UPSC Current Affairs: India – Buddhism, Climate Change, Healthcare & More

GS Paper 1

Sannati  Buddhist Site

  • News:  After being neglected for many years following its discovery through ASI excavations in the 1990s, the Sannati Buddhist site underwent a restoration project in 2022.
  • Sannati
    • It is a small village, located on the banks of the Bhima River in Chitapur taluk of Gulbarga District of Northern Karnataka. 
    • It is famous for the Chandrala Parameshwari Temple and the excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1986.
    • The ASI excavation at Kanaganahalli near Sannati unearthed the remains of a large stupa, along with a good number of sculptures that were strewn around.
    • The Sannati Buddhist site is believed to have undergone development in three constructional phases spanning from the Maurya period to the Later Satavahana period, covering the 3rd Century B.C. to the 3rd Century A.D. 
    • The Ranamandala area of Sannati provides a unique chronological scale from prehistoric to early historic times.TNIE import 2020 4 30 original 1 Sannati stupa ruins
    • An inscription in the Prakrit language, inscribed in the Brahmi script, has been discovered at the site. 
    • Additionally, a stone sculpture depicting Mauryan Emperor Ashoka surrounded by his queens and attendants was unearthed during excavation, with the inscription “Raya Asoko” etched in Brahmi script, clearly identifying the emperor. 
    • The excavation also yielded around 60 dome slabs adorned with sculptural depictions of Jataka stories, significant events in the life of Buddha especially the birth narratives , portraits of Shatavahana monarchs, and unique representations of Buddhist missionaries sent by Ashoka to various regions. 
    • Furthermore, the ancient Nagavi Ghatikasthana, often referred to as the Takshashila of the South by historians, is located approximately 40 km away from Sannati. 
      • This Ghatikasthana served as a significant education hub during the reigns of the Rashtrakuta and Kalyana Chalukya dynasties between the 10th and 12th Centuries, akin to a present-day university.

Phanigiri (Telangana)

  • News: In a significant discovery by Telangana Heritage department, nearly two millennia old coins dating back to the Ishvaku period in Phangiri village were discovered.
  • Latest Excavation Discoveries:  Inside the pot, 3,730 lead coins with elephant symbol on one side and Ujjain symbol on the other side were found. 
    • According to the archaeologists, the coins belong to the Ikshvaku period dated between 3rd century and 4th century Common Era.
    • Besides the coins, stone beads, glass beads, shell bangle fragments, stucco motifs, broken limestone sculptures, a wheel of a toy cart, final nails and pottery were also discovered.
      A hoard of lead coins was found in Phanigiri, Telangana's Suryapet
  • Ishvaku Period: The Ishkvaku, also known as the Andhra Ishkvaku kingdom, is believed to have flourished for a century between the third and fourth centuries in areas of present day Telangana /Andhra.
  • Phanigiri village: It is situated on the left bank of the rivulet Bikkeru, a tributary of the river Musi in Nagaram Mandal, Suryapet District.
      • The village derives its name from the shape of a hillock resembling a snake hood, with a vibrant history dating back to 1000 BCE.
  • Discovery and Excavation:
      • Discovered and protected during the reign of the last Nizam of Hyderabad, the early historic site at Phanigiri was excavated from 1941 to 1944 by Khaja Mahamad Ahmad. 
      • The village is part of a larger zone containing several Buddhist sites such as Vardhamanukota, Gajulabanda, Tirumalagiri, Nagaram, Singaram, Aravapalli, Iyyavaripalli, Arlagaddagudem, and Yeleswaram.
  • Strategic Location and Importance: Phanigiri is strategically situated atop a hill along the ancient trade route (Dakshinapatha) connecting the west and east coasts of the Deccan.
  •  It surpasses other Buddhist monasteries in Andhra Pradesh, including those at Amaravathi and Vijayapuri (Nagarjunakonda).
  • Archaeological Discoveries: Excavations at Phanigiri unveiled numerous significant archaeological findings, including a Mahastupa, apsidal Chaityagrihas, Votive stupas, pillared congregation halls, Viharas, platforms with staircases, octagonal stupa chaitya, 24-pillared mandapa, circular chaitya, and various cultural artifacts such as terracotta beads, semi-precious beads, iron objects, shell bangle pieces, coins, stucco figures, Brahmi label inscriptions, and holy relic caskets.
  • Dating of Artifacts: The artifacts found in and around Phanigiri are datable from the first century BCE to the fourth century CE.

