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27th March 2024 (11 Topics)

27th March 2024

QUIZ - 27th March 2024

5 Questions

5 Minutes


India is taking another step in its quest to find valuable minerals hidden in the depths of the ocean which could hold the key to a cleaner future. India applied to the International Seabed Authority (ISBA), Jamaica, for rights to explore two vast tracts in the Indian Ocean seabed that aren’t part of its jurisdiction.

1: Dimension-The global race for mineral resources

  • Countries including China, Russia and India are vying to reach the huge deposits of mineral resources - cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese - that lie thousands of metres below the surface of oceans. These are used to produce renewable energy such as solar and wind power, electric vehicles and battery technology needed to battle against climate change.
  • The UN-affiliated International Seabed Authority (ISA) has issued 31 exploration licences so far, of which 30 are active.
  • If the ISA approves India's new applications, its licence count will be equal to that of Russia and one less than China. India already has two deep-sea exploration licences in the Indian Ocean.
  • India’s application for two regions:
    • AN Seamount: One of these regions is a cobalt-rich crust long known as the Afanasy Nikitin Seamount (AN Seamount).
    • Carlsberg Ridge: One of India's applications seeks to explore polymetallic sulphides - chimney-like mounds near hydrothermal vents containing copper, zinc, gold and silver - in the Carlsberg Ridge of the Central Indian Ocean.
  • India, China, Germany and South Korea already have exploration licences for polymetallic sulphides in the Indian Ocean ridge area.

2: Dimension-Rights for Open Ocean

  • No countries can claim sovereignty over open oceans. Around 60% of the world’s seas are open ocean and though believed to be rich in a variety of mineral wealth.
  • Currently no country has commercially extracted resources from open oceans.
  • Countries have exclusive rights up to 200 nautical miles, and its underlying sea-bed from their borders.
  • Some ocean-bound states may have a natural stretch of land, connecting their border and the edge of the deep ocean that extends beyond this 200, as part of their so-called continental shelf.
  • UNCLOS-linked body, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf decides on the limits of a country’s continental shelf.

3: Dimension-Environmental Concerns

  • Deep seabed is the last frontier in the planet that remains largely unstudied and untouched by humanity and mining there could cause irreparable damage, no matter how pressing the need.
  • Around two dozen countries - including the UK, Germany, Brazil and Canada - are also demanding either a halt or a temporary pause on deep-sea mining, given what they say is a lack of information about the marine ecosystems in those depths.

Fact Box

Afanasy Nikitin Seamount (AN Seamount)

  • The  Afanasy Nikitin Seamount (AN Seamount) is a structural feature (400 km-long and 150 km-wide) in the Central Indian Basin, located about 3,000 km away from India’s coast.
  • From an oceanic depth of about 4,800 km it rises to about 1,200 metre and — as surveys from about two decades establish — rich in deposits of cobalt, nickel, manganese and copper.
  • For any actual extraction to happen, countries — must apply first for an exploration licence to the ISBA, an autonomous international organisation established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).


Amid a flaring up of tensions between Beijing and Manila over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, India has taken its side and backed the Philippines in upholding its national sovereignty and seeks “staunch adherence” to a rules-based order.

1: Dimension- India-Philippines’ growing relations

  • Strategic cooperation between India and the Philippines, especially in defence and security, has grown significantly in recent years.
  • India’s ties with the Philippines have grown in areas such as trade, investment, health, food security, education, science and technology, defence and maritime cooperation.
  • In 2022, Manila became the first foreign customer for the BrahMos cruise missile by inking a USD 375-million order for the weapon system developed by India and Russia.
  • India and the Philippines are also part of the Indo-Pacific maritime domain awareness initiative.
  • Both countries are “staunch advocates” of freedom of navigation and adherence to international law, including UNCLOS and the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
    • This ruling declared China’s claims in South China as unlawful.

2: Dimension-India’s interests in the Region

  • India is “deeply invested” in the region because of its Act East policy and Indo-Pacific vision and strongly supports Asean’s centrality and unity.
  • Strategic interests, freedom of navigation, and oil and gas resources are the three factors determining India's expanded involvement in the South China sea.
  • Geographically, Southeast Asia serves as a backyard for India and a gateway to the Indian Ocean.

