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29th March 2024 (13 Topics)

29th March 2024

QUIZ - 29th March 2024

5 Questions

7 Minutes


The central government has announced a three to 10 percent increase in wage rate for unskilled workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for the financial year 2024-25.

1: Dimension- Issue of disparity in wages under MGNERAGA

  • Last year, the Parliamentary panel had stressed on the need to address the issue of disparity in wages under MGNREGA. It had asked the ministry to explore the possibility of making wages uniform across the country.
  • It said, “Disparity of wages and non-increase in wages commensurately with inflation is perhaps the most discouraging aspect for labourers to undertake MGNREGA works.”
  • The issue of divergence between wage rates under MGNREGA is on account of the fact that the states do not follow a uniform policy of wage revision for minimum agricultural wage. In 2023-24, the lowest wages were in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh at Rs 221, while the highest was in Haryana at Rs 357.
  • Drawing on inflation data, together with the rural monthly wage index published by the Indian Labour Bureau, the Ministry of Finance has observed negative trends in the purchasing power of rural Indian wages in recent years.
    • Thus, in its Economic Survey 2022-23, the Ministry highlighted a negative growth in real rural wages (that is, rural wages adjusted for inflation) due to elevated inflation between April and November 2022.

2: Dimension- The ‘actual’ outcome of wage disparity

  • Inadequate labour protection:Although people in rural areas are more likely to be in employment than those in urban ones, they also tend to have jobs that can put them at risk of experiencing inadequate labour protection as well as low pay.
  • Insufficient wage to cover inflation: The increase in wage rate may be insufficient to meet the increase in cost of basic goods, which have risen due to spike in inflation in the last few years.
  • Decline in the number of MGNREGA household employment demands:The household employment demand has decreased from 8.05 crore in 2021-22 to 6.20 crore in 2023-24.

Way Forward

The fluctuation in wage rates among States is unjustified. Hence, a uniform wage rate is recommended to end the disparity. Bridging the wage disparity will end the uncertainty among beneficiaries and also serve the larger purpose of welfare of MGNREGA workers. The government should devise a mechanism for notifying a unified wage rate across the country.

Fact Box

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was passed in 2005, and the demand-driven scheme guarantees 100 days of unskilled work per year for every rural household that wants it. 
  • The wage rates are notified annually as mandated in the Act. It is the amount to be paid to unskilled workers per day for the work done under the scheme.
  • Currently, there are close to 14.34 crore active workers under MGNREGS and the average per day rate for unskilled work is around Rs 235 per day, as per the rural development ministry.

Social Protection

  • Social protection is broadly understood as measures to reduce poverty and vulnerability by reducing people's exposure to risks and enhance their capacity to manage those risks, including those associated with unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability, and old age. 


Q: ‘Poverty Alleviation Programmes in India remain mere show pieces until and unless they are backed by political will’. Discuss with reference to the performance of the major poverty alleviation programmes in India. (UPSC 2017)


The contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) continues to be a subject of debate and concern as the central government announces its extension in three districts and three police stations of Arunachal Pradesh for a further six months. This decision raises questions about the balance between security imperatives and the protection of civil liberties in the northeastern state.

1: Dimension- Need of the Act in India’s north-east

  • Arunachal Pradesh, shares its borders with China, Bhutan, and Myanmar, making it strategically significant from a security standpoint.
  • Over the years, the region has witnessed sporadic incidents of insurgency and militancy, prompting the deployment of security forces and the enactment of special legal provisions such as AFSPA.
  • The extension of AFSPA in three districts—Tirap, Changlang, and Longding—and three police stations underscores the persistent security challenges facing certain pockets of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • These areas have been identified as being vulnerable to insurgent activities, cross-border infiltration, and other threats to public order and national security.

