UPSC Current Affairs: Lakes, Elections, & Defense & More

GS Paper 1

Nana Jagannath Shankarseth

News: The Maharashtra Cabinet recently resolved to request the Ministry of Railways for the renaming of Mumbai Central station to honor Nana Jagannath Shankarseth.

Nana Jagannath Shankarseth:

      • He was born on February 10th , 1803 in a wealthy Brahmin family in Murbad in Thane district. 
      • He was a social reformer, educationist, and philanthropist.
      • He is often described as the “architect” of Mumbai (then Bombay).
      • He made extremely valuable contributions in terms of both ideas and money to multiple sectors, to lay a strong foundation for the city.

Key Contributions

      • Inspired by: He drew inspiration from the renowned merchant and philanthropist Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy.
      • Education: Shankarseth was deeply committed to advancing education in Bombay and donated land owned by his family for educational institutions. 
        • He firmly believed in the transformative power of education and advocated for the education of girls and women.
        • Shankarseth established the Native School of Bombay, later known as the Bombay Native Institution and subsequently as the Board of Education, which eventually evolved into the esteemed Elphinstone College.
        • He played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for medical education in Bombay, proposing the establishment of a medical college named after the late Governor Sir Robert Grant.
        •  This proposal materialized into the renowned Grant Medical College in Mumbai, one of South Asia’s oldest medical institutions.
      • Philanthropic Endeavors: A prominent benefactor, Shankarseth contributed to the promotion of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla, collaborating with distinguished architects for its design. 
        • He also commemorated his late mother, Bhawanibai Murkute, by funding the construction of the Bhawani Shankar Temple near Nana Chowk and a Ram temple.
      • Contribution to Railways:
        • Nana Jagannath Shankarseth played a crucial role as part of the committee that led the pioneering project for the first train journey between Boribunder and Thane on April 16, 1853. 
        • This historic endeavor, spanning 34 kilometers, was undertaken by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company, marking a significant milestone in the development of India’s railway network. 
      • First Indian in the Legislative Council: Shankarseth achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first Indian to be nominated to the Legislative Council of Bombay.
        • His nomination to this influential position marked a pivotal moment in Indian representation in governance during the colonial era.
      • Cross-Cultural Goodwill: Shankarseth’s efforts to bridge communities and foster cross-cultural understanding earned him widespread goodwill.
        • His ability to cultivate positive relationships with both Indian and British communities contributed to his effectiveness as a leader and advocate for social change.

Pandavula Gutta 

News: Pandavula Gutta designated exclusive Geo-heritage site in Telangana.

Historical Significance:

      • Pandavula Konda (Pandavula Gutta) site was first discovered in the year 1990.
      • Pandavula Gutta, located in the Jayashankar Bhupalpally District of Telangana, has been officially recognized as the sole Geo-heritage site in the state.
      • This ancient geological marvel predates the Himalayas and offers a glimpse into the region’s rich history.

Ancient Rock Paintings:

    • Paleolithic cave paintings have been found at Pandavula Gutta (Regonda mandal).
    • The site is renowned for its ancient rock paintings, which are adorned with a variety of colors including green, red, yellow, and white.
    • These paintings depict a range of symbols such as swastikas, circles, squares, as well as various animals like bison, antelope, tiger, and leopard.

Geo-Heritage Site:

  • Geo-heritage is a generic but descriptive term applied to sites or areas of geologic features with significant scientific, educational, cultural, or aesthetic value. 
    • Geological Survey of India (GSI) declares geo-heritage sites/ national geological monuments for protection and maintenance. 

Lamphelpat Lake

  • News: In a developmental effort, Lamphelpat Lake is now undergoing a remarkable revival.
  • Location and Setting: The natural lake in Manipur is situated in the foothills of the Langol hill range.
  • Reservoir Function: It functions as a reservoir, storing excess water from the Luwangli and Nambul rivers.
  • Mini Loktak Lake: The lake is often referred to as a mini Loktak lake, playing a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem of Imphal and its surrounding areas.