Fact Box

South China Sea

  • The South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest waterways, is subject to several overlapping territorial disputes involving China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
  • All countries use differing versions of history to back their assertions of sovereignty.
  • Who claims what?
    • China claims more than 80 percent, while Vietnam claims sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands.
    • The Philippines asserts ownership of the Spratly archipelago and the Scarborough Shoal, while Brunei and Malaysia have claimed sovereignty over southern parts of the sea and some of Spratly Islands.
    • China claims by far the largest portion of territory - an area defined by the "nine-dash line".
    • China‘s “nine-dash line” is a geographical marker used to assert its claim. It stretches as far as 2,000km from the Chinese mainland, reaching waters close to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA)

  • The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), an initiative with regional partners and allies to promote a free and open Pacific.
  • It was introduced by the Quad group.


India's commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, announced at the COP26 climate talks, highlights its ambitious targets for carbon neutrality and renewable energy adoption. India's emphasis on black carbon reduction, particularly through initiatives like the PMUY scheme, underscores its commitment to addressing regional health issues and achieving sustainable development goals while contributing to global climate mitigation efforts.

1: Dimension- India's Climate Commitments and Renewable Energy Targets

  • At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November 2021, India pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, positioning itself as a frontrunner in the race to carbon neutrality.
  • According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India has installed a renewable energy capacity of over 180 GW by 2023 and is expected to meet its target of 500 GW by 2030.

2: Dimension-Risks of Black Carbon

  • Global warming: Black carbon is the dark, sooty material emitted alongside other pollutants when biomass and fossil fuels are not fully combusted.
  • Severe health risks: There is a direct link between exposure to black carbon and a higher risk of heart disease, birth complications, and premature death.
  • Source: Most black carbon emissions in India arise from burning biomass, such as cow dung or straw, in traditional cookstoves.
    • Residential sector contributes 47% of India’s total black carbon emissions.
    • Industries contribute a further 22%, diesel vehicles 17%, open burning 12%, and other sources 2%.
  • Decarbonisation efforts in the industry and transport sectors in the past decade have yielded reductions in black carbon emissions, but the residential sector remains a challenge.

3: Dimension-Impact of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

  • The programme has been able to play a vital role in reducing black carbon emissions, as it offers a cleaner alternative to traditional fuel consumption. The programme has provided connections to over 10 crore households as of January 2024.
  • However, in 2022-2023, 25% of all PMUY beneficiaries — 2.69 crore people — availed either zero LPG refill or only one LPG refill, according to RTI data, meaning they still relied entirely on traditional biomass for cooking.
  • The average PMUY beneficiary household consumes only 3.5-4 LPG cylinders per year instead of the six or seven a regular non-PMUY household uses. This means up to half of all the energy needs of a PMUY beneficiary household are still met by traditional fuels.
  • A shortage of LPG and higher usage of traditional fuels also affect women and children disproportionately. They are more prone to higher levels of indoor air pollution, causing many health issues and leading to premature deaths.

4: Dimension- Challenges in Implementation

  • Rapid increase in LPG prices: In October 2023, the government increased the LPG subsidy to Rs 300 from Rs 200. Most PMUY beneficiaries find the price too high, more so since cow dung, firewood, etc. are ‘free’ alternatives.
  • Low refill rate: While it is the rightful duty of the government to make clean fuel affordable through subsidies, the problem of low refill rates persists.
  • Connectivity issue: Another big hurdle to the PMUY’s success is the lack of last-mile connectivity in the LPG distribution network, resulting in remote rural areas depending mostly on biomass.

The key to enhancing the quality of life in these areas lies primarily in securing access to clean cooking fuels. While the future holds the promise of meeting energy needs in rural areas through renewable sources, the immediate benefits for rural communities are poised to come from using LPG.The local production of coal-bed methane (CBM) gas by composting biomass is also a solution. CBM is a much cleaner fuel with lower black-carbon emissions and investment. Panchayats can take the initiative to produce CBM gas locally at the village level, ensuring every rural household can access clean cooking fuel.

Fact Box

About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

  • Launched in: 2016.
  • The scheme was launched to provide free liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections to households below the poverty line.
  • The primary objective was to make clean cooking fuel available to rural and poor households and reduce their dependence on traditional cooking fuels.
  • The PMUY has established infrastructure to go with LPG connections, including free gas stoves, deposits for LPG cylinders, and a distribution network.


