Current Affair



1. Context

The government has started the process of constitution of the Sixteenth Finance Commission, appointing the officer on special duty for the advance cell on Monday. The Finance Commission, which mainly decides the tax sharing formula between Centre and states, is scheduled to be formed before the end of this year.

2. Finance Commission

  • The Finance Commission is a crucial constitutional body in India responsible for the distribution of financial resources between the central government and the state governments.
  • It plays a vital role in maintaining fiscal federalism by ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of financial revenues and grants-in-aid among the various tiers of government.
  • The Finance Commission is set up every five years, or at such earlier intervals as the President of India may decide, as per Article 280 of the Indian Constitution.
  • It consists of a Chairman and four other members, each appointed by the President. These members are experts in the fields of economics, finance, and public administration.

3. Mandate and Functions

  • The primary objective of the Finance Commission is to make recommendations to the President regarding the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the Union (central government) and the states, and the allocation of resources among the states.
  • It also suggests measures to improve the financial position of the states, if necessary. The Commission's recommendations are aimed at addressing regional imbalances and ensuring the overall economic development of the country.

4. The specific functions of the Finance Commission include

  • Tax Revenue Sharing: The Commission reviews the trends in revenue collections and recommends the percentage of the divisible pool of taxes that should be shared with the states. The divisible pool includes taxes like income tax, corporate tax, and excise duty.
  • Grants-in-Aid: Besides the devolution of taxes, the Finance Commission also suggests grants-in-aid to states to support their financial requirements for various developmental projects and schemes.
  • Debt Relief: The Commission may recommend measures to provide relief to states facing a high burden of debt, thereby promoting fiscal discipline.
  • Macro-Fiscal Management: It examines the overall financial situation of the country and suggests measures to maintain macroeconomic stability.
  • Any Other Matter: The President may also refer specific matters to the Commission for examination and recommendations.

5. Process of Working

  • The Finance Commission follows a consultative process while formulating its recommendations.
  • It seeks input from various stakeholders, including the central and state governments, local bodies, financial experts, and economists.
  • The Commission examines historical data, financial indicators, and the needs of states to arrive at a comprehensive and objective assessment.
  • After conducting detailed studies and consultations, the Commission submits its report to the President.
  • The recommendations of the Finance Commission are ordinarily binding in nature, and both the central and state governments are expected to implement them. However, their acceptance depends on the discretion of the central government.

6. Importance

  • The Finance Commission is crucial in maintaining the federal structure of India and ensuring that all states receive adequate financial support for their development.
  • By promoting equitable distribution of resources, helps in reducing regional disparities and fostering balanced economic growth across the country.
  • The Commission's recommendations also play a vital role in shaping the fiscal policies of both the central and state governments.

7. Recommendations of the Previous Finance Commission

13th Finance Commission Recommendations:

  • Increase the number of court working hours using existing infrastructure.
  • Enhance support to Lok Adalats.
  • Provide additional funding to State Legal Services Authorities to enhance legal aid for the marginalized.
  • Promote the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms.
  • Enhance the capacity of judicial officers and public prosecutors through training programs.
  • Support the creation of a judicial academy in every state for training purposes.
  • Allocate funds for the setting up of specialized courts.
14th Finance Commission's Recommendations:
  • Raised states' share in the divisible pool of central taxes to 42%
  • Revised to 41% after the number of states reduced to 28
  • The withdrawal of Planning Commission grants helped manage the situation

15th Finance Commission Recommendations:

  • Gather quantifiable data on the level of various services available in different states.
  • Collect corresponding unit cost data to estimate cost disabilities among states.
  • Fill gaps in statistical data through the efforts of the Ministry of Statistics.

8. Need for realistic expectations regarding  the following 16th Finance Commission

  • Acknowledging Implementation Challenges: Recognize the challenges and complexities involved in implementing Finance Commission recommendations, such as coordination issues, administrative capacity, and resistance to change. This understanding will help shape realistic expectations and strategies for addressing these challenges.
  • Strengthening Implementation Mechanisms: Focus on improving the implementation mechanisms and processes. This includes enhancing coordination and cooperation between the Union and state governments, strengthening administrative capacity at all levels, and streamlining the implementation of conditionalities to facilitate smoother execution.
  • Robust Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track the progress and outcomes of implemented reforms. Regular assessment will help identify implementation gaps and provide opportunities for course correction and improvement.
For Prelims: Finance Commission, Article 280, Fiscal Consolidation, Fiscal Federalism, and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
For Mains: 1. Discuss the Role and Challenges of the Finance Commission in Promoting Fiscal Federalism and Ensuring Equitable Resource Distribution in India. (250 words).