See also: UCPMP, Vocal for Local, UCC, Climate Change, and More

GS Paper 2

National Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Snakebite Envenoming

  • News: The Central Government has launched National Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Snakebite Envenoming (NAP-SE) in India.
  • Aim: To reduce snakebite deaths by 50% by 2030, employing a ‘One Health’ Approach.
  • Addressing Snakebite Envenoming: Snakebite envenoming is a significant public health concern in India, resulting in approximately 50,000 deaths annually.
  • Components of the Plan:
      • Awareness Initiatives: The plan encompasses the development and dissemination of Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials including booklets, posters, and videos to raise awareness about snakebites.
      • Implementation of Helplines: In five pilot states, the plan includes the introduction of Snakebite Helplines to provide assistance and guidance in cases of snakebite emergencies.
      • Integration with One Health Programme: The NAP-SE will be integrated into the National One Health Programme for Zoonoses, utilizing the Integrated Health Initiative Platform for effective implementation.
      • Enhancing Anti-venom Availability: One of the key strategic actions involves strengthening the availability of anti-venom at all health facilities to ensure prompt treatment for snakebite victims.
      • Surveillance and Emergency Care: The plan emphasizes the importance of surveillance, emergency care, and inter-sectoral coordination to improve the response to snakebite incidents.
      • State-specific Action Plans: States are encouraged to develop tailored action plans suited to their unique needs, with designated nodal officers assigned for coordination and monitoring purposes.
      • Comprehensive Approach: The NAP-SE aims to mitigate mortality and complications arising from snakebites by adopting a comprehensive approach that involves healthcare, wildlife, tribal, and animal health sectors.

Electoral Bonds Scheme

  • News: The Supreme Court of India has turned down the State Bank of India’s (SBI) request seeking an extension of time to disclose details of the Electoral Bonds Scheme.
  • Electoral Bonds: Electoral bonds were first announced during the Union Budget session in 2017 as a means to facilitate political donations in India.
    • Bearer Instruments with Anonymity: Electoral bonds are interest-free bearer instruments, similar to promissory notes, allowing for anonymous donations to political parties.
    • Purchase and Encashment Process: Indian citizens or entities incorporated in India can purchase electoral bonds in denominations ranging from Rs1,000 to Rs1 crore from authorized SBI branches, following KYC norms.
      • Upon receiving the bonds, political parties have a window of 15 days to encash them and utilize the funds for electoral expenses.
    • Limited Availability and Purchase Periods: Electoral bonds are not available for purchase throughout the year but can only be bought during 10-day windows in the months of January, April, July, and October.
  • Restricted Usage and Eligible Recipients: Electoral bonds can only be used to donate to political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, which secured at least 1% of the votes polled in the last election to the House of the People or a Legislative Assembly.
    • Section 29A of the RPA deals with the registration of associations and bodies as political parties with the Election Commission. 
  • Problems with the Scheme
    • Constitutional Concerns: The Electoral Bonds scheme faced scrutiny from the Supreme Court, which deemed it unconstitutional due to its opacity and lack of transparency.
    • Magnitude of Political Funding: A staggering amount of ₹12,679 crore in bonds were purchased, with a significant portion of ₹12,155 crore utilized by political parties, underscoring the immense scale of political funding involved.
    • Beneficiary Bias Towards Dominant Party: The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the primary beneficiary, receiving over ₹6,000 crore.
    • Opaque Donor Identities: Most donors remain undisclosed private entities, such as Future Gaming and Hotel Services Pvt Ltd, casting doubt on the transparency of donor identities and intentions.
    • Financial Irregularities: Instances of companies donating beyond their financial means, such as a firm contributing ₹90 crore despite having net profits under ₹250 crore, raise concerns about the integrity and motivations behind such donations.
    • Challenges to Political Integrity: The exorbitant funds required for election campaigns pose significant barriers to ordinary citizens’ participation in politics, prompting questions about the fairness and inclusivity of the political landscape.
    • Violates the right to information: This scheme hides the source of funding of political parties from the public, which is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a). 
    • The scheme also enables black money, foreign funding, and corporate influence in politics, which harm the public interest and the sovereignty of the nation. 
  • Way Forward:
    • Introduction of Transparency Guidelines: Clear guidelines should be established for disclosing donor identities and donation amounts to address the criticism of opacity raised by the Supreme Court.
    • Scrutiny of Donor Backgrounds: Donors, particularly private, unlisted companies like Future Gaming and Hotel Services Pvt Ltd, should be closely monitored to understand their financial capacities and underlying motives for donations.
    • Promotion of Fair Political Funding: Efforts should be made to rectify the imbalance in political funding, as evidenced by the disproportionately large amount of ₹6,000 crore received by the Bharatiya Janata Party, aiming for more equitable distribution among all political parties.
    • Investigation of Quid Pro Quo Allegations: Allegations of potential quid pro quo arrangements should be thoroughly investigated to uphold political integrity and prevent undue influence on political decision-making processes.
    • Reformation of Election Spending Practices: Reforms should be implemented to overhaul how campaign funds are spent, advocating for legal and ethical practices to promote transparency and integrity in electoral processes.
    • Question for Consideration: Evaluate the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Electoral Bonds scheme concerning political transparency and election integrity in India.