2: Dimension- Efficacy of such legal measures in addressing security challenges

  • AFSPA is essential for dealing with insurgencies and protecting civilians from armed groups, critics view it as a draconian law that enables human rights abuses and undermines democratic principles.
  • While security agencies emphasize the need for uninterrupted powers to combat insurgency and maintain stability, civil society organizations and human rights activists raise concerns about the potential for abuse of power and violations of fundamental rights.
  • Reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and other human rights violations have fuelled calls for the repeal or reform of AFSPA.
  • SC on AFSPA: The Supreme Court established legal principle “Accountability is a facet of the rule of law.” It rules that the armed forces cannot escape investigation for excesses in the course of the discharge of their duty even in “disturbed areas”.

Positives of AFSPA

Negatives of AFSPA

  • It is necessary tool to tackle unconventional threats posed by insurgent groups operating in remote and inaccessible terrain.
  • Withdrawal of AFSPA could embolden militant outfits and compromise the safety and security of both civilians and security personnel.
  • It shields security personnel from accountability for excesses committed in the course of their duties.
  • It leads to abuse of power and violations of fundamental rights.

Way forward

While security measures are undoubtedly important in addressing immediate threats, there is a growing recognition of the need for a holistic strategy that addresses the root causes of insurgency, including socio-economic marginalization, governance deficits, and issues of identity and belonging.While the recent decision is driven by legitimate concerns for public safety and national security, it also underscores the need for a nuanced approach that balances security imperatives with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Fact Box: About AFSPA

  • Under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, an area is declared as "disturbed" for the convenience of security forces.
  • An area or district is notified as a disturbed area under the AFSPA to facilitate the operations of the armed forces.
  • The AFSPA gives armed forces personnel, operating in disturbed areas, sweeping powers to search, arrest and to open fire if they deem it necessary for "the maintenance of public order".


Q: Human right activists constantly highlight the view that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is a draconian act leading to cases of human rights abuses by the security forces. What sections of AFSPA are opposed by the activists? Critically evaluate the requirement with reference to the view held by the Apex Court. (UPSC 2015)


Despite the government’s commitment to “eliminate high-burden infectious” TB by 2025, ‘India is still far from reaching its goal’. There are six key challenges identified: TB diagnosis and access; lack of access to free, quality treatment and drugs; adequate nutrition and mental health support; stigma-free and gender responsive care; economic support; and high quality care.                                                                                                                                                  

1: Dimension- Barriers in India’s progress in combating TB

  • Insufficient diagnosis and treatment access, stigma, and socioeconomic barriers continue to impede India’s progress in combating this disease.
  • Poverty:Socioeconomic conditions create vulnerabilities to the disease.
  • Undernutrition: It is a major risk factor for both the occurrence of new cases and the occurrence of severe TB that can result in TB deaths.
  • Delayed diagnosis, and a lack of access to quality care. 
  • Multi-drug resistance worsens matters.

2: Dimension- The right healthcare intervention

  • Comprehensive care for children: Children constitute 6–7% of all patients treated under the national TB elimination programme
  • Focus on nutrition: The state should immediately focus on increasing the duration and quality of inpatient care, particularly for very severe undernutrition.
  • Effective diagnosis: There is a need to expand diagnostic facilities, include mobile testing units, improve access to molecular testing at affordable prices, and provide quick and accurate results.
  • Addressing social factors: There is a need to address the social factors that aggravate the infection (poverty, stigma, etc).

Tamil Nadu Case Study (state-wide differentiated TB care model)

  • The first published report?of a state-wide differentiated TB care model in Tamil Nadu (TN-KET), in 2023, showed that to reduce TB deaths in resource-limited settings, triaging — quickly examining patients to decide who is most seriously ill and must be treated first — can identify those with the immediate need for comprehensive assessment and inpatient care.
  • Considering 70% of TB deaths happen within the first two months, it is important to triage patients at TB diagnosis.

Fact Box:

World TB Report 2023

  • According to the World TB Report 2023, India recorded an average of 199 new infections in every 100,000 people in 2022.
  • An estimated 13% of treated patients and 2.5% of new cases were multi-drug resistant or resistant to the first-line drug rifampicin.
  • Nearly 400,000 people die of TB each year in the country. 


