4 May | Exploring UPSC Current Affairs: Raja Ravi Varma, Middle Powers, Antarctic Treaty, and More

GS Paper 1

Raja Ravi Varma

Early Life and Background:

  • Raja Ravi Varma was born into an aristocratic family in Kerala in 1848.
  • His upbringing in Kerala during the era of British colonial rule influenced his artistic journey.

Artistic Style and Contribution:

  • He is widely hailed as the “father of Modern Painting” in India.
  • Varma gained renown for his distinctive style, which combined European realism with traditional Indian themes, particularly Hindu gods and goddesses.

Artistic Style and Contribution (1)

Innovations in Technique:

  • Varma was the first Indian artist to utilize oil paints, which were introduced to India by the British.
  • Additionally, he pioneered the use of lithographic prints, democratizing access to art by making it more widely available to the public.

Notable Works:

  • Among his most famous paintings are “Lady in the Moonlight,” “Stolen Interview,” “Shakuntala,” and “Damayanti,” each showcasing his mastery of storytelling and visual artistry.

Recognition and Awards:

  • He received patronage from numerous other rulers, including the Maharaja of Mysore and Maharaja of Udaipur.
  • Varma’s talent garnered international acclaim, notably winning the first prize at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873 for his painting “Hamsa Damayanti,” based on a story from the Mahabharata.
  • He was also awarded three gold medals at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
  • In 1904, Viceroy Lord Curzon, on behalf of the King Emperor, bestowed upon Raja Ravi Varma the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal.
      • At this time, his name was mentioned as “Raja Ravi Varma” for the first time.

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GS Paper 2

Middle Powers

News: The proliferation of “middle powers” will provide the driving force in shaping the 21st-century geopolitical order.

Great Powers: Are countries with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council which exert economic, political and military dominance over the world.

  • Example: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Middle Powers: Are those countries that rank below these great powers but still exert influence over global politics. Examples:

  • Global North Countries: Australia, Canada and South Korea
  • Global South Nations: Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia.

Antarctic Treaty

News: The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India will host the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM 46) in Kochi, Kerala.

Signing and Entry into Force: The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 and became enforceable in 1961.

Geographical Coverage: The treaty governs activities in the region situated south of the 60°S latitude.

Membership: The treaty has 56 member parties, including India, which joined in 1983.

  • Consultative Status: Among the members, 29, including India, hold “consultative” status, entitling them to voting rights within the treaty framework.

Legislation and Commitment:

  • Indian Antarctic Act: India reinforced its commitment to the Antarctic Treaty by enacting the Indian Antarctic Act in 2022.

Objectives and Goals:

  • Demilitarization and Peaceful Use: The key objectives of the treaty are to demilitarize Antarctica and ensure its peaceful use, including prohibiting nuclear tests and radioactive waste disposal.
  • Scientific Cooperation: Another goal is to foster international scientific collaboration in Antarctica, promoting research and knowledge-sharing initiatives.
  • Territorial Sovereignty Neutrality: The treaty aims to neutralize territorial sovereignty disputes by restricting new territorial claims or the expansion of existing ones, fostering cooperation over territorial matters.

Headquarters Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina.

GS Paper 3

Hangor Class  Submarine

News: The inaugural Hangor class submarine constructed by China for Pakistan was recently launched from a shipyard in Wuhan.

Overview: The Hangor class submarine is a diesel-electric attack submarine designed for naval operations.

  • “Diesel-electric” refers to the mode of propulsion.
  • Diesel engines power the submarine when surfaced or snorkelling (as they need air to operate), while a battery, charged by the diesel engine, allows the vessel to operate while submerged.


  • The Hangor-class is an export variant of the Chinese Type 039A Yuan class.
  • It is named after the now decommissioned PNS Hangor, which famously sank Indian frigate INS Khukri during the 1971 war.
  • The Hangor class submarines are equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP):

  • This technology enables the submarines to remain submerged for extended periods without the need for frequent surfacing, enhancing their stealth capabilities and endurance underwater.
        • As compared to AIP, conventional diesel-electric submarines need to surface to recharge their batteries after a few days (2-5, depending on the battery used.
        • This makes them detectable to enemy radar and exhaust fumes sensors.
        • Installation on INS Kalvari: AIP technology is also scheduled to be installed on the first Scorpene class submarine, INS Kalvari, in 2024 which will significantly enhance its operational capabilities.

Comparison Between Kalvari and Hangor Class:

  • Size and Displacement: This class of submarine surpasses the Indian Navy’s Kalvari class in size, boasting a displacement of 2,800 tons compared to the Kalvari’s 1,775 tons.
  • Armament of Submarines: Both the Hangor class and the Kalvari class submarines are armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
        • However, the Kalvari class may have more advanced and proven armament systems.
  • Maneuverability: The larger size of the Hangor class submarines may potentially affect their maneuverability, particularly in littoral waters, compared to the smaller Kalvari class submarines.
        • Kalavari class is much more manoeuvrable.
  • Vertical Launch Systems: Both submarines do not have vertical launch systems (like the ones in India’s nuclear Arihant class), which would allow it to carry bigger cruise missiles like the Brahmos-NG.

