UPSC Daily News: Rajya Sabha, Viruses, Tigers & More

GS Paper 2

Rules and Features Peculiar to the Rajya Sabha Elections

Context: The recent elections to the Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh were marked by cross-voting in all the three States.


Cross-voting in Rajya Sabha Elections
  • Whips are not issued for the Rajya Sabha elections. The absence of a whip and the appeal for a “conscience vote” makes it easy for MLAs to avoid any action under the anti-defection law, or the 10th Schedule, even if they take part in cross-voting.
  • According to P.D.T Achary, an expert on legislative affairs and former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, a party cannot act against any MLA under the 10th Schedule as a whip cannot be issued for voting in the Rajya Sabha elections.
  • This voting is not inside the House but one that is conducted by the Election Commission. There cannot be a whip and the law is well settled here. However, there is another ground in which the 10th Schedule (anti-defection law) can be applied and that is if a member voluntary gives up the membership of a party.
  • He said that if an MLA has acted against the interest of his own party or government, then the Speaker can interpret it as “voluntary giving up membership”.
  • According to him, the MLA doesn’t have to resign. His conduct or action matters and the Speaker can interpret these actions.
  • There are also several other features that distinguish elections to the Council of States, or the Upper House of Parliament, from the general elections.
What is Peculiar to the Rajya Sabha Polls as far as the Electorate is Concerned?
  • Only elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies can vote in a Rajya Sabha election
  • The legislators send a batch of new members to the Upper House every two years for a six-year term. 
  • A third of Members of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha (which is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution), from each State retire once in two years and polls are held to fill up the vacancies. 
  • In addition, vacancies that arise due to resignation, death or disqualification are filled up through bypolls after which those elected serve out the remainder of their predecessors’ term.
  • Voting is done by single transferable vote, as the election is held on the principle of proportional representation. 
  • In other words, a bloc of MPs belonging to one or more parties can elect a member of their choice if they have the requisite numbers. 
  • This is to avoid the principle of majority, which would mean that only candidates put up by ruling parties in the respective States will be elected.
  • A single transferable vote means electors can vote for any number of candidates in order of their preference. 
  • The Delhi and Puducherry Assemblies elect members to the Rajya Sabha to represent the two Union Territories.

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When are the Elections Held?
    • Polling for a Rajya Sabha election will be held only if the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies. 
    • Since the strength of each party in the Assembly is known, it is not difficult to estimate the number of seats a party would win in the Rajya Sabha poll. 
    • Candidates fielded by political parties have to be proposed by at least 10 members of the Assembly or 10% of the party’s strength in the House, whichever is less. 
    • For independents, there should be 10 proposers, all of whom should be members of the Assembly.
    • To qualify, a candidate needs one point more than the quotient obtained by dividing the MLAs voting to the total value of the number of seats for which elections are taking place plus one. 
    • For instance, if there are four seats and 180 MLAs voting, the qualifying number will be 180/5= 36 votes or a value of 3,600. 
Why is there no Secret Ballot in the Rajya Sabha Elections?
  • The Rajya Sabha polls have a system of open ballot, but it is a limited form of openness. 
  • As a measure to check rampant cross-voting, which was taken to mean that the vote had been purchased by corrupt means, the system of each party MLA showing his or her marked ballots to the party’s authorised agent, before they are put into the ballot box, has been introduced. 
  • Showing a marked ballot to anyone other than one’s own party’s authorised agent will render the vote invalid. 
  • Not showing the ballot to the authorised agent will also mean that the vote cannot be counted. 
  • And independent candidates are barred from showing their ballots to anyone.
Why does not ‘None of the Above’, or NOTA, apply to the Rajya Sabha polls?
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) had given Rajya Sabha members the option to press the NOTA button in the Upper House polls. 
  • However, in 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down the provision, holding that the ‘none of the above’ option is only for general elections held on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and cannot be applied to indirect elections based on proportional representation.
Can a Legislator Vote Without Taking Oath as a Member of the Assembly?
  • While taking oath as a member is for anyone to function as a legislator, the Supreme Court has ruled that a member can vote in a Rajya Sabha election even before taking oath as legislator. 
  • It ruled that voting at the Rajya Sabha polls, being a non-legislative activity, can be performed without taking oath. 
  • A person becomes a member as soon as the list of elected members is notified by the ECI, it said. 
  • Further, a member can also propose a candidate before taking oath.
Historical Underpinnings
  • After 68 years, it is instructive to revisit the debates on the need for a Council of States and its performance since then.
  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral with a Council of States comprising 60 members and a Legislative Assembly comprising 145 members. 
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were so restrictive that only wealthy land owners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it. Women could neither vote nor seek membership. 
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised. 
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.
Need of the Rajya Sabha
  • Even though the Rajya Sabha has been given less powers as compared with the Lok Sabha, its utility is supported on the following grounds: 
  • It checks hasty, defective, careless and ill-considered legislation made by the Lok Sabha by making provision of revision and thought. 
  • It facilitates giving representation to eminent professionals and experts who cannot face the direct election. The President nominates 12 such persons to the Rajya Sabha. 
  • It maintains the federal equilibrium by protecting the interests of the states against the undue interference of the Centre. 