  • Current biomedical strategies to reduce new infections include the
    • BCG vaccine, which protects against severe forms of childhood TB
    • Tuberculosis preventive treatment (TPT) which aims to cover other household contacts, clinical-risk groups apart from children younger than five years and household contacts with HIV
    • Effective rifamycin-based regimes


Households around the world binned one billion meals a day in 2022, as per a report by the United Nations. 

1: Dimension- Impact of food waste

  • GHG Emissions: Food waste necessitates the conversion of vast areas of land for the production of crops that are never eaten and it emits five times as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as the aviation industry.
  • Big contributor to the climate and biodiversity crises:Not only is this waste squandering natural resources, it is also a big contributor to the climate and biodiversity crises, displacing wildlife from intensive farming, as more than a quarter of the world’s agricultural land is given over to the production of food that is subsequently wasted.
  • Economic loss: Food loss and waste causes about USD 940 billion per year in economic losses. Reductions can save money for farmers, companies, and households.

2: Dimension- Main causes of Food Waste

  • Climate changealso contributes to food losses and lack of food security. 
  • Hot weather:More food appears to be thrown away in hot countries, perhaps reflecting the shorter time it takes for food to spoil in higher temperatures, a lack of access to refrigeration and higher consumption of fresh food with more inedible parts.
  • Personal preferences:Apart from natural causes, personal preferences also contribute to wasted food.
  • Poverty:Poorer households also tend to throw away food. This may reflect many factors, including a lack of access to adequate refrigeration and storage, reliance on lower quality food and a lack of time to make nutritious meals.

Case Study: Required Approach

  • Food Waste Collection: In the UK, the government has announced £295m of funding for local councils to organise weekly collections of food waste, aimed at composting and preventing food waste from going to landfill, where its rotting generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
    • Collecting food waste separately can encourage people to reform their habits, as they see clearly how much of what they buy is going into the bin.
  • Food rescue scheme: In Johannesburg, South Africa, a food rescue scheme is channelling waste foods to those who need it most during the pandemic.
  • Food banking is also an important and unique model in reducing food loss and waste, because food banks not only work with farms, manufacturers, retailers and food services to rescue wholesome food, but they also make sure that food ends up on the tables of people facing food insecurity.

Fact Box: Key-highlights of the Report

  • Report Title: Food Waste Index Report. It tracks the progress of countries attempting to halve food waste by 2030.
  • Over USD 1 trillion worth of food(which is nearly one-fifth of the produce available on the global market) was thrown away by businesses and households when about 800 million people were going hungry.
  • Food loss in supply chain: These figures exclude an additional 13% of food that is lost in the food supply chain, between harvest and market, often from rejection or spoilage of edible food.
  • Few countries have plans in place to reduce food waste and most fail to include it in their proposals for reducing carbon emissions.
    • o   Around the world, about 79kg of food is wasted per person annually. But in some countries, including the UK, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa, food waste has been cut substantially since 2007. Japan has cut its food waste by nearly a third, and the UK by about 18%.

 Indian household wastage

  • 78.2 - million tonnes every year
  • 233.9 million - of world’s 783 million population (Global Hunger Index 2023)
  • Ranked 111 - In 125 countries, indicating a hunger severity level


Carlsberg Ridge &Afanasy-Nikitin Seamount in Indian Ocean are of India’s interest for which it has submitted applications for exploration to International Seabed Authority.

Carlsberg Ridge:

  • It is the northern part of the Central Indian Ridge, a tectonic plate boundary between the African and Indian plates, running along the ocean between India and Africa.
  • It was formed nearly 30 million years ago, and has been seismically active with major earthquakes. 
  • Running along Seychelles and spanning 3,00,000sqkms, the Carlsberg Ridge is rich in polymetallic nodules— meaning, it contains mineral deposits with commercially viable quantities of at least 3 metals. The ridge is thought to contain trace elements of copper, lead, and zinc.