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) released its latest report on India and has said that India is poised to reap a demographic dividend but challenges related to youth unemployment persist.

Key-highlights of the Report

  • Report Title: India Employment Report 2024
  • India's youth was 27% of the population in 2021 and this number is set to decline to 21% by 2036, and each year 7-8 million youth are added to the workforce.
  • Vulnerable occupation: Youth employment in India is by and larger of poorer quality than employment for adults, with employed youth being much more likely in vulnerable occupations or informal sectors.
  • Youth wages and earnings have increased with age but are lower than what they are for adults for all categories of employment.
  • Poor condition of work: There has been only a marginal gap between youth earnings from wage employment and self-employment, indicating poor conditions of work.
  • Highest unemployment among graduates: The highest youth unemployment rates are among those with a graduate degree and higher among women than men.
  • Women not in employment, education or training amounted to a proportion nearly five times larger than among their male counterparts (48.4% versus 9.8%) and accounted for around 95% of the total youth population not in employment, education or training in 2022.

1: Dimension-Disruptive Factors

  • Fast-changing technological advancements: There are increasing uncertainties in the labour market due to fast-changing technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Demographic dividend: India remains poised to reap a demographic dividend for at least another decade due to the youth population remaining at 23 per cent of the total in 2036 from 27 per cent in 2021.
  • Temporary Jobs: Digital platforms and the gig economy are creating many new jobs, but these jobs are largely temporary, informal, and non-standard work.
  • Algorithmic management: On the gig and platform economy front, autonomy and flexibility are non-existent due to algorithmic management and control as the subjective and unfair nature of ratings used through the algorithmic management in these platforms also creates difficulties.

2: Required Measures

  • Labour-intensive manufacturing employment: The report calls for primacy to be given to labour-intensive manufacturing employment to absorb the abundant unskilled labour, along with the emerging employment-generating modern manufacturing and services sectors, with a direct and greater focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises by providing a more supportive and decentralised approach.
  • Green investment: It also highlights investment in the green (environment-friendly) and blue (based on ocean resources) economies, developing rural infrastructure.
  • Revival of employment in rural areas: There is a need for establishing an integrated market to revive employment in the farm and non-farm sectors in rural areas.


The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APCC) Climate Center has predicted that India is likely to experience above-normal precipitation during its peak monsoon season from July to September. This forecast change is attributed to the recent ENSO alert which predicts a smooth transition from El Nino to La Nina condition.


  • The El Nino and La Nina are the two phases of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon that occurs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. 
  • El-Nino is the periodic warming of waters in the central Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon has a direct impact on the weather patterns prevalent over the Indian peninsula. 
  • La Nina refers to the periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.
    • Typically, La Nina events occur every 3 to 5 years or so, but on occasion can occur over successive years.
    • La Nina represents the cool phase of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

Impact on Indian Monsoon

  • The June-September monsoon, which is vital for India's USD 3 trillion economy, brings nearly 70% of the rain the country needs to water crops and replenish reservoirs and aquifers.
  • Persistent El Nino conditions are likely to bring intense heat during the summer season this year. However, the prevailing El Nino conditions will likely get neutral after the summer season.
  • Before a good monsoon, India will see a scorching summer season due to prevalent El Nino conditions.
  • More heatwave days than normal are predicted over northeast peninsular India -- Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and north interior Karnataka -- and many parts of Maharashtra and Odisha.


With the State stepping into peak summer season, Kerala is staring at heat wave-like conditions at many places.

What is a heat wave?

  • Heat wave is a condition of air temperature which becomes fatal to human body when exposed.
  • Quantitatively, it is defined based on the temperature thresholds over a region in terms of actual temperature or its departure from normal.
  • For declaring a heat wave, the temperature should be 4.5 °C above normal for that time in a region.
  • The criteria for the coastal station maximum temperature should be greater than or equal to 37 °C.


Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after a container ship smashed into a pylon.


