19 March 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs

19-March -2024- Top News of the Day

1. Multi-purpose app SAKHI to assist Gaganyaan crew

Topic: GS3 –  Science and Technology

The development of SAKHI for Gaganyaan mission highlights India’s advancements in space technology, relevant for UPSC aspirantss

●  The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has developed SAKHI, a multi-purpose app aiding astronauts on India’s Gaganyaan mission with tasks like communication and health monitoring.

 Additional information on this news:

  • The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has developed SAKHI, a multi-purpose app for astronauts on the Gaganyaan space flight mission.
  • SAKHI assists astronauts with tasks such as accessing technical information, communication, monitoring health, and dietary scheduling.
  • It features a custom-built, hand-held smart device and has undergone successful testing of an engineering model.
  • The app is described as indispensable by the VSSC director, S. Unnikrishnan Nair, providing vital data at the astronauts’ fingertips in the limited space of the crew module.
  • The platform is designed to be strapped to space suits, ensuring quick access at all times during the mission.
  • The ISRO plans to launch the Gaganyaan mission in 2025, with four astronaut-designates, all Indian Air Force (IAF) test pilots, already revealed at an event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 27.
Gaganyaan Mission

● Indian Ambition: Gaganyaan is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) mission to send astronauts into space.

●   First Steps:  Aimed for launch around 2025, it will be India’s first human spaceflight.

●  The Crew: The spacecraft will carry a three-member crew on a mission to orbit Earth at 400 km altitude. The crew will do microgravity experiments during the mission.

●  Launch vehicle- GSLV MK-III

●  Mission Duration: The crew will spend up to seven days in space before safely returning to Earth.

Technological Leap:  This ambitious project will showcase India’s advancements in spacecraft development, life support systems, and astronaut training.

Global Stage:  A successful Gaganyaan mission will place India among a select few nations with independent human spaceflight capabilities.

PYQ: India has achieved remarkable successes in unmanned space missions including the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbitter Mission, but has not ventured into manned space mission, both in terms of technology and logistics? Explain critically. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question: Discuss the significance of the Gaganyaan mission for India’s scientific and technological development. (150 Words /10 marks)

2. Spring season ‘disappearing’ in many States, shows study

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation
GS1 – Geography – Climate Change – Effects of Climate change
Understanding climate trends and their impact on seasons is crucial for UPSC aspirants in environmental studies and geography.

●     The news highlights a 50-year analysis indicating a decline in the spring season in Indian states, attributed to consistent winter warming trends.

Additional information on this news:

  • Meteorological records over 50 years suggest Indian states are experiencing a withdrawal of spring, a transition between winter and summer.
  • Climate Trends researchers analyzed temperature trends from 1970 to present, observing a consistent warming trend during winter across all regions.
  • Manipur saw the largest temperature increase (2.3°C) since 1970, while Delhi had the smallest (0.2°C).
  • Southern India experienced strong warming in December and January, with Sikkim and Manipur showing significant temperature changes.
  • Northern India saw weaker warming or even cooling in December and January, but a pronounced warming trend in February, indicating abrupt transitions to warmer conditions.
  • Rajasthan exhibited the most significant warming jump between January and February (2.6°C), along with other states like Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The disappearance of spring in many parts of India is attributed to changes in the pattern of Western Disturbances and the jet stream affecting winter temperatures and rainfall distribution.

Practice Question:  In the context of climate change, discuss the observed trends in the duration and characteristics of spring in India, citing relevant data and implications. (150 Words /10 marks)

3. Plastic chemicals more than estimated: report

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health

GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation

Understanding the complexities of plastic chemicals is crucial for UPSC aspirants in environmental governance and sustainable development studies.

●     The news highlights a report revealing over 16,000 chemicals in plastics, raising concerns about pollution, consumer safety, and the need for regulatory measures.


Additional information on this news:

  • A report by European scientists reveals over 16,000 chemicals in plastics, a significant increase from the 13,000 estimated by UNEP.
  • Approximately a quarter of these chemicals are considered hazardous to human health and the environment.
  • Plastic chemicals can leach into water and food, posing risks to human health, including fertility issues and cardiovascular disease.
  • The report emphasizes the necessity of addressing the chemical complexity of plastics in efforts to combat plastic pollution.
  • The plastics industry’s focus on recycling and re-use alone may not sufficiently protect people from harmful chemical exposure.
  • Lack of transparency regarding chemicals used in plastics, including additives and impurities, poses challenges for consumer safety.
  • Only 6% of identified plastic chemicals are regulated internationally, highlighting the need for greater regulatory measures.
  • Negotiations for the world’s first treaty to address plastic pollution continue, aiming to finalize the treaty by December 2024.
Plastic pollution and its impact on human health and environment

● Plastic pollution poses a severe threat to the environment, especially marine ecosystems, as millions of tons of plastic waste end up in oceans annually.