The Afanasy-Nikitin Seamount (ANS) seabed

  • The ANS is a major structural feature in the Indian Ocean, rising up above the sea bed but below the surface, and forming a seamount.
  • It is 400 km long and 150 km wide, and is located in the Central Indian Basin — southeast to Sri Lanka, right below the equator, to the west of Singapore — and it was formed about 80 million years ago, while dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.
  • The Seamount is named after AfanasyNikitin, a 15th century Russian merchant who was one of the first to document his travels to India.
  • The ANS seamount is about 3,000 km from India’s coast, and is rich in cobalt, copper, manganese, and nickel. 
    • Cobalt is in high demand among other metals due to its ubiquitous use in electronics and batteries.
    • Nickel is used in electric vehicles as it is resistant to corrosion and oxidation.
    • Manganese is also used for lithium ion and alkaline batteries
    • Copper is one of the most commonly used metals in electricity


In India, the treatment and care for Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) remains grossly inadequate and inaccessible.

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

  • SCD is an inherited haemoglobin disorder in which red blood cells (RBCs) become crescent- or sickle-shaped due to a genetic mutation.
  • These RBCs are rigid and impair circulation, often leading to anaemia, organ damage, severe and episodic pain, and premature death.
  • India has the third highest number of SCD births, after Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • SCD is also one of the 21 “specified” disabilities listed in the Schedule of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
  • In 2023, the Government of India launched the National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission, to eliminate SCD by 2047. 
  • Treatment and challenges:
    • Blood transfusion is another important therapy for SCD, but its availability is limited to district-level facilities.
    • Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is the other cure for SCD. It is out of reach for most SCD patients due to high cost, long waiting time, difficulty in finding matched donors.
    • Drug hydroxyurea lessens the severity of pain, reduces hospitalisations, and improves survival rates by increasing the size and flexibility of RBCs and lowering their likelihood of becoming sickle-shaped. However, its availability is questionable.
    • The US recently approved two gene therapies, Casgevy and Lyfgenia, to treat SCD in people ages 12 and older.


Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has today released recommendations on ‘Usage of Embedded SIM for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communications’.


eSIM (embedded-SIM)

  • An eSIM is a form of SIM card that is embedded directly into a device. Traditional SIM cards are made so that they can easily be swapped out of a phone, so that core service information can get ported from one physical device to another.
  • M2M eSIM is designed for IoT sensors, meters, trackers, and devices that often operate with minimal onsite human interaction.

Machine-to-machine (M2M)

  • Machine-to-machine, or M2M is a more advanced form of the Internet where many devices connect with each other. 
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) facilitate the communication between systems, allowing them to make their own autonomous choices

Significance of the initiative

  • Security: It will ensure security by way of proper Know Your Customer (KYC), which is essential for ensuring network security, mitigating fraud risks and enhancing the overall integrity of the M2M eSIM ecosystem.
  • Development of a homegrown M2M eSIM ecosystem: It will stimulate the development of a homegrown M2M eSIM ecosystem in the country, thus enabling the growth of modern M2M communication.


In a significant development towards its upcoming orbital space launch, Skyroot Aerospace, a Hyderabad based space-tech company, has successfully test-fired the Stage-2 of Vikram-1 space launch vehicle, called Kalam-250, at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

About Vikram-1:

  • ‘Vikram-1’ is a multi-stage launch vehicle.
  • This launch vehicle has a capacity to place 300 kg payloads in the Low Earth Orbit.
  • The rocket is an all-carbon-bodied vehicle capable of placing multiple satellites into orbit; it also features 3D-printed liquid engines.
  • Globally, Vikram-1 is among ‘elite few’ rockets with the capability to deploy orbital satellites, says Skyroot.
  • The ‘Vikram’ in the launch vehicles' name is a tribute to Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India's space programme.
  • Significance of Satge-2:Stage-2 is a critical stage in the ascent of the launch vehicle, as it propels it from atmospheric phase to the deep vacuum of outer-space.


India's eight core sectors posted a 6.7 percent growth in February against 4.1% last month. It was 7.4 percent in February 2023. 

What are Core Sectors?