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GS Paper 3

Viruses Vs Viroids Vs Obelisks

Context: When analysing genetic material from bacteria present in the human gut, the scientists identified a new form of life lying between viruses and viroids on the scale of simplicity. 

Dubbed “obelisks,” these tiny rings of RNA can fold into a structure that looks more like a rod, hence the name. 


Basics: DNA Vs RNA
  • Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) are complex molecular structures that control all hereditary characteristics of cells and thus of organisms.
  • RNA is similar to DNA but DNA is structured as a double helix, with two strands of DNA winding around each other, while RNA is structured as a single strand. RNA typically conveys messages from DNA that instruct the body to make proteins.
Viruses Vs Viroids
  • Viruses’ life cycle is simple: they infect a host cell, use the cell’s machinery to make more copies of themselves, then infect a new cell to repeat the cycle. 
  • Each virion (the active, infectious form of a virus outside the host cell) is composed of a nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) core that serves as the genetic material, surrounded by a protein coat, and, in some cases, a lipid (fat) layer outside that coat. 
  • Viroids are pathogens that don’t contain the lipid layer or the protein coat found in viruses. They appeared to be just plain, naked RNA. 
  • This RNA would enter a cell as RNA, force the cell to make more copies of itself, and the new RNAs would then infect other cells. 
  • Usually, genetic material contains a code that tells cells how to make various proteins. This is true of all known organisms, including viruses. 
  • But the RNA of viroids don’t code for any protein. For the most part, they were just small pieces of RNA that served no function apart from propagating themselves. This makes them some of the simplest self-replicating collections of genetic material on the planet.
  • Besides, the viroid RNA is tiny (250-400 base pairs versus a few thousand in RNA viruses). 
  • Like viruses, viroids need a host to replicate, and they can infect and cause disease in eukaryotes, organisms with cells that have nuclei. Specifically, they have been documented extensively in flowering plants, as well as in a few fungi and animals.
  • Though Obelisks bear some resemblance to viroids, they differ is in their shape and structure. Obelisks are rolled into a rod shape instead of remaining a flat circle, and their RNA sequences don’t match any known viroid sequences. 
  • They are also the first viroidlike elements to be detected in bacterial cells, rather than in more complex organisms.
  • The obelisk RNA is much longer — around a thousand base pairs — and appeared to code for two proteins, neither of which bore any similarity to any known protein from any other life form.

Pseudo-Melanistic Tigers and the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)

Context: Concerned over the sizeable number of pseudo-melanistic tigers in its Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), largely due to inbreeding, the Odisha government has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to consider introducing female tigers from other landscapes to the reserve.