Previous year Question

1. With reference to the Finance Commission of India, which of the following statements is correct? (UPSC 2011)
A. It encourages the inflow of foreign capital for infrastructure development.
B. It facilitates the proper distribution of finances among the Public Sector Undertaking.
C. It ensures transparency in financial administration.
D. None of the statements (a), (b), and (c) given above is correct in this context.
Answer: D
2. With reference to the Fourteenth Finance Commission, which of the following statements is/are correct? (UPSC 2015)
1. It has increased the share of States in the central divisible pool from 32 percent to 42 percent.
2. It has made recommendations concerning sector-specific grants.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A
3. Which of the following is/are among the noticeable features of the recommendations of the Thirteenth Finance Commission? (UPSC 2012)
1. A design for the Goods and Services Tax, and a compensation package linked to adherence to the proposed design.
2. A design for the creation of lakhs of jobs in the next ten years in consonance with India's demographic dividend.
3. Devolution of a specified share of central taxes to local bodies as grants
Select the correct answer using the codes given below: 
A. 1 only
B. 2 and 3 only
C. 1 and 3 only
D. 1, 2 and 3
Answer: C
 Source: The Hindu


1. Context

On October 27 2023, the long delayed Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project on the border of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam suffered its latest setback after a large part of the hill on the left side of the dam collapsed into its reservoir. The deposits blocked the only functional diversion tunnel and stopped the flow of water downstream of the dam into the Subansiri river, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra.

2. What is a Landslide?

  • A landslide refers to the movement of rock, soil, and debris down a slope, often triggered by various factors such as heavy rainfall, earthquakes, volcanic activity, or human activities. This mass movement can occur on steep slopes, cliffs, or hillsides and may involve the displacement of large volumes of material. Landslides can take various forms, including rockfalls, debris flows, and mudslides.
  • The primary causes of landslides include the saturation of soil due to excessive rainfall, rapid snowmelt, or changes in groundwater levels. Earthquakes can also trigger landslides by destabilizing slopes. Human activities, such as deforestation, construction, and mining, can contribute to the occurrence of landslides by altering the natural stability of the terrain.
  • The impact of landslides can be severe, leading to loss of life, damage to infrastructure, and disruption of communities. Mitigation efforts often involve slope stabilization measures, early warning systems, and land-use planning to reduce the risk of landslides in vulnerable areas.
3. Landslides in India
  • The recent cases of land subsidence in Joshimath, Uttarakhand, captured the spotlight.
  • On June 29, 2022, at least 79 people were killed in a landslide in the Noney district of Manipur.
  • The risk analysis in the report was based on the density of human and livestock populations, which indicates the impacts on people due to these landslides.
  • The disaster in Kedaranath in 2013 and the landslides caused by the devastating Sikkim earthquake in 2011 are also included in this atlas.
Between 1988 and 2022, the maximum number of landslides 12, 385 recorded in Mizoram.
Uttarakhand followed it at 11, 219, Tripura at 8, 070, Arunachal Pradesh at 7, 689, and Jammu and Kashmir at 7,280. Kerala saw 6,039, Manipur 5,494 and Maharashtra recorded 5, 112 incidents of landslides.
  • Globally, landslides rank third in terms of deaths among natural disasters.
  • However, deforestation due to unplanned urbanisation and human greed increases the risk of such incidents.
  • In 2006, about 4 million people were affected by landslides, including a large number of Indians.
  • India is among the four major countries where the risk of landslides is the highest; it added. If we look at the figures, about 0.42 million square kilometres in the country are prone to landslides, which is 12.6 per cent of the total land area of the country.
  • However, the figure does not include snow-covered areas. Around 0.18 million sq km of landslide-prone areas in the country are in North East Himalayas, including Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas.
  • Of the rest, 0.14 million sq km falls in North West Himalaya (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir); 90, 000 sq km in the Western Ghats and Konkan hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra) and 10, 000 sq km in Eastern Ghats of Aruku in Andhra Pradesh.

4. Reasons for landslides

  • Sudden heavy rains due to climate change are also increasing landslides. Around 73 per cent of landslides in the Himalayan region are attributed to heavy rains and reduced water-absorbing capacity of the soil.
  • Global climate change is causing heavy rainfall that erodes steep slopes with loose soil found in a 2020 study by the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.
  • Therefore, the increasing number of landslides can no longer be termed as just natural disasters, as human actions have also played a major role in it.
5. Data On Landslides
  • Uttakarkhand, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh reported the highest number of landslides during 1998 – 2022
  • Mizoram topped the list, recording 12,385 landslide events in the past 25 years, of which 8,926 were recorded in 2017 alone
  • Likewise, 2,071 events of the total 2,132 landslides reported in Nagaland during this period occurred during the 2017 monsoon season
  • Manipur, too, showed a similar trend, wherein 4,559 out of 5,494 landslide events were experienced during the rainy season of 2017, Of the total 690, Tamil Nadu suffered 603 landslide events in 2018 alone
  • Among all these states, an alarming situation is emerging from Uttarakhand and Kerala
  • While Uttarakhand’s fragility was recently exposed during the land subsidence events reported from Joshimath since January, this Himalayan state has experienced the second highest number (11,219) of landslides since 1998, all events since occurring post 2000
  • The year-wise number of landslide events in the state is: 2003 (32), 2010 (307), 2012 (473), 2013 (6,610), 2017 (1), 2021 (329) and 2022 (1)
  • The number of districts with the maximum landslide exposure are in Arunachal Pradesh (16), Kerala (14), Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir (13 each), Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Maharashtra (11 each), Mizoram (8) and Nagaland (7)
  • Kerala has been consistently reporting massive landslides since it suffered the century’s worst floods in 2018
  • The year-wise landslide events here are 2018 (5,191), 2019 (756), 2020 (9) and 2021 (29).
  • From the events and images obtained, the NRSC ranked Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand at the top of 147 vulnerable districts
  • It has the highest landslide density in the country, along with having the highest exposure to total population and number of houses