GS Paper 2

  • Symbol Allocation for National Parties 
  • Responsibility of Symbol Allotment: The Election Commission of India (ECI) is responsible for the allotment of symbols to political parties in India. This process is governed by The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  • Types of Symbols: Symbols can be either:
    •  Reserved,
    •  Exclusive to recognized political parties, or 
    • ‘Free’, available for selection by unrecognised registered parties.
  • Allocation of Symbols: Unrecognised registered parties can select from free, non-exclusive symbols, while recognised national and state parties are allotted exclusive symbols.
  • Selection Process: Parties select symbols for their candidates, and the EC publishes lists specifying the parties and their symbols through a notification in the Gazette of India.
    • Unrecognised registered parties are newly registered or have not secured enough percentage of votes in the Assembly or General elections to fulfil the prescribed criteria to become a state party. 
    • After being selected by parties, in subsequent elections, these symbols are declared free again for others to choose.
    • Recognised national and state parties get exclusive symbols. 
    • For instance, when it came to selecting an election symbol for the 1993 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav picked the symbol of a bicycle from the given options, believing it would represent the farmers, the poor, labourers, and the middle class. 
  • Guidelines for Symbol Proposal: Parties can propose new symbols, provided they do not resemble existing reserved or free symbols, have no religious or communal connotations, and do not depict birds or animals.
  • Resolution of Symbol Disputes: In cases of party splits, the Election Commission decides on the allocation of symbols, ensuring a fair and impartial process.
  • For instance, the Congress party, in the first elections of 1952, had a pair of bulls as its symbols. Following splits in the party over the years, the current symbol of hand eventually went to the party.

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)

  • News: A marginal hike in the cost of antibiotics and painkillers has been registered following the latest notification by the drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).
  • National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA): 
  • Establishment and Mandate:
    • NPPA is an organization of the Government of India which was established under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995 in 1997 as an attached office of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals. 
    • Since July 2008, it operates under the Department of Pharmaceuticals. 
  • Aim: To revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country. 
  • Bulk Drug: A bulk drug also called active pharmaceutical ingredient is the chemical molecule in a pharmaceutical product (medicines we buy from the chemist) that lends the product the claimed therapeutic effect.
  • Functions
    • To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), 1995/2013, in accordance with the powers delegated to it.
    • The NPPA undertakes or sponsors relevant studies concerning the pricing of drugs and formulations to ensure transparency and fairness in drug pricing.
    • It is responsible for monitoring the availability of drugs, identifying shortages, and taking remedial steps to ensure uninterrupted access to essential medicines.
    • The NPPA collects and maintains data on various aspects related to the pharmaceutical industry, including production, exports, imports, market share of companies, and profitability of companies for both bulk drugs and formulations.
    • NPPA provides advice to the Central Government on changes or revisions in drug policy, leveraging its expertise to support policy formulation in the pharmaceutical sector.

Right Against Adverse Effects Of Climate Change

  • News:  In a significant ruling, the scope of Articles 14 and 21 has been expanded by the Supreme Court to include the “right against the adverse effects of climate change”.
  • The  Supreme Court Bench  emphasised on the following provisions to show that   Constitution recognises the importance of the natural world:
      • Article 48A of the Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. 
      • Clause (g) of Article 51A stipulates that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. 
      • Article 21 recognises the right to life and personal liberty while Article 14 indicates that all persons shall have equality before law and the equal protection of laws.
      • Violation of Rights: The right to health (which is a part of the right to life under Article 21) is impacted due to air pollution, shifts in vector-borne diseases, rising temperatures, droughts, shortages in food supplies due to crop failure, storms and flooding. 
        • The inability of underserved communities to adapt to climate change or cope with its effects violates the right to life (Article 21) as well as the right to equality (Article 14).