According to the All Odisha Tiger Estimation (AOTE 2023-24) report, a total of 13 adult tigers (seven females and six males) were found to be pseudo-melanistic in Similipal. No other wild habitat in the world has pseudo-melanistic tigers.


Pseudo-melanism in Tigers
  • Black Tigers (melanistic tigers) having distinctive dark stripe patterns are Bengal tigers with a gene mutation and are only found in Odisha’s Similipal Tiger Reserve.
  • Usually, tigers have a distinctive dark stripe pattern on a light background of white or golden. Black Tigers, on the other hand, have a rare pattern variant, distinguished by stripes that are broadened and fused together, and this pattern is observed in both wild and captive populations. 
  • This is known as pseudo-melanism, which is different from true melanism, a condition characterised by unusually high deposition of melanin, a dark pigment.
  • The recent study highlighted that a single genetic mutation caused the black stripes in these tigers to broaden or spread. 
  • Simlipal’s small and isolated tiger population led to inbreeding and the anomalous phenotype characterised by wide, merged stripes.
Similipal Tiger Reserve
  • Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (Silk Cotton) tree, is a national park and a Tiger Reserve situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. 
  • The tiger reserve has some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani. 
  • The park is surrounded by high plateaus and hills, the highest peak being the twin peaks of Khairiburu and Meghashini
  • At least twelve rivers cut across the plain area, all of which drain into the Bay of Bengal. The prominent among them are Burhabalanga, Palpala Bandan, Salandi, Kahairi and Deo.
  • UNESCO added this National Park to its list of Biosphere Reserves in May 2009. 

National Science Day and other important National Days

Context: The 2024 theme for National Science Day, which India celebrates every year on February 28, is “Science for Sustainable Development”. 


  • National Science Day is celebrated every year on 28th February to commemorate the announcement of the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’ by Sir C.V. Raman in 1928 for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 (Asia’s first Nobel in the Sciences). 
  • It was also the first Nobel in Physics for a non-white person, and for an Indian scientist.
  • National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC), Department of Science and Technology (DST) acts as a nodal agency to support, catalyze and coordinate the celebration of the National Science Day.
  • DST also instituted National Awards for Science Popularization in 1987 to stimulate, encourage and recognize outstanding efforts in the area of science and technology communication and popularization as well as inculcating scientific temper among masses. 
  • These awards are presented every year on National Science Day.
The Raman Effect
  • In 1921, C.V. Raman was on a trip to Europe when he noticed the striking blue colour of some icebergs and the Mediterranean Sea. He was inspired to want to understand the reason behind the phenomenon. 
  • The Raman Effect is the process of scattering of light particles by molecules of a medium. 
  • Scattering of light is the phenomenon in which light rays get deviated from its straight path on striking an obstacle like dust or gas molecules, water vapours etc. 
  • The scattering occurs due to a change in the wavelength of light as it enters the medium. 
  • When a beam of light travels through a dust-free, transparent chemical, a small fraction of the light emerges in directions other than where it should. 
  • This means that light refracted from a body, like the Mediterranean Sea or an iceberg, can appear to be of a different colour. 
  • This gave birth to the field of Raman spectroscopy, which has extensive applications around the globe, and across fields. 
Applications of the ‘Raman Effect’
  • It can help in determining chemical bonding structures, characterise materials, determine temperature, find out crystalline orientation, identify pharmaceutical chemicals, discover counterfeit drugs, identify pigments in old paintings and historical documents, and detect explosives using lasers from a distance.
Scientific Temper and the Indian Constitution 
  • The phrase scientific temper is mentioned in Part IVA in Article 51A of Indian Constitution under Fundamental Duties (FDs). 
  • FDs were added by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1976 on the recommendation of Swaran Singh Committee.
  • Article 51A(h), “It shall be the duty of every citizen … to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.”
  • Jawaharlal Nehru coined the term ‘scientific temper’; he defines it as an attitude of logical and rational thinking. 
  • In 1976, the Government of India reemphasised its commitment to cultivate scientific temper through a constitutional amendment (Article 51A), and setup a nodal agency called the National Council of Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC). 
  • The National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) is mandated to communicate Science and Technology to masses, stimulate scientific and technological temper and coordinate and orchestrate such efforts throughout the country. 
  • National Children’s Science Congress is an opportunity for brilliant young scientists (10 -17 years of age group), started since 1993 to popularize the method of science. 
UNESCO Kalinga Prize 
  • The UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is an award given by UNESCO for exceptional skill in presenting scientific ideas to lay people. 