● Plastics break down into microplastics, entering the food chain through marine organisms, ultimately affecting human health.

●  Consumption of seafood contaminated with microplastics can lead to the ingestion of harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates, causing various health issues such as reproductive problems, hormonal imbalances, and even cancer.

●  Plastic pollution disrupts ecosystems, harming marine life through entanglement, ingestion, and habitat destruction.

Plastic waste also contaminates soil, affecting agricultural productivity and entering the food chain indirectly through crops.

● Incinerating plastic waste releases toxic fumes, contributing to air pollution and respiratory illnesses.

● Microplastics have been found in drinking water sources, raising concerns about potential health impacts on human populations.

● Addressing plastic pollution requires concerted efforts such as reducing single-use plastics, promoting recycling and waste management practices, and developing biodegradable alternatives.

●  Long-term solutions demand global collaboration and policy interventions to mitigate the environmental and health risks posed by plastic pollution.

PYQ: What are the impediments in disposing the huge quantities of discarded solid wastes which are continuously being generated? How do we remove safely the toxic wastes that have been accumulating in our habitable environment? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2018)
Practice Question:  Evaluate the role of international treaties in addressing the challenges posed by the presence of hazardous chemicals in plastics, with a focus on potential regulatory measures and their effectiveness. (250 Words /15 marks)

4. On FTAs with European countries

Topic: GS2 – International Relations

GS3 – Indian Economy – Effects of liberalisation on the economy

The India-EFTA TEPA is crucial for UPSC aspirants due to its implications on trade policy, economic diplomacy, and international relations.

●  The India-EFTA Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) marks India’s first FTA with European countries, facilitating investment, trade, and services liberalisation.

 Introduction to India-EFTA Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA)

  • TEPA marks India’s latest Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
  • It signifies India’s shift towards deeper economic engagement with the western world, being the first FTA with any European country.
  • The conclusion of TEPA amidst rising protectionism globally showcases India’s commitment to trade liberalization.

Key Features of TEPA


  • TEPA aims for a $100 billion investment into India from EFTA countries, creating one million jobs over 15 years.
  • India can withdraw tariff concessions if investment targets aren’t met, contingent on India’s GDP growth and EFTA’s investment returns.

Trade in Goods:

  • India will eliminate tariffs on most products within 7-10 years, benefiting EFTA exports such as seafood, fruits, medical equipment, and machinery.
  • Tariffs on cut and polished diamonds will reduce from 5% to 2.5% in five years, and for wines, gradual duty reductions are outlined.


  • Gold, dairy, soya, coal, and sensitive agricultural products are excluded from India’s tariff concessions.

Trade in Services:

  • Both sides commit to liberalization across sectors, with Norway offering access to yoga instructors and traditional medicine practitioners.
  • Annexes aim to ease recognition of qualifications and lay down disciplines for financial and telecom services.

Juridical Person Clause:

  • Any corporate entity incorporated in an EFTA member can benefit from the services chapter, regardless of actual operations’ location.

Sustainable Development:

  • TEPA includes a Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter, a first for India in any FTA, focusing on environment and labour aspects.
  • Implementation respects multilateral environmental and labour conventions, balancing rights and obligations.

Intellectual Property Rights:

  • TEPA addresses concerns of EFTA pharmaceutical and high-tech companies by requiring protection of intellectual property rights exceeding WTO standards.
  • It mandates swift rejection of unfounded oppositions to patent applications and adjusts requirements for annual statements on patent workings.


  • TEPA ventures into uncharted territory, with its impact dependent on implementation over time.

Overall Implications:

  • TEPA signifies a significant step for India in strengthening economic ties with the western world amidst global protectionism.
  • It presents opportunities for increased investment, job creation, and market access, while addressing concerns related to intellectual property rights and sustainable development.
  • However, the actual benefits will hinge on effective implementation and responsiveness of the private sector to the opportunities presented by TEPA.

PYQ: ‘Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of negotiations held between India and (2017)

(a) European Union

(b) Gulf Cooperation Council

(c) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

(d) Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Ans: (a)

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the India-EFTA Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) in shaping India’s trade policies and international economic relations. (250 Words /15 marks)

5. Global Sea Surface Temperatures Hit Record High in February 2024, Prompting Concerns Over Climate Change

Topic:  GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the impact of rising ocean temperatures on marine ecosystems.



  • The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reported that the average global sea surface temperature (SST) for February 2024 reached 21.06 degrees Celsius, the highest ever recorded since 1979.
  • This surpasses the previous record set in August 2023, indicating a concerning trend of rising ocean temperatures.
More about the news:

Factors Contributing to Ocean Warming:

  • Multiple factors contribute to the warming of oceans, including increased burning of fossil fuels, leading to higher levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • GHGs such as carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
  • Additionally, abnormal weather patterns like El Niño and reduced dust blowing off the Sahara desert have further exacerbated ocean warming.