GS Paper 3

Nimmu-Padum- Darcha Road

  • News:  Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has inaugurated the Nimmu-Padam-Darcha road in Ladakh, offering a strategic new shortcut linking Manali to Leh.
  • Introduction to Nimmu-Padam-Darcha Road: This road, serving as the third axis alongside the Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh routes, holds strategic importance in the region.
  • Strategic Significance: 
    • The 298-km road will connect Manali to Leh through Darcha and Nimmu on the Kargil–Leh highway.
    • This  road  is not only shorter vis-a-vis the other two axis, but crosses only one pass; Shinkun La (at 16,558 feet) on which tunnel work is about to be commenced by the BRO. 
    • This will result in the road having all weather connectivity to the Ladakh region. The connectivity will strengthen the defence preparedness and provide a boost to the economic development in the Zanskar valley.
    • This initiative marks the first all-weather road connection between Ladakh and the rest of India, addressing logistics challenges during Ladakh’s harsh winters.


  • News: Planetary scientists from Brown University have found that the Kuiper Belt object  Arrokoth may have ancient ices stored deep within it from when the object first formed billions of years ago.
  •  Kuiper Belt:  
    • The Kuiper Belt is a doughnut-shaped region of icy bodies extending far beyond the orbit of Neptune. 
    • The Kuiper Belt has thousands of similar icy bodies. It is known as the third zone of the solar system, after the zone hosting the gas planets in our solar system.
      • There are millions of these icy objects, collectively referred to as Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) or trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), in this belt.
    • The Kuiper Belt consists of  Pluto and most of the known dwarf planets and some comets.
  • Arrokoth
    • Arrokoth is located in the Kuiper belt and translates to “sky,” a term from the language of the Native American Powhatan tribes.
    • The small Kuiper Belt object officially known as Arrokoth is the most distant and most primitive object ever explored by a spacecraft.
    • It was discovered in 2014 using the Hubble Space Telescope. 
    • Arrokoth is a double-lobed object and resembles a snowman. 
    • It is believed it may have ancient ‘gaseous ice’ stored deep within it from when the object first formed billions of years ago.

Plankton Crash

  • News: The red color of Promenade beach in Puducherry  has been attributed to a decline in the population of microorganisms, known as a plankton crash, rather than the discharge of dye from industries nearby, as informed by an expert panel to the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
  • Plankton: An organism is considered plankton if it is carried by tides and currents, and cannot swim well enough to move against these forces. 
  • Importance: Planktons are incredibly important to the ocean ecosystem, and very sensitive to changes in their environment, including in the temperature, salinity, pH level, and nutrient concentration of the water. 

IMG Red Tide Puducherry 2 1 00BT1JFU

  • Plankton Crash: 
    • A plankton crash can occur in a pond when there is a lack of nutrients or carbon dioxide
    • This can cause a dramatic decline in the bloom, leaving very little viable plankton in the water.
    • Dead plankton can cause large amounts of stable foam on the surface of the pond.
    • Plankton crashes can be caused by blue green algae or dinoflagellates.
    • When in large numbers, some plankton turns red and releases colored pigments from their cells.

Agni-Prime Missile 

  • News:  New generation ballistic missile Agni-Prime has been successfully flight-tested by  the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). 
  • Features
    • The ‘Agni Prime’ or ‘Agni-P’ is a nuclear-capable new-generation advanced variant of the Agni class of missiles. 
    • It is a two-stage canisterised missile with a maximum range of 1,000 to 2,000 km.
      • Since the missile is canisterised, it can be transported by road and rail and stored for longer periods, significantly reducing the time required for preparation and launch. 
      • The missile uses a cold launch mechanism and can be fired in salvo mode.
  • It is lighter than all the earlier Agni series of missiles. It weighs at least 50% less than the Agni 3 missile and has new guidance and propulsion systems.