For Prelims: Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
For Mains:General Studies I: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes

Previous year questions

1. Which of the following statements in respect of landslides are correct? (NDA 2022)

1. These occur only on gentle slopes during rain.
2. They generally occur in clay-rich soil.
3. Earthquakes trigger landslides.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

A. 1 and 2         B. 2 and 3            C. 1 and 3              D. 1, 2 and 3

 Answer: (B)

For Mains:

1. Describe the various causes and the effects of landslides. Mention the important components of the National Landslide Risk Management Strategy. (250 words) (2021)

Source: The Down to Earth



1. Context

A year after it was launched, Project Cheetah, India’s ambitious attempt to introduce African cats in the wild in the country, has claimed to have achieved short-term success on four counts: “50% survival of introduced cheetahs, establishment of home ranges, birth of cubs in Kuno”, and revenue generation for local communities.

2. Why was Project Cheetah launched?

  • India's cheetah relocation program is perhaps among the most ambitious of its kind in the world.
  • The attempt is to, over the next decade, bring in five to 10 animals every year until a self-sustaining population of about 35 is established.
  • Unlike, cheetahs in South Africa and Namibia, which live in fenced reserves, India's plan is to have them grown in natural, unfenced, wild conditions.
  • At Kuno, only six of the 17 adults are in the wild with the rest lodged in large, specially designed enclosures to help the animals acclimatize to Indian conditions.
  • The plan is to release all the animals into the open by the yearend. The animals are radio-collared and tracked 24/7. 

3. How do cheetahs die?

  • The South African study also documented the causes of mortality, where it could be established, for 293 cheetah deaths.
  • It found that holding camps caused 6.5% of cheetah deaths, immobilization/ transit caused 7.5% of deaths, and another 0.7% were caused by tracking devices. This added up to almost 15%  so, one in every seven cheetah deaths was attributed to handling and management.
  • Predation turned out to be the biggest killer in the study, accounting for 53.2% of cheetah mortality. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and jackals were primarily responsible. Several other wildlife including warthogs, baboons, snakes, elephants, crocodiles, vultures, zebras, and even ostriches killed cheetahs.
  • It is well documented that cheetahs suffer very high cub mortality up to 90% in protected areas mainly due to predation. Consequently, nearly 80% of all cheetahs throughout their range in Africa are found living outside of protected parks and reserves.

4. Were these unfortunate cheetah deaths unexpected?

  • The Cheetah Project did anticipate high mortality. The criteria for the project’s short-term success was only “50% survival of the introduced cheetah for the first year”. That would be 10 out of 20.
  • As a result, the Madhya Pradesh government set a six-month deadline for readying Gandhisagar in the Chambal river valley in Mandsaur and Nimach districts for the cheetahs. There is also talk about moving a few animals from Kuno to the safety of an 80-sq-km fenced area in Rajasthan’s Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve.
  • The focus, therefore, is shifting from the project’s stated purpose that of establishing the cheetah in an open landscape as a free-roaming and self-sustaining population occupying thousands of square miles to managing the African imports as a few pocket populations in fenced-in or restricted areas.

5. How successful has Project Cheetah been so far?

  • In September 2023, it will be one year since a batch of eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived in India.
  • They were followed by 12 others from South Africa in February 2023. The official Cheetah Action Plan, the guiding document behind the project, observes that even half the cheetahs surviving the first year would be “an indicator of success”.
  • Independent critics have, however, argued that there are some basic flaws in the project. For one, it is a mistake to have had all 20 cheetahs at Kuno as there is too little space and prey, given that the animal is a courser and needs larger fields of play.
  • Some animals should have gone to the Mukundara reserve in Rajasthan. Forest officials in Madhya Pradesh have also admitted that they are stretched.
  • However, the officials in the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the nodal agency of the Environment Ministry tasked with coordinating the project, say that Kuno is capable of hosting the first lot of animals and future batches will be sent to other reserves.
  • The experience of raising cheetahs in fenced reserves in Africa can’t be replicated in India, say, experts, because India’s cultural values promote coexistence with beasts, and that underpinned the success of tiger, lion, and leopard conservation programs.
For Prelims: Kuno National Park, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Project Cheetah, Chambal river valley, and South Africa.

Previous year Question

1. Recently there was a proposal to translocate some of the lions from their natural habitat in Gujarat to which one of the following sites? (UPSC 2017)
A. Corbett National Park
B. Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary
C. Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
D. Sariska National Park
Answer: B
Source: The Hindu


1. Context

Reminding the Punjab government that the fight against stubble burning cannot be political, Recently the Supreme Court asked the States of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to take urgent steps to stop farm fires which it said are a “substantial” contributor to air pollution in Delhi.

2. What is Stubble?

Stubble refers to the leftover plant material, mainly crop residues, that remains in the field after the primary crop has been harvested. This includes the stems, leaves, and other organic material that is left behind.