  • Eight Core Sectors: Coal, Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Refinery Products, Fertilizer, Steel, Cement, and Electricity.
  • These comprise 27% of the weightof items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
  • The eight core sector industries in decreasing order of their weightage:
  • Refinery Products> Electricity> Steel> Coal> Crude Oil> Natural Gas> Cement> Fertilizers.
  • Index of Industrial Production:IIP is an indicator that measures the changes in the volume of productionof industrial products during a given period.
    • It is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistical Organization (CSO),Ministry of Statistics, and Programme Implementation.
    • The base year for IIP is 2011-2012.

Fact Box: Government Initiatives for Growth of the Industrial Sector in India

  • Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) - To scale up domestic manufacturing capability.
  • PM Gati Shakti- National Master Plan - Multimodal connectivity infrastructure project.
  • Bharatmala Project - To Improve connectivity in North East India
  • Start-up India - To catalyzeStartup culture in India
  • Make in India 2.0 - To transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub.
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat Campaign - To cut down import dependence
  • Disinvestment Plans - To support India’s economic recovery
  • Special Economic Zones- To create additional economic activity and boost the export of goods and services.
  • MSME Innovative Scheme- To promote the complete value chain from developing ideas into innovation through incubation and design interventions






Food loss

Food loss refers to uneaten agricultural, forestry, and fishery products. It occurs during the food production and distribution stage. It is also caused by either a reduction in the quantity or quality of food.


Food waste

It refers to edible food that is intended for human consumption, but instead gets discarded or expires. It includes lost or discarded food at all stages of the food system.


GDP deflator

The GDP deflator is a measure of the level of prices of all new, domestically produced, final goods and services in an economy. It reflects changes in the overall price level and is often considered a broader measure of inflation than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) because it includes all final goods and services produced in an economy.


Haemoglobin disorders

Haemoglobin disorders (also known as haemoglobinopathies) are rare blood conditions that affect a person's haemoglobin which is the protein in the blood that carries oxygen. They are inherited conditions that may change the shape or amount of red blood cells in the body.


Low-Earth Orbit (LEO)

A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an orbit that is relatively close to Earth’s surface. It is normally at an altitude of less than 1000 km but could be as low as 160 km above Earth – which is low compared to other orbits, but still very far above Earth’s surface.


Plate tectonics

Plate tectonics is the theory that Earth's outer shell is divided into large slabs of solid rock, called “plates,” that glide over Earth's mantle, the rocky inner layer above Earth’s core


Wet bulb temperature

Wet bulb temperature is the temperature of adiabatic saturation, which is the lowest temperature that can be reached by evaporating water into air at a constant pressure.



A recent report in the Lancet highlights India's impending demographic shift towards becoming an ‘ageing society’, with projections indicating a significant increase in the elderly population by 2050.

Implications of Demographic Shift:

  • Declining Total Fertility Rate (TFR): A sharp decline is predicted in India's TFR to 1.29 by 2050, indicating a significant decrease in the average number of children born to a woman. Consequently, one in five individuals is projected to be above the age of 60 by 2050, posing challenges associated with an ageing population.
  • Lessons from Global Experiences:China provided valuable lessons for policymakers, when its working-age population peaked.Now, India must proactively address skill deficits and transform its economy to maximize the demographic dividend.
  • Maximizing Demographic Dividend: With India's working-age population expected to peak in the late 2030s or early 2040s, priority must be given to enhancing skills, creating employment opportunities outside agriculture, and fostering growth in the knowledge economy.

Preparing for the Future:

  • Ensuring Social Security and Healthcare: Policymakers must prioritize the development of robust social security and healthcare systems to meet the needs of the growing elderly population. Additionally, efforts should focus on effectively utilizing the skills and experience of older individuals to contribute to the economy.
  • Addressing Regional Disparities: Regional variations in TFR rates across states in India present unique challenges, with certain regions experiencing accelerated ageing compared to others. Policymakers must adopt a nuanced approach to understand and address demographic shifts at the regional level.
  • Planning for Change: It is imperative for policymakers to comprehend the multifaceted nature of the demographic transition and proactively plan for the future. Measures should be implemented to address skill gaps, promote inclusive growth, and ensure equitable access to social services for all segments of the population.
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With the onset of hot weather, concerns about electricity shortages have resurfaced in India. The discussion primarily revolves around the shortage of domestic thermal coal and the challenges in its logistics, leading to potential disruptions in electricity supply.