PRATUSH Telescope

  • News:  Astronomers are excited to establish a new window on the universe by deploying high-resolution telescopes on the moon and in orbit around it. Indian scientists plan to deploy the radio telescope PRATUSH on the moon’s far side. 
  • Why Are Astronomers Looking Forward To Opening Telescopes On The Moon?
      • Radio telescopes deployed into orbit around Earth increase the problem of receiving radio noise from all around the world, as well as signals from space.
      • The moon’s far side provides pure, airless conditions perfect for optical telescopes, resulting in crystal-clear visibility during the two-week lunar night. 
  • Global Initiatives to Install Telescope on the Moon:
    • LuSEE Night: Global initiatives include NASA’s LuSEE Night Project, which aims to install a telescope on the moon.
      •  LuSEE Night, a joint NASA-Berkeley Lab project set to launch in December 2025, proposes to investigate the Dark Ages by landing on the moon’s far side while insulated from Earth’s radio frequency disturbance.
    • ESA’s programmes: By 2030, ESA plans to launch a radio telescope to the moon’s far side atop its lunar lander, ‘Argonaut’, as well as other programmes focusing on gravitational wave detection and infrared observations.
    • China’s Initiatives: China is also actively interested in lunar exploration, with plans to launch a moon-orbiting radio telescope in 2026 and to use the Queqiao-2 satellite, which has a radio telescope payload, as a communications relay between Earth and future missions. 
  • Indian Initiative:
    • PRATUSH: Indian scientists intend to put the PRATUSH radio telescope on the moon’s far side, which was created by the Raman Research Institute (RRI) in partnership with the Indian Space Research Organisation. 
    • Deployment Process: ISRO will first place PRATUSH in orbit around Earth, then fine-tune it before launching it to the moon. 
        • Operating in Earth orbit will provide benefits such as free space operation and lower ionosphere influence over ground-based investigations.
    • Observational Advantages: PRATUSH in lunar orbit will have optimal observation circumstances, operating in open space with little radio frequency interference (RFI) and no ionosphere, which is critical for investigating the signal from the Dark Ages.
    • Instrument: PRATUSH will have a wideband frequency-independent antenna, a self-calibrating analogue receiver, and a digital correlator to detect radio noise in the signal from the Dark Ages. 
  • Importance: 
    • PRATUSH is a future radiometer in lunar orbit that will reveal the Cosmic Dawn of our Universe. 
      • The period when the first sources of radiation (such as stars and galaxies) first formed is appropriately called the ‘Cosmic Dawn’
    • PRATUSH will answer the question of when the first stars formed in our universe, the nature of the first stars, and what was the light from the first stars.
    • PRATUSH will be the pioneering space telescope that will reveal, for the first time, the history of our infant Universe as it transformed after the Big Bang – from cold gas into stars and galaxies and the universe as we know it today. 
    • PRATUSH will inform us of the first rays of the first suns in the infant universe.

Facts for Prelims

Parivartan Chintan

  • News:  The Ministry of Defence recently held the first tri-service conference ‘Parivartan Chintan’.

Parivartan Chintan

  • ‘Parivartan Chintan’:  The first-ever tri-service armed forces planning conference called’ Parivartan Chintan’ was held in New Delhi on 8 April 2024. It was chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan.
  • Aim of the Conference: Parivartan Chintan is a pioneering tri-service conference that is aimed at generating new and fresh ideas, initiatives and reforms to propel jointness and integration efforts
  • Participants:  Led by Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, the ‘Chintan’ saw the participation of heads of all tri-service institutions, including the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), and representatives from the three services. 

Smart AI Resource Assistant for Health (SARAH)

  • News: The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced the launch of S.A.R.A.H. ahead of World Health Day. 
  • S.A.R.A.H: It is a revolutionary digital health promoter prototype, which is centered around the theme ‘My Health, My Right’. 
    • S.A.R.A.H. stands for Smart AI Resource Assistant for Health and represents a significant advancement in AI-powered health information avatars.
    • S.A.R.A.H. is equipped with enhanced empathetic response capabilities powered by generative artificial intelligence (AI). 
    • It can engage users round the clock in 8 languages, covering a wide range of health topics, accessible across various devices.
    • S.A.R.A.H. will provide information on various health topics, including healthy habits, mental health, and risk factors associated with leading causes of death such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. 
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