Stubble burning is a common agricultural practice where farmers set fire to crop residues, such as straw and stubble, that remain in the field after the main crop (usually paddy or wheat) has been harvested. This practice is typically used as a quick and cost-effective method to clear the field for the next planting season. Stubble burning is particularly prevalent in regions with mechanized farming, where machines like combine harvesters leave behind a significant amount of crop residues.

3. Stubble burning contributes to air pollution

When stubble is burned, it releases a variety of pollutants into the air, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants can cause several health problems, including respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer.

Stubble burning is a major contributor to air pollution in many parts of the world. In India, for example, stubble burning is responsible for up to 30% of the air pollution in Delhi during the winter months.

  • Stubble burning generates fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) that can penetrate deep into the respiratory system, leading to respiratory problems and reduced air quality.
  • The combustion of stubble releases carbon monoxide, which can have adverse health effects when inhaled, particularly in enclosed spaces.
  • Stubble burning produces Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can react with other pollutants in the atmosphere, contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major air pollutant.
  • Burning stubble emits greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), contributing to climate change.
  • The combustion of crop residues can release various hazardous chemicals and pollutants, further deteriorating air quality.

4. About the Central Scheme for the Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue

The Central Scheme on Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue (AMICMR) is a scheme launched by the Government of India to promote the use of in-situ techniques for managing crop residue. In-situ techniques are those that are used to manage crop residue on the field, rather than burning it. Examples of in-situ techniques include:

  • Mulching is the practice of covering the soil with a layer of organic material, such as straw or leaves. This can help to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and improve soil health.
  • Zero tillage is the practice of planting crops without tilling the soil. This can help to prevent soil erosion and retain moisture in the soil.
  • Direct seeding is the practice of planting seeds directly into the soil, rather than transplanting seedlings. This can help to reduce soil disturbance and prevent the spread of weeds.

The AMICMR scheme provides financial assistance to farmers to purchase machinery that can be used for in-situ management of crop residue. The scheme also provides training and extension services to farmers on how to use these techniques.

The AMICMR scheme is a promising initiative that could help to reduce air pollution caused by stubble burning. However, the scheme needs to be scaled up and made more widely available to farmers to have a significant impact.

5. Conclusion

Stubble burning is a major contributor to air pollution in many parts of the world. However, there are several alternatives to stubble burning, such as in-situ management of crop residue. In-situ management of crop residue is a more sustainable way to manage stubble, as it does not release pollutants into the air and has several benefits for soil health and crop yields.

For Prelims: Stubble burning, air pollution, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, PM2.5, PM10, Volatile Organic Compounds, ozone, carbon dioxide, methane, Climate Change, The Central Scheme on Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue
For Mains: 
1. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of the Central Scheme on Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue (AMICMR) in addressing the issue of stubble burning in India. (250 Words)

Previous Year Questions

1. In the cities of our country, which among the following atmospheric gases are normally considered in calculating the value of Air Quality Index? ( UPSC 2016)

  1. Carbon dioxide
  2. Carbon monoxide
  3. Nitrogen dioxide
  4. Sulfur dioxide
  5. Methane

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only    (b) 2, 3 and 4 only     (c) 1, 4 and 5 only         (d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

 Answer: B

2. Acid rain is caused by the pollution of the environment (UPSC 2013, 2022)

(a) Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen

(b) Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide

(c) Ozone and Carbon Dioxide

(d) Nitrous Oxide and Sulphur Dioxide


3. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is a standard criterion for (UPSC 2017)

(a) Measuring oxygen level in blood

(b) Computing oxygen levels in forest ecosystems

(c) Pollution assay in aquatic ecosystem

(d) Assessing oxygen levels in high-altitude regions

Answer: C

4. Consider the following: (UPSC 2019) 

1. Carbon monooxide
2. Methane
3. Ozone
4. Sulphur dioxide

Which of the above are released into atmosphere due to the burning of crop/biomass residue? 

A. 1 and 2 only         B.  2, 3 and 4 only            C. 1 and 4 only         D.  1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer: D

5. What is Particulate matter? (BPSC 2016)

A. Solid residue      B. Air pollutant        C. Water pollutant   D. Soil pollutant

E.  None of the above/More than one of the above

Answer: B

6. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas because it: (OPSC OAS 2021)

A. Binds to digestive hormones
B. Damages lungs
C. Destroys RBCs
D. Binds to haemoglobin

Answer: D

7. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2019)

1. Agricultural soils release nitrogen oxides into environment.
2. Cattle release ammonia into environment.
3. Poultry industry releases reactive nitrogen compounds into environment.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A. 1 and 3 only         B. 2 and 3 only          C. 2 only            D. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

8. In the context of WHO Air Quality Guidelines, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2022) 

1. The 24-hour mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 15 μg/m³ and annual mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 μg/m³.
2. In a year, the highest levels of ozone pollution occur during the periods of inclement weather.
3. PM10 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the bloodstream. 4. Excessive ozone in the air can trigger asthma.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

A. 1, 3 and 4             B. 1 and 4 only           C. 2, 3 and 4           D.1 and 2 only

Answer: B

9. Which of the following is a VOC? (MP Vyapam Sub Engineer Mechanical 2022)

A. Toulene        B. Water       C. Carbon dioxide         D. Carbon monoxide

Answer: A

10. Which of the following Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are emitted from anthropogenic sources only? (UGC NET 2023)