About the Bridge

  • The Francis Scott Key Bridge was one of three ways to cross the Baltimore Harbor and handled 31,000 cars per day or 11.3 million vehicles a year.
  • The steel structure is four lanes wide and sits 185 feet (56 meters) above the river.
  • It opened in 1977 and crosses the Patapsco River.
  • The bridge leads to the Port of Baltimore, the deepest harbor in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.
  • Reason behind the collapse: The metal truss-style bridge has a suspended deck, a design that contributed to its collapse, engineers say. The ship appeared to hit a main concrete pier, which rests on soil underwater and is part of the foundation.





Coal bed methane (CBM)

Coal bed methane (CBM) is an unconventional form of natural gas found in coal deposits or coal seams. It is a primary clean energy source of natural gas.


Demographic Dividend

Demographic dividend refers to the growth in an economy that is the result of a change in the age structure of a country's population


Mineral resources

Mineral resources and reserves are natural concentrations of inorganic and organic substances, including major and minor minerals and their by-products, fuels, and underground water on Earth.



A Peninsula is any landmass which is surrounded by water on three sides and land on one side. India is called as Peninsula because it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the east.



A seamount is an underwater mountain with steep sides rising from the seafloor. Most seamounts are remnants of extinct volcanoes, while others are actively erupting and growing. Typically, they are cone shaped, but often have other prominent features such as craters and linear ridges.


The UN Security Council's call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza signals a potential shift in the Biden administration's policy towards the conflict.

Key Developments in the Conflict:

  • Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza: Israel's assault on Gaza has led to significant casualties and displacement, exacerbating a devastating hunger crisis.
  • Change in US Policy: The Biden administration abstained from vetoing the UNSC resolution for ceasefire, marking a departure from previous US stances.
  • Israeli Response and Internal Dynamics: Israel's reaction to the resolution reflects internal tensions and leadership challenges within the Netanyahu cabinet.

Implications and Choices for Israel:

  • Assessment of Situation: Israel's prolonged war strategy has faced criticism for failing to achieve tangible objectives and worsening international isolation.
  • Netanyahu's Leadership Dilemma: Prime Minister Netanyahu faces pressure to heed the UNSC resolution and pursue diplomatic solutions or risk exacerbating domestic and international challenges.
  • Path Forward: Israel's response to the ceasefire call will shape its stance on the conflict and determine its approach towards addressing humanitarian concerns and negotiating with Hamas.
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Concerns regarding the mental health and well-being of students in India, particularly those preparing for competitive exams, have come to the forefront due to a rising number of suicides, notably in Kota, Rajasthan.

Challenges Faced by Students:

  • Academic Pressure: Intense competition for limited seats in prestigious institutions and high fees in private colleges lead to immense academic pressure.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Parental and societal expectations often impose unrealistic goals on students, contributing to stress and anxiety.
  • Financial Constraints: Financial constraints prevent many students from accessing supplementary educational resources, exacerbating the pressure to succeed.

Impact on Mental Health:

  • Weakening Family Structures: Weakening family structures and parental control hinder the development of strong bonds between children and their families.
  • Emotional Distress: Students face emotional distress and feelings of humiliation when unable to meet parental expectations.
  • Sacrifice of Social Relationships: The relentless pursuit of academic excellence often leads students to sacrifice social relationships and neglect their mental well-being.
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Concerns about the dysfunctionality of the democratic political process in India, characterized by a lack of constructive collaboration and consensus-building, have gained attention.

Challenges in Democratic Politics:

  • Erosion of Collaborative Platforms: Traditional sites of consensus-building like public discourse, civil society, and political parties hinder constructive collaboration, impeding the democratic process.
  • Institutional Integrity vs. Political Process: Institutions of the state lack the mandate to facilitate collective action or propose alternatives, focusing instead on procedural integrity.
  • Inability to Move Beyond Outrage: Despite deep public resonance on certain issues, the polity remains stuck in outrage, protest, or resignation, highlighting the inability to collaborate effectively.

Pathologies Affecting Democratic Processes:

  • Dysfunctional Public Discourse: Institutional media's loss of credibility, the rise of social media-driven virality, and hyper-partisanship hinder constructive dialogue and consensus-building.
  • Dependent Civil Society: Civil society's reliance on a permissive state and normative purity over representativeness limit its ability to reconcile multiple viewpoints.
  • Pathological Nature of Political Parties: Internal focus, lack of policy agenda extrapolation by elected representatives, and preoccupation with party dynamics hinder deliberation and collaboration.
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