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Other important National Days

i) National Statistics Day 
  • It is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Prof. P C Mahalanobis, on 29th June, in recognition of his invaluable contribution in establishing the National Statistical System. 
  • In 1931 he founded the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. In the next two decades he founded the National Sample Survey (1950) and the Central Statistical Organization (1951) to serve as statistical agencies for government data collection. 
ii) National Education Day 
  • The National Education Day (Rashtriya Shiksha Diwas, November 11) is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of India’s First Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
iii) National Good Governance Day
  • Good Governance Day is observed annually on December 25. 
  • The day is also celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of India’s former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
iv) National Teachers’ Day
  • In India, the Teachers’ Day is celebrated on 5th September every year, which is also the birthday of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first Vice-President of independent India and the second President of the country. 
  • The World Teachers’ Day is celebrated on October 5. 
v) National Unity Day
  • National Unity Day is celebrated on October 31 across the country to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and to recognise the contributions of the first Union Home Minister, who laid the firm foundations of the Indian police and gave it its identity, character and direction. 
vi) National Technology Day 
  • The day, which is observed on May 11 every year, aims to commemorate the scientific and technological achievements of Indian scientists and engineers. 
  • Former Indian PM Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee coined this term to celebrate the contributions made by Indian scientists.
  • Every year since 1999, the Technology Development Board (TBD) celebrates this day by awarding individuals for their scientific contributions to India.

Belgium leads the EU in becoming first to recognise ‘Ecocide’ as crime

Context: Tiny Belgium, the seat of the European Union (EU), has become the first in the European Continent to recognise ‘ecocide’ as a national as well as an international crime.


  • Ecocide is the widespread and long-term environmental damage that is wilfully caused by humans and harms humans, animals and plant species. 
  • Biologist Arthur Galston in 1970 is credited be the first to link environmental destruction with genocide, which is recognised as an international crime, when referring to the U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange (a herbicide) during the Vietnam War. 
  • Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, two years later, used the term in a speech at the United Nations. He is warning that unchecked industrialisation could cause irreversible damage to the environment. 
  • At present, the Rome Statute of the United Nations’ International Criminal Court (ICC) deals with four atrocities. It’s genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. 
  • The provision on war crimes is the only statute that can hold a perpetrator responsible for environmental damage. Albeit if it is intentionally caused and during wartime situations. 

Facts for Prelims

Astronaut-Designates for the Gaganyaan Mission

  • India has announced the names of the four astronaut-designates for the Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission, planned for launch in 2025.
  • These are the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots. – Group Captain Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla — were revealed.
  • Shortlisted through a rigorous selection process, they have been undergoing training in various aspects of space flight, initially in Russia, and later at the Astronaut Training Facility established by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bengaluru.
  • The Gaganyaan programme is designed to demonstrate indigenous capability to undertake human space flight mission to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Trisonic Wind Tunnel 

  • The Trisonic Wind Tunnel produces a controlled uniform airflow over scale models of rockets and aircraft to assess their aerodynamic characteristics. 
  • It is designed to make the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)  self-reliant in the end-to-end design of upcoming launch vehicle projects. 

PANGEA Project 

  • The PANGEA project aims to mobilise experts globally to understand the workings of tropical forests comprehensively.
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