A. Isoprene       
B. Benzene           
C. Terpene         
D. Methane       
E. Toluene

1. A, B and C Only         2.  B and E Only      3. A and C Only         4. C, D and E Only Answer: 2

11. Which one of the following is associated with the issue of control and phasing out of the use of ozone-depleting substance? (UPSC 2015) 

A. Bretton Woods Conference  B. Montreal Protocol  C. Kyoto Porotocol  D. Nagoya Protocol

Answer: B

12. The increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the air is slowly raising the temperature of the atmosphere, because it absorbs (UPSC 2012) 

A. the water vapour of the air and retains its heat
B. the ultraviolet part of the solar radiation
C. all the solar radiations
D. the infrared part of the solar radiation

Answer: D

13. Which of the following adds/add carbon dioxide to the carbon cycle on the planet Earth? (UPSC 2014)

1. Volcanic action
2. Respiration
3. Photosynthesis
4. The decay of organic matter

Select the correct answer using the code given below

A. 1 and 3 only       B. 2 only      C. 1, 2 and 4 only         D. 1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer: C

14. Which of the following statements are correct about the deposits of 'methane hydrate'? (UPSC 2019) 

1. Global warming might trigger the release of methane gas from these deposits.
2. Large deposits of 'methane hydrate' are found in Arctic Tundra and under the seafloor.
3. Methane in atmosphere oxidizes to carbon dioxide after a decade or two.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

A. 1 and 2 only     B.  2 and 3 only        C. 1 and 3 only           D. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

15. With reference to two non-conventional energy sources called 'coalbed methane' and 'shale gas' consider the following statements: (UPSC 2014)

1. Coalbed methane is the pure methane gas extracted from coal seams, while shale gas is a mixture of propane and butane only that can be extracted from fine-grained sedimentary rocks. 2. In India, abundant coalbed methane sources exist, but so far no shale gas sources have been found.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A. 1 only        B. 2 only        C. Both 1 and 2          D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: D

1. Describe the key points of the revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) recently released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). How are these different from its last update in 2005? What changes in India’s National Clean Air Programme are required to achieve revised standards? ( UPSC 2021)
Source: Indianexpress


1. Context
Rising pollution levels in north India have led to focus returning on the Air Quality Index (AQI) score, a measure of air pollution. Delhi, for instance, recorded an AQI score of more than 400 on (November 6, 2023). This puts the air in the ‘severe’ category, with anything beyond 100 considered to be a state of at least moderate pollution on the index.
2. What is the Air Quality Index (AQI)?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a numerical scale used to communicate the quality of air in a specific location and its potential impact on health. It provides a way to convey complex air quality information to the public in a simple and easily understandable format. The AQI is calculated based on the concentrations of various air pollutants, including particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).

The AQI typically ranges from 0 to 500, with higher values indicating poorer air quality and a greater potential for adverse health effects. The scale is divided into different color-coded categories, each corresponding to a different level of health concern:

  • 0-50: Good (Green) - Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
  • 51-100: Moderate (Yellow) - Air quality is acceptable; however, some pollutants may be a concern for a small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
  • 101-150: Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Orange) - Members of sensitive groups (e.g., individuals with respiratory or heart conditions, children, and older adults) may experience health effects, but the general public is less likely to be affected.
  • 151-200: Unhealthy (Red) - Everyone may begin to experience adverse health effects, and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
  • 201-300: Very Unhealthy (Purple) - Health alert; everyone may experience more serious health effects.
  • 301-500: Hazardous (Maroon) - Health warnings of emergency conditions; the entire population is more likely to be affected.
3. What is PM 10 and PM 2.5?
  • These particles are classified as extremely fine particulate matter (PM), and the accompanying numbers denote their diameter.
  • For instance, PM 10 and PM 2.5 have diameters smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns, respectively.
  • To provide a sense of scale, one micron is about a thousandth of a millimeter. The minute size of these particles plays a crucial role in their impact on human health, as finer particles pose greater challenges for self-protection.
  • Due to their diminutive size, PM 2.5 particles can easily bypass the nose and throat, gaining entry into the circulatory system.
  • These particles have the potential to contribute to chronic diseases such as asthma, heart attacks, bronchitis, and other respiratory issues.
  • Originating from emissions produced by factories, vehicular pollution, construction activities, and road dust, these particles do not disperse easily and remain suspended in the air we breathe
4. Other Pollutants
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gets in the air from the burning of fuel, with sources including emissions from vehicles and power plants
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that short-term exposure to high levels of NO2 can aggravate respiratory diseases like asthma, and lead to other problems such as coughing or difficulty in breathing. Long-term exposure may also contribute to the development of asthma and could increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Ozone (O3)

Ozone is a gas that is present in the upper layers of the atmosphere, protecting human health from the impact of the Sun’s UV rays.

However, surface-level ozone is among the most significant air pollutants. It is formed by the reaction of atmospheric pollutants in the presence of sunlight.