More about logistics:

  • Shortage of Domestic Thermal Coal:The electricity shortage in August 2023, attributed to a poor monsoon, underscored the challenge of meeting increased demand amid reduced supply.
  • Insufficient Logistics:Despite ample coal reserves in mines, logistical issues hamper the transportation of coal to power plants.
  • Transportation bottlenecks: A Ministry of Power advisory highlights logistical constraints associated with the railway network, emphasizing the need to address transportation bottlenecks.

The Issue of Imports:

  • Alternative Sources of Coal:With coal being India's primary energy source, exploring alternative coal sources becomes crucial to mitigate shortages. While some suggest imports as the only solution, auctions by Coal India Ltd. offer another viable option, albeit at higher prices.
  • Import Advisory:The Ministry of Power's advisory regarding coal imports, often misinterpreted as a mandate, recommends monitoring coal stocks and importing up to 6% by weight as needed. However, the advisory emphasizes blending coal as per requirements rather than imposing a fixed mandate.
  • Cost Implications:Interpreting the advisory as a mandate for 6% coal imports could significantly impact electricity costs, affecting consumers. Increased coal imports elevate variable costs, necessitating careful consideration by regulatory bodies to avoid unjustified cost burdens on consumers.

Generation and Location:

  • Diverse Power Plant Characteristics:Power plants vary in generation capacity, proximity to coal mines, and susceptibility to shortages. Pit-head plants situated close to mines are less likely to face shortages compared to plants located farther away.
  • Avoiding Misinterpretation:Not all plants require imports, as shortages predominantly affect plants distant from mines.
  • Cost effective solutions:Regulatory commissions and utilities should focus on identifying the most cost-effective solutions to address shortages, considering factors beyond defaulting to coal imports.
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A recent report by the Institute for Human Development/International Labour Organisation highlights concerning trends in youth employment in India, signalling a potential waste of the country's demographic dividend without immediate policy interventions.

Grim Youth Employment Scenario:

  • Unemployment among Educated Youth: There is a significant rise in unemployment among educated young people, with the proportion of unemployed individuals with secondary education or higher nearly doubling since 2000. Surprisingly, graduates face a much higher unemployment rate compared to those with lower levels of education, indicating a mismatch between job aspirations and available opportunities.
  • Quality of Education and Job Criteria: The findings underscore shortcomings in both job availability and the quality of education in India. Despite pursuing higher education, a large segment of the youth remains unqualified for job roles, highlighting the need for reforms in education and training programs to align with industry requirements.
  • Stagnating Wages and Economic Outlook: There persists stagnating wages and a bleak economic outlook for the youth. Wage growth has either stalled or declined, exacerbating the challenges faced by young job seekers in securing better-paying employment opportunities.

Closing Window of Opportunity:

  • Declining Youth Population Share: India's window to harness its sizable youth population for socio-economic gains is rapidly closing, with the share of young people in the population projected to decline by 2036. This demographic shift underscores the urgency for immediate policy interventions to address youth unemployment and underemployment.
  • Gender Imbalance and Informal Employment: The report also highlights significant gender imbalances in labor force participation rates, with women's participation significantly lower than men's. Moreover, a vast majority of workers are engaged in informal jobs, indicating a lack of comprehensive policies to promote formal employment and ensure decent working conditions.
  • Need for Policy Focus: The report emphasizes the necessity for a concerted policy vision aimed at creating better job opportunities and improving the quality of education and training for India's youth. As the country enters the election cycle, policymakers must prioritize addressing youth employment challenges to realize the full potential of India's demographic dividend.
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