the Speaker: To instill discipline and decorum, the Speaker should play a proactive role. Accepting adjournment motions, ensuring separate votes on amendments, and acknowledging dissent through "division" are vital parliamentary techniques to maintain the value of dissent.

Conclusion: The Way Forward for India's Democracy

  • Building Consensus: It is crucial for the government and the opposition to collaborate on implementing these reforms to restore the credibility and effectiveness of India's Parliament.
  • Strengthening Democracy: By adopting these British parliamentary practices, India can ensure that its democratic institutions remain robust, transparent, and accountable.
  • Preserving Parliamentary Democracy: The timely adoption of these reforms can prevent further erosion of India's parliamentary democracy, promoting a culture of reasoned debate over disruptions.
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Judge, Not Secretary


A proposed legislative move (Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023) to downgrade the status of members of the Election Commission (EC) in India is causing apprehension.

Undermining the Role of Election Commission:

  • Legal Equivalence at Stake: The current status of the Election Commission places its members on par with Supreme Court judges, underscoring their critical role in upholding democratic processes.
  • Proposed Downgrade: The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, proposes aligning EC members' service conditions and salaries with that of civil servants.
  • Diminished Authority: While financial remuneration may not be the core issue, the bill's potential to downgrade EC members to the status of civil servants sends a disconcerting signal. It could limit the EC's authority to discipline political leaders during crucial election periods.

The Importance of an Independent Election Commission:

  • Constitutional Empowerment: Article 324 of the Indian Constitution grants the EC independence and tasks it with the crucial responsibility of "superintendence, control, and direction of elections."
  • Guardians of Democracy: Over the years, the EC has grown into an impartial and fair institution, enhancing the legitimacy of India's electoral system.
  • Historical Significance: The EC's standing was significantly fortified in the 1990s when former CEC T. N. Seshan firmly asserted its constitutional role in enforcing electoral rules.

Challenges and the Need for Reflection:

  • Erosion of EC's Impartiality: While the EC has enjoyed a reputation for impartiality, recent instances have raised questions about its adherence to these standards.
  • Bill's Shortcomings: The proposed Bill fails to recognize the EC's exceptional standing and importance in safeguarding democracy. Arguments related to the "table of precedence" miss the point, as this issue transcends mere protocol and concerns the autonomy and dignity of the EC.
  • Call for Reconsideration: To protect the institution's dignity and autonomy, the government should reconsider the proposed legislation and acknowledge the EC's vital role in India's democracy.
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