Consequences of Ocean Warming on Marine Ecosystems:

  • The consequences of rising ocean temperatures are far-reaching and irreversible.
  • Ocean stratification, caused by the separation of water into layers based on density, disrupts marine ecosystems’ nutrient cycles and affects the distribution of marine life.
  • Marine heat waves (MHWs) have become more frequent and intense, leading to coral bleaching, fish kills, and changes in migration patterns of aquatic animals.
  • Moreover, higher ocean temperatures contribute to the intensification of storms like hurricanes and cyclones, resulting in increased devastation and flooding when these storms make landfall.

Future Projections and Mitigation Measures:

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicts a high likelihood of global temperatures exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold above pre-industrial levels between 2023 and 2027.
  • To mitigate the impacts of ocean warming and climate change, urgent action is required to reduce GHG emissions.
  • However, despite increasing awareness, GHG concentrations reached record levels in 2023, highlighting the pressing need for global cooperation and decisive measures to address climate change.


  • The unprecedented rise in sea surface temperatures underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate climate change’s adverse effects on marine ecosystems and human livelihoods.


What is Ocean Warming?


  • The ocean absorbs most of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, leading to rising ocean temperatures.
  • Reason:
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy, deforestation, and industrial processes releases significant amounts of greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat, leading to a warming effect on both the atmosphere and the oceans.
  • Carbon Dioxide Absorption: Oceans act as a vast reservoir that absorbs a significant portion of the excess carbon dioxide from human activities. While this absorption helps mitigate climate change on land, it also results in the warming of the ocean itself.
  • Solar Radiation: Changes in solar radiation, though a minor contributor compared to human-induced factors, can influence ocean temperatures over long periods.
  • Impact:
  • Coral Bleaching: Elevated temperatures can cause corals to expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, leading to coral bleaching. Prolonged bleaching weakens corals and makes them more susceptible to diseases, posing a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems.
  • Sea Level Rise: Warmer ocean temperatures contribute to the thermal expansion of seawater. This, along with the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, leads to rising sea levels, which can result in coastal erosion and increased vulnerability of coastal communities.
  • Disruption of Marine Food Webs: Changes in ocean temperatures can alter the distribution and abundance of marine species, affecting the structure of marine food webs. This can have cascading effects on fisheries and the livelihoods of communities dependent on them.
  • Ocean Acidification: The absorption of excess carbon dioxide by the oceans leads to ocean acidification. Acidification can harm marine organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons or shells, including corals, mollusks, and some plankton, affecting the entire marine food chain.


PYQ: Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.

(UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15 m)

Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of record-high sea surface temperatures on marine ecosystems and climate change mitigation efforts, highlighting the challenges and potential strategies for addressing this pressing environmental issue. (250 words/15 m)

6. Forest Fire Season Intensifies in India; Southern States Battling Unprecedented Blaze

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environment Pollution and Degradation; Disaster and disaster management.
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the causes, impacts, and mitigation measures of forest fires.
  • Forest fires have been engulfing the Coonoor forest range in Tamil Nadu for nearly a week, prompting a collaborative effort between the state forest department and the Indian Air Force (IAF) to combat the blaze.
More about the news:

IAF’s Involvement and the Bambi Bucket:

  • The IAF recently deployed an Mi-17 V5 helicopter equipped with a Bambi Bucket to aid in firefighting operations.
  • The Bambi Bucket, suspended beneath the helicopter, can be filled with water from nearby water bodies and discharged over the fires, making it particularly effective in challenging terrain.

Frequency of Forest Fires in India:

  • Forest fires are common in India, particularly from November to June, with the months of April and May witnessing a peak in fire incidents.
  • The 2019 India State of Forest Report highlighted that over 36% of India’s forest cover is prone to fires, with certain regions being more susceptible than others.

Vulnerable Regions and Recent Incidents:

  • Dry deciduous forests are particularly susceptible to severe fires, while evergreen and semi-evergreen forests are comparatively less prone.
  • Recent years have seen significant fire incidents in states like Goa, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Gujarat, indicating the widespread nature of the issue.

Current Situation and Causes:

  • This year, forest fires have been reported in various states, with a notable uptick in southern India.
  • Contributing factors include high aridity, above-normal temperatures, and dry biomass availability due to early onset of summer.
  • Human activities such as discarded cigarettes and burning of debris are common causes, alongside natural factors like lightning.