DIANA (Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic) Initiative

  • News: Latest NATO expansion includes massive increase in DIANA innovation accelerator sites.
  • Purpose and Scope:
      • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has greenlit a proposal to establish an accelerator and two test centers in Finland.
      • These facilities are designated to identify and expedite dual-use innovation capacity across the Alliance.
  • Objectives:
      • The initiative aims to equip companies with the necessary resources, networks, and guidance to advance deep technologies.
      • Its primary focus is on addressing critical defense and security challenges, ranging from operating in denied environments to addressing threats impacting collective resilience.[
  • Membership and Collaboration:
    • All NATO member nations are participants in the initiative known as DIANA (Dual-use Innovation and Acceleration).
    • Through DIANA, NATO nations collaborate to enhance innovation capabilities and address pressing defense and security concerns.

GS Paper 3

Miassite (Rh17S15)

  • News: Researchers have identified the first unconventional superconductor with a chemical composition also found in nature – miassite.
  • Rare Mineral Discovery: Miassite stands out as one of the rare minerals found in nature that exhibits superconducting properties when grown in laboratory conditions.
  • Unconventional Superconductor: Miassite is classified as an unconventional superconductor, sharing similarities with high-temperature superconductors despite its distinct properties.
    • Superconductivity refers to the ability of a material to conduct electricity without any energy loss, making it highly efficient for various applications.

UPSC Mains: SEBI-Mandated Stress Tests: UPSC Exam Prep

Facts for Prelims

World Monuments Fund

  • News: Conservationists to propose Kazhuveli watershed region in T.N. for nomination to World Monuments Fund Watch 2025. 
  • World Monuments Fund:
      • It is a leading independent organization dedicated to safeguarding the world’s most cherished places.
      • Aims to enrich people’s lives and foster mutual understanding across cultures and communities.
  • Organization Headquarters and Affiliates: Headquartered in New York City.
      • Offices and affiliates located in Cambodia, France, India, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.
  • Global Preservation Efforts: Since 1965, WMF’s global team of experts has preserved cultural heritage at over 700 sites in 112 countries.
  • Addressing Contemporary Challenges:
      • WMF collaborates with local communities, funders, and governments to address contemporary challenges.
      • Focus areas include climate change, underrepresentation, imbalanced tourism, and post-crisis recovery.
  • Partnerships and Community Engagement:
      • Works closely with local communities to ensure sustainable preservation efforts.
      • Collaborates with funders and governments to leverage resources for heritage conservation.
      • Harnessing Heritage for Resilience:
      • WMF recognizes the potential of the past to create a more resilient and inclusive society.
      • Commits to preserving cultural heritage to benefit present and future generations.
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