According to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Medical Public Health, “With increase in surface ozone levels, there is likelihood of an increase in risk of hospital admissions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) and the number of cardiovascular and respiratory deaths.”

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

According to the US government’s Environment Protection Agency, the largest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities. Additional sources are industrial processes and natural sources such as volcanoes.

As with other gases, SO2 exposure is harmful to the cardiovascular system and can lead to the development of respiratory illnesses. SO2 can also react with other compounds to form particulate matter. “At high concentrations, gaseous SOx can harm trees and plants by damaging foliage and decreasing growth,”

Ammonia (NH3)

A 2017 NASA-funded study said that in India, “A broad increase in fertilizer use coupled with large contributions from livestock waste have resulted in the world’s highest concentrations of atmospheric ammonia.”

In the troposphere – the lowest, most dense part of the atmosphere where all weather takes place and where people live – ammonia gas reacts with nitric and sulfuric acids to form nitrate-containing particles. Those particles contribute to aerosol pollution that is damaging to human health. Ammonia gas can also fall back to Earth and enter lakes, streams and oceans, where it contributes to harmful algal blooms and “dead zones” with dangerously low oxygen levels

Lead (Pb)

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust. But in increased quantities, exposure to it becomes extremely dangerous to health. Important sources of environmental contamination come from mining, smelting, manufacturing and even recycling activities, according to the WHO

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

A toxic, colourless and odourless gas, it is given off when fuel containing carbon, such as wood, coal and petrol, is burned. If CO levels are high enough, a person may become unconscious and die. Long-term exposure has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease

5. Way forward

Government agencies and environmental monitoring stations use the AQI to provide real-time or forecasted information about air quality, helping individuals make informed decisions to protect their health, such as limiting outdoor activities during times of poor air quality.


Previous Year Questions

1.In the context of WHO Air Quality Guidelines, consider the following statements : (UPSC CSE 2022)

1. The 24-hour mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 15 μg/m³ and annual mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 μg/m³.

2. In a year, the highest levels of ozone pollution occur during the periods of inclement weather. 3. PM10 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the bloodstream. 4. Excessive ozone in the air can trigger asthma.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

A.1, 3 and 4

B.1 and 4 only

C. 2, 3 and 4

D.1 and 2 only

Answer (B)

Source: Indianexpress


1. Context

Amidst the escalating climate crisis, two terms have emerged at the forefront of global discussions: adaptation and loss and damage (L&D). While adaptation focuses on proactive measures to prepare for and cope with climate-related challenges, L&D addresses the irreversible consequences that lie beyond the realm of adaptation.

2. The Genesis of the L&D Fund

  • The call for affluent nations to acknowledge their historic pollution is over 30 years old. Historic pollution has led to a global average surface temperature increase of more than 1 degree Celsius, causing significant damage worldwide, particularly in the poorest nations.
  • At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2013, the L&D fund was established to provide financial and technical assistance to economically developing nations experiencing L&D due to climate change.

3. Challenges and Impasses at COP Meetings

  • At COP 25, the Santiago Network for L&D was created, but countries didn't commit any funds.
  • COP 26 established the Glasgow Dialogue on Finance for L&D to continue discussions over the next three years on the fund.
  • At COP 27 in November 2022, the L&D fund and a Transitional Committee (TC) were established, tasked with figuring out how the new funding mechanisms would operate.
  • However, four TC meetings concluded with no clear recommendations, highlighting a significant problem.

4. Impasse at Meetings 4 and 5

  • TC4, which concluded on October 20, 2023, witnessed deep divisions on hosting the fund at the World Bank, the common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) principle, climate reparations, and the eligibility of developing nations for the funds.
  • An impromptu TC5 meeting in Abu Dhabi resulted in a set of recommendations forwarded to COP 28.
  • Developing nations conceded to the fund being hosted by the World Bank for an interim period of four years, but developed nations, particularly the U.S., remained non-committal about being primary donors to the fund.

5. From Multilateralism to Volunteerism

  • The outcome of TC5 underscores a profound lack of trust between affluent and emerging economies regarding their historical responsibilities.
  • The unwillingness of wealthy nations to fulfil intended commitments undermines faith in global climate negotiations, hampering the cooperative spirit necessary to address climate change.
  • This shift from multilateralism to volunteerism threatens climate justice and exacerbates the suffering of vulnerable communities in developing nations.

6. Wide-Reaching Implications of L&D Fund Challenges

The watering down of the L&D fund has wide-reaching implications, including:

  • Threats to climate justice
  • Increased humanitarian crises
  • Economic consequences
  • Environmental degradation
  • Security implications

7. Conclusion

As we strive to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, we must remember that adaptation and L&D are not mutually exclusive concepts. They exist on a continuum of climate resilience, and both have a place in our collective efforts to combat climate change. To achieve climate justice, rich countries must meet their obligations to reduce emissions and deliver finance in line with what is fair, upholding the principles of equity, justice, and solidarity in the face of a changing climate. Failure to do so may derail global climate action, putting more pressure on the already beleaguered COP 28 talks.