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Kutch Ajrakh

News: It has been recently awarded the Geographical Indication.

Etymology: The name “Ajrakh” derives from the word ‘Azrak,’ which means indigo, reflecting the dye used to achieve its distinctive bluish hue.

Kutch Ajrakh

History: Ajrakh printing, a craft characterized by hand-block printing on treated cotton cloth, has a rich history spanning over 400 years. It was introduced to the region by Sind Muslims.

Regions of Practice:

  • Ajrakh printing is predominantly practiced in the Sindh, Barmer, and Kutch regions of Gujarat, India.
  • Ajrakhpur, located in Gujarat, serves as the epicenter of Ajrakh work in the region.

Production Process:

  • Technique: Artisans employ hand-block printing techniques to create intricate designs on cotton fabric.
  • Color Treatment: Textiles undergo treatment with vegetable and mineral-based colors, adding vibrancy to the prints.

Color Symbolism: Ajrakh prints traditionally incorporate three primary colors:

  • Blue representing the sky,
  • Red symbolizing the land and fire, and
  • White denoting the stars.

Cultural Significance:

  • Ajrakh printed cloth serves as practical attire for nomadic pastoralist and agricultural communities like the Rabaris, Maldharis, and Ahirs.
  • It is commonly fashioned into turbans, lungis, and stoles, meeting both cultural and functional needs.

Navratna Status

News: Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) was granted ‘Navratna’ status by the Department of Public Enterprises.

Introduction of Navratna Scheme: The Navratna scheme was introduced by the government in 1997 to streamline the management and performance of select PSUs.

Classification System: The government categorizes Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) into three distinct categories: Maharatna, Navratna, and Miniratna.

Criteria for Navratna Status:

  • Qualification Standards: To qualify for Navratna status, a PSU must meet specific criteria outlined by the government.
  • Performance Indicators: PSUs seeking Navratna status should be Miniratna-I, Schedule ‘A’ companies, and demonstrate consistent high performance.
      • They must have an ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ MoU rating in three of the last five years, with a composite score of 60 in six performance indicators.

Financial Benchmarks: Additionally, a PSU must maintain significant financial benchmarks, such as:

      • Reporting a net profit of more than Rs 5,000 crore for three consecutive years,
      • Sustaining an average annual turnover of Rs 25,000 crore for three years, or
      • Having an annual average net worth exceeding Rs 15,000 crore for three years.

Benefits of Navratna Status:

  • Financial Autonomy: Navratna status grants PSUs substantial financial autonomy, empowering them to make strategic investment decisions independently.
  • Investment Flexibility: PSUs with Navratna status can invest up to ₹1,000 crore without requiring approval from the central government.
        • Furthermore, they are permitted to allocate up to 15% of their net worth on a single project, enhancing their flexibility and agility in investment strategies.

Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA):

  • Establishment and Oversight: Established in 1987, IREDA operates as a non-banking financial institution under the administrative control of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
  • Mission and Activities:
        • Promotion of Renewable Energy: IREDA promotes, develops, and extends financial assistance for the establishment of projects related to new and renewable sources of energy, as well as energy efficiency initiatives.
        • Leadership in Green Financing: IREDA holds the distinction of being the single largest “Green Financier” in India, playing a pivotal role in facilitating the financing of sustainable energy projects across the nation.
        • Revenue Generation: IREDA generates its revenue through interest and principal repayments from the projects it finances.
        • Additionally, it raises funds from the market and through borrowings to sustain its operations and support its initiatives in the renewable energy sector.


News: The Indian Space Situational Assessment Report (ISSAR) for 2023 has been compiled by ISRO System for Safe and Sustainable Space Operations Management (IS4OM).

ISRO’s Initiative: IS4OM, the Indian Space Situational Awareness and Management system is a comprehensive initiative by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) aimed at safeguarding India’s space assets.

Functions and Operations:

  • Space Object Monitoring: IS4OM actively monitors space objects, analyzing their orbits and characteristics to assess collision risks and ensure the safety of Indian space assets.
  • International Collaboration: IS4OM collaborates internationally to enhance the safety and security of India’s space assets, fostering global cooperation in space situational awareness.
  • Orbital Maneuvering: One of IS4OM’s key functions is to protect Indian space assets by maneuvering their orbits as necessary to mitigate collision risks and ensure operational safety.

Compliance with Guidelines: IS4OM adheres to international guidelines on satellite disposal and other safety protocols to uphold the integrity and sustainability of space activities.

Indian Space Situational Assessment Report (ISSAR) 2023: Reporting Findings:

The Indian Space Situational Assessment Report (ISSAR) for 2023 provides insights into the state of space situational awareness in India.