Impact and Prevalence:

  • Forest fires pose significant risks to ecosystems, wildlife, and human populations.
  • The current situation has been exacerbated by exceptionally hot weather, with temperatures soaring above normal levels.
  • The IMD’s warning of excess heat factor underscores the severity of the conditions, with most districts in southern India classified under ‘mild’ aridity.


  • Efforts to combat forest fires require a combination of proactive measures, including effective firefighting techniques, community awareness, and sustainable forest management practices.
  • Addressing the root causes of forest fires, both human-induced and natural, is crucial for mitigating the adverse impacts on biodiversity and livelihoods.
What are the Government Initiatives to Cope with Forest Fires?
  • In order to reduce forest fires, the National Action Plan for Forest Fires (NAPFF) was launched in 2018 with the intention of empowering, educating, and enabling forest fringe communities and encouraging them to work with state forest departments.
  • The sole government-sponsored initiative aimed at helping states combat forest fires is the Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM).
PYQ: How important are vulnerability and risk assessment for pre-disaster management. As an administrator, what are key areas that you would focus in a disaster management? (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2013)

Practice Question:  Discuss the recent forest fires in the Coonoor forest range of Tamil Nadu, highlighting the causes, impacts, and mitigation efforts. How do forest fires in India contribute to environmental degradation, and what measures can be taken to prevent and manage them effectively?

(250 words/15 m)


8. Bihar Government Plans Grand Temple for Sita in Sitamarhi, Reflecting Cultural Significance and Religious Tourism Potential

Topic: GS1 – History – Indian Culture

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of cultural significance of Sitamarhi as a place associated with the Hindu epic Ramayana.

  • After the completion of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Bihar government has proposed the construction of a grand temple for Sita in Sitamarhi district, believed to be her birthplace.
  • This decision was made during a recent meeting of the Bihar Cabinet.
More about the news:

Land Acquisition and Development Plans:

  • The Bihar government has decided to acquire 50 acres of land around an existing temple in Sitamarhi for the construction of the new temple, in addition to the 16.63 acres already acquired for redevelopment.
  • Experts highlighted the importance of future development in the area, foreseeing increased pilgrim influx following the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
  • Sitamarhi, being part of the Ramayana Circuit identified by the Central government for religious tourism development, holds significant potential.

Growing Demand and Government’s Support:

  • Demand for a new temple in Sitamarhi has intensified since the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya began.
  • The Bihar government approved a redevelopment project and sanctioned Rs 72 crore for it earlier this year.
  • The decision to acquire land came after a meeting with devotees and government officials, reflecting the government’s commitment to addressing the sentiments of the people and promoting religious tourism.

What are some historical references of the present-day Sitamarhi

  • According to the account of the renowned archaeologist Alexander Cunningham, Sita-Marhi is located slightly more than 40 miles northwest of Darbhanga, around 14 miles from the nearest point of the Nepal frontier.
  • The area is bounded on the east by a branch of the Sowrun Nala, and parts of the village are affected by numerous small streams that converge and flood the region.
  • While Sita-Marhi has some temples dedicated to Sita, Cunningham notes that the place lacks significant archaeological interest beyond these structures.


  • While the details of the proposed temple are yet to be finalized, the Bihar government’s decision to make land available signifies a significant step towards realizing the construction of a grand temple for Sita in Sitamarhi.
  • This initiative aims to enhance the religious and cultural significance of the region and establish it as a prominent pilgrimage site in the future.
What are the mentions of present-day Bihar in the Ramayana
  • The Valmiki Ramayana, the primary source book for many subsequent versions, including Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas, refers to Sita using four words — Vaidehi, Janaki, Sita, and Mithilapuri.
  •  Mithilapuri, an apparent reference to Mithila, connects to Sita’s birth story, where she was found in a ploughed field by King Janak in Ramayana.
  • According to Valmiki, Ram and Laxman visited various sites in Bihar during their travels with Maharishi Vishwamitra, including Chitrakoot, Saran district, Siddhashram in Buxar, the confluence of Ganga and Sone near Patna, and Ahalya’s ashram (Ahirouri in Mithilapuri).
  • Mithila plays a significant role during Ram and Sita’s wedding in the Ramayana.
  • Valmiki mentions Ram visiting Mithilapuri once, while some later versions claim a visit after his coronation.

PYQ: With reference to Chausath Yogini Temple situated near Morena, consider the following statements: (2021)

1.     It is a circular temple built during the reign of Kachchhapaghata Dynasty.

2.     It is the only circular temple built in India.

3.     It was meant to promote the Vaishnava cult in the region.

4.   Its design has given rise to a popular belief that it was the inspiration behind the Indian Parliament building.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 4 only

(d) 2, 3 and 4 only

Ans: (c)

Practice Question:  Discuss the Bihar government’s decision to construct a grand temple for Sita in Sitamarhi, its cultural significance, and the potential impact on religious tourism. (150 words/10 m)

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