For Prelims: loss and damage, Conference of the Parties 19, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, common but differentiated responsibilities, World Bank, COP 28, Transitional Committee, 
For Mains:
1. Discuss the concept of 'Loss and Damage' (L&D) in the context of the climate crisis. How does it differ from adaptation, and why is it a critical aspect of climate change mitigation?  (250 Words)


Previous Year Questions

1. Which one of the following is associated with the issue of control and phasing out of the use of ozone-depleting substance? (UPSC 2015)
A.Bretton woods conference
B. Montreal Protocol
C. Kyoto Protocol
D. Nagoya Protocol
Answer: B

2. Which of the following statements is/are correct about the deposits of ‘methane hydrate’? (2019)

1. Global warming might trigger the release of methane gas from these deposits.
2. Large deposits of ‘methane hydrate’ are found in Arctic Tundra and under the sea floor.
3. Methane in atmosphere oxidizes to carbon dioxide after a decade or two.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only     (b) 2 and 3 only       (c) 1 and 3 only         (d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

3. The principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities', often talked about in media, refers to (UPSC CAPF 2022)
A. WHO's COVID-19 Global Vaccination Drive
B. contributions to the International Monetary Fund
C. reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
D. contributions to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations
Answer: C
4. With reference to the Agreement at the UNFCCC Meeting in Paris in 2015, which of the following statements is/are correct? (UPSC 2016)
1. The Agreement was signed by all the member countries of the UN and it will go into effect in 2017
2. The Agreement aims to limit greenhouse gas emissions so that the rise in average global temperature by the end of this century does not exceed 2°C or even 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
3. Developed countries acknowledged their historical responsibility in global warming and committed to donate $ 1000 billion a year from 2020 to help developing countries to cope with climate change.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
A. 1 and 3 only     B.  2 only        C. 2 and 3 only        D. 1, 2 and 3
Answer: B
5. A new type of El Nino called El Nino Modoki appeared in the news. In this context, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2010) 
1. Normal El Nino forms in the Central Pacific ocean whereas El Nino Modoki forms in the Eastern Pacific ocean.
2. Normal El Nino results in diminished hurricanes in the Atlantic ocean but El Nino Modoki results in a greater number of hurricanes with greater frequency.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 
A. 1 only       B. 2 only        C. Both 1 and 2             D. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: B
6. La Nina is suspected to have caused recent floods in Australia. How is La Nina different from El Nino? (UPSC 2011) 
1. La Nina is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperature in the equatorial Indian Ocean whereas El Nino is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
2. El Nino has an adverse effect on the south-west monsoon of India, but La Nina has no effect on the monsoon climate.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 
A. 1 only        B. 2 only         C. Both 1 and 2           D. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: D
7. Consider the following statements:  (MPSC 2017)
a. La Nina is a little girl.
b. During the time of La Nina cold water in the ocean rises to the surface.
c. La Nina strengthens the Indian monsoon.
d. During the time of El Nino, trade winds weaken, and warm water moves east in the ocean. Which of the above statements is/are correct? 
A. Only a and b          B. a, b and c         C. Only b and c           D. All of the above
Answer: D
8. With reference to Ocean Mean Temperature (OMT), which of the following statements is/are correct? (UPSC 2020)
1. OMT is measured up to a depth of 26°C isotherm which is 129 meters in the south-western Indian Ocean during January-March.
2. OMT collected during January-March can be used in assessing whether the amount of rainfall in monsoon will be less or more than a certain long-term mean.
Select the correct answer using the code given below: 
A. 1 only        B. 2 only              C. Both 1 and 2            D. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: B
9. With reference to 'Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)' sometimes mentioned in the news while forecasting Indian monsoon which of the following statements is/are correct? (UPSC 2017)
1. IOD phenomenon is characterised by a difference in sea surface temperature between tropical Western Indian Ocean and tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean.
2. An IOD phenomenon can influence an EI Nino's impact on the monsoon.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:  
A. 1 only    B. 2 only          C. Both 1 and 2           D. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: B
10. "EL Nino" refers to a temperature anomaly in the ________ ocean. (NTPC 2017)
A. Indian            B. Pacific        C. Southern             D. Atlantic
Answer: B
11. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently published the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, in 2020. Which of the following statements is correct about EIA? (Punjab Civil Service 2020)
1. It predicts the effect of a proposed industrial/infrastructural project on the environment.
2. It prevents the proposed activity/project from being approved without proper oversight or taking adverse consequences into account.
3. It compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.
4. As per the new notification, Coal and non-Coal mineral prospecting and solar photovoltaic projects do not need prior environmental clearance.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
A. Only 1 and 2
B. Only 2, 3 and 4
C. Only 1, 2 and 3
D. Only 1, 2 and 4
Answer: D
12. In the context of India’s preparation for Climate -Smart Agriculture, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2021)
1. The ‘Climate-Smart Village’ approach in India is part of a project led by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), an international research program.
2. The project of CCAFS is carried out under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural (CGIAR) headquartered in France.
3. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India is one of the CGIAR’s research centers.
Which of the statements given above is correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only                (b) 2 and 3 only              (c) 1 and 3 only                      (d) 1, 2 and 3
Answer: D

13. India’s ranking in the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ is sometimes seen in the news. Which of the following has declared that ranking? (UPSC 2016)

(a) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
(b) World Economic Forum
(c) World Bank
(d) World Trade Organization (WTO)