Object Addition Trends:

  • The Report (ISSAR) for 2023 reveals a notable surge in the detection of space objects, with 3143 new objects identified compared to 2533 in 2022.
  • This increase emphasizes the critical importance of implementing robust monitoring and management systems like IS4OM to ensure the safety and security of India’s space assets.

Regenerative Blue  Economy

News: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a report outlining a roadmap for a Regenerative Blue Economy (RBE).

Definition: Regenerative Blue Economy seeks to restore marine ecosystems, promoting low-carbon economic activities and ensuring prosperity for people and the planet.

Key Points of Regenerative Blue Economy:

  • Protection and Restoration: One of the fundamental pillars of RBE is the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems and resources, ensuring their long-term health and sustainability.
  • Minimal Impact Economic Activities: The RBE emphasizes economic activities that have minimal environmental impact, promoting sustainability and responsible resource management.
  • Fair Distribution of Benefits: A core principle of RBE is to ensure fair prosperity, where the benefits of economic activities are shared equitably among present and future generations.
  • Public-Private Collaboration: To achieve its goals, RBE encourages collaboration between the public and private sectors, leveraging the strengths of both to implement effective conservation and sustainable development initiatives.
  • Empowering Local Communities: RBE recognizes the importance of empowering local communities, involving them in decision-making processes and ensuring that they benefit from economic activities in their regions.


News: Scientists have devised a nano-material-based process to efficiently extract uranium from wastewater, particularly sourced from radioactive-contaminated soil, aiding environmental cleanup efforts.

Definition: Adsorption refers to the adhesion of atoms, ions, or molecules from a gas, liquid, or dissolved solid onto the surface of a material.

Surface Phenomenon: It is regarded as a surface phenomenon wherein a film of the adsorbate forms on the surface of the adsorbent material.

Key Terms:

  • Adsorbents and Adsorbate: Materials used for adsorbing gases or dissolved substances are termed adsorbents, while the molecules adsorbed are collectively referred to as the adsorbate.

Mechanism of Adsorption:

  • Surface Energy Dependency: Adsorption relies on the surface energy of the adsorbent material.
  • Surface Atom Activity: The partially exposed surface atoms of the adsorbent attract adsorbate molecules, facilitating the adsorption process.

Types of Adsorption:

  • Adsorption can occur via electrostatic attraction, chemisorption, or physisorption, depending on the nature of the interaction between the adsorbent and adsorbate.

Characteristics of Adsorbents:

  • Pore Structure: Adsorbents typically possess small pore diameters to maximize surface area for effective adsorption, typically ranging between 0.25 and 5 mm.
  • Thermal Stability and Resistance: Industrial adsorbents are characterized by high thermal stability and resistance to abrasion, ensuring durability and longevity in various applications.
  • Surface Properties: Depending on the intended application, adsorbent surfaces may exhibit hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties to optimize adsorption efficiency.
  • Variety of Forms: Adsorbents are available in diverse shapes such as rods, pellets, and molded shapes, catering to different industrial requirements.
  • Examples of Adsorbents: Common examples of adsorbents include Silica gel, Alumina, Activated carbon or charcoal, Zeolites, and various biomaterials utilized for protein adsorption.

Comparison with Absorption: Adsorption is distinct from absorption, wherein a substance diffuses into a liquid or solid to form a solution.


  • Certain materials like silica gel can adsorb moisture from the air, making them useful as drying agents.
  • Adsorption plays a crucial role in catalysis, where a catalyst increases the rate of a chemical reaction by providing a surface for reactants to adsorb.
  • Air purification – activated carbon can adsorb various pollutants and harmful gases from the air.

Red Colobus Monkey

News: The Red colobus, a rare group of imperilled monkeys spread across Africa, are primary indicators of biodiversity decline in the continent’s tropical forests.

World Monkey Family: The world monkey family consists of two major groups- Colobines and Cercopithecine.

  • Colobines: Primarily leaf-eaters, including the Red Colobus monkey and langurs from South and Southeast Asia.
  • Cercopithecine: Omnivorous, encompassing macaques of South and Southeast Asia, as well as mangabeys, mandrills, drills, and baboons of Africa.

Habitat and Location: Red Colobus Monkeys are native to western, central, and eastern Africa, spanning from Senegal in the west to the Zanzibar Archipelago in the east.


Habitat Types: They are found in humid forests, coastal thickets, and scrub environments.

Distinctive Features:

  • Typically adorned with a brown and orange coat, white whiskers, and a black scalp.
  • Unlike other monkey species, colobus monkeys lack thumbs, possessing instead a small remnant bump.
  • Primarily arboreal creatures, predominantly dwelling in humid forests.
  • Mainly herbivores, consuming young leaves, flowers, and unripe fruit. Additionally, known to ingest charcoal or clay to counteract cyanide from leaves.

IUCN Status: Listed as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates by the IUCN.


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