Answer: C

14. With reference to ‘IFC Masala Bonds’, sometimes seen in the news, which of the statements given below is/ are correct? (UPSC 2016)

1. The International Finance Corporation, which offers these bonds, is an arm of the World Bank.
2. They are the rupee-denominated bonds and are a source of debt financing for the public and private sector.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only          (b) 2 only          (c) Both 1 and 2               (d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C


1. Explain the purpose of the Green Grid Initiative launched at World Leaders Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, 2021. When was this idea first floated in the International Solar Alliance (ISA)? (UPSC 2021)

2. Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference? (UPSC 2021)

Source: The Hindu



1. Context
MORE THAN a third of Bihar’s families live on around Rs 200 a day, among the Scheduled Castes that number stands as high as 43.93%; only 7% of its population are graduates; and about 96% have no vehicles.
2. Statistics of Bihar Caste Survey
  • According to the caste survey report, approximately 2.97 crore families reside in the state. Among them, over 94 lakh families (34.13%) have a monthly income of Rs 6,000 or less, which is considered below the poverty line in Bihar.
  • The poverty rate is highest among the SCs, with 43.93% of families falling into the BPL category, while for the EBCs, it is 33.58%. The OBCs fare only slightly better, with 33.16% earning less than Rs 6,000 a month. Even in the general category, 25.09% of the population falls below this income threshold.
  • In comparison, among the Muslim population, 17.26% are classified as poor. Within the SC families, more than half of the Mushahars (54.56%) and Doms (53.10%) are in poverty. A mere 5% of SC families earn between Rs 20,000 and Rs 50,000, and only 1% earn above Rs 50,000 per month.
  • Among the OBCs, 3.11% and among the Yadavs, 1.55% are employed in government jobs. The Yadavs constitute the largest group in the state at 14.3%. Banias have a slightly higher representation in government jobs, at 1.96%.
  • Within the EBC families, 32% earn between Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000, 18% between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000, and only 2% earn above Rs 50,000 per month. Among the SCs, more than half of the Mushahars (54.56%) and Doms (53.10%) are in poverty.
  • The Nats follow closely at 49.06%, and 42.06% of the Chamars, 39.36% of the Dusadhs, and 38.34% of the Pasis are in the BPL category. Only 5% of the SCs earn between Rs 20,000 and Rs 50,000, and just 1% earn above Rs 50,000 per month.
  • Among the upper castes, the Bhumihars have the highest poverty rate (27.58%), followed by the Brahmins (25.3%), the Rajputs (24.89%), and Kayasthas (13.83%). In the general category, 9% earn above Rs 50,000
3. Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs)
  • The Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) in India constitute a social group facing greater disadvantages compared to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). EBCs are typically comprised of castes or communities historically involved in low-status occupations like scavenging, barbering, and fishing.
  • Often characterized by landlessness and low levels of literacy, EBCs represent a significant portion of India's population, particularly in the northern and eastern states. In Bihar, for instance, EBCs make up more than 36% of the population. Despite their numerical presence, EBCs frequently experience marginalization and exclusion from social and economic opportunities.
  • To address the socio-economic challenges faced by EBCs, the Indian government has implemented various policies, including reservations in education and employment, along with financial assistance programs. However, these initiatives have faced criticism for their perceived ineffectiveness and their failure to reach the most vulnerable members within the EBC community
EBCs are believed to include some 130-odd groups and sub-groups, prominent among them being:
  • Nai (barbers)
  • Fishermen (bearing surnames of Sahani, Nishad and Kevat)
  • Lohar
In April 2015, Bihar chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a decision to include the Teli caste in the list of Extremely Backward Class in Bihar
4. Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) vs Other Backward castes (OBCs)
Subject Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) Other Backward Classes (OBCs)
Definition Considered more disadvantaged than OBCs Socially and educationally less advanced than the
    forward castes but not as much as SCs and STs
Occupations Historically engaged in low-status occupations Traditionally involved in occupations
  such as scavenging, barbering, and fishing considered lower in the social hierarchy
Land Ownership Often landless Varied levels of land ownership
Literacy and Education Low levels of literacy and education Socially and educationally less advanced
    compared to forward castes
Population Distribution Significant presence, particularly in northern Diverse and spread across different regions
  and eastern states (e.g., Bihar - over 36%) of India
Marginalization Often marginalized and excluded from social May face social and economic challenges,
  and economic opportunities but the degree of marginalization varies
Government Policies Subject to reservations in education and Beneficiary of reservations in education and
  employment, financial assistance schemes employment, and various welfare schemes
Criticism of Policies Policies criticized for ineffectiveness and Policies may face scrutiny for not reaching the
  not reaching the most disadvantaged members most disadvantaged within the OBC community

5. Way forward

The distinction between Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in India reflects the complex and diverse socio-economic landscape of the country. EBCs, identified as more disadvantaged than OBCs, have historically been associated with low-status occupations, landlessness, and lower levels of literacy. While they constitute a significant portion of the population, particularly in states like Bihar, EBCs often face marginalization and exclusion from social and economic opportunities.


For Prelims: Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc

For Mains:  General Studies II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections


Source: Indianexpress

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