Coastal Red Sand Dunes

In News

  • Recently, Scientists urged the Andhra Pradesh government to protect glacial-period coastal red sand dunes of Visakhapatnam.

Key Points

  • About: 
    • The city of Visakhapatnam is blessed with a number of sites that have geological importance. One among them is the coastal red sand dunes, popularly known as ‘Erra Matti Dibbalu’.
  • Location and Spread: 
    • The site is located along the coast and is about 20 km north-east of Visakhapatnam city and about 4 km south-west of Bheemunipatnam.
    • The Erra Matti Dibbalu are spread across an area of about 20 sq km and the entire area has been notified as a Geo Heritage Site.
  • Geo Heritage Site:
    • This site was declared as a geo-heritage site by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in 2014 and the Andhra Pradesh government has listed it under the category of ‘protected sites’ in 2016.
    • This site has much significance geologically, archaeologically and anthropologically and it needs to be protected for further study and evaluation. 
  • Uniqueness in the Site:
    • The red sediments are a part of the continuation of the evolution of the earth and represent the late quaternary geologic age. 
    • With a height of up to 30 m, they exhibit badland topography with different geomorphic landforms and features, including:
      • Gullies, 
      • sand dunes, 
      • buried channels, 
      • beach ridges, 
      • paired terraces, 
      • the valley in the valley, 
      • wave-cut terrace, 
      • knick point and 
      • waterfalls.
  • Depicts real time effects of Climate Change:
    • About 18,500 years ago, the sea (Bay of Bengal) was at least 5 km behind from the present coastline. 
    • Since then it has been undergoing continuous active changes till about 3,000 years ago and still the changes are on.
  • Geochemically unaltered
    • The top light-yellow sand unit, which is estimated to have been deposited around 3,000 years ago, could not attain the red colouration as the sediments were geochemically unaltered. 
    • These sediments are unfossiliferous and deposited over the khondalite basement
    • The dunes consist of light yellow sand dunes at the top followed by a brick red sand unit, a reddish brown concretion bearing sand unit with yellow sand at the bottom.
      • This bottom-most yellow sand unit is fluvial while the other overlying three units are aeolian in origin.

Significance of the Site

  • Study the impact of climate change, as Erra Matti Dibbalu has seen both the glacial and the warm periods.
  • The site is about 18,500 to 20,000 years old and it can be related to the last glacial period and will tell about the archaeological history.
  • The site also has archaeological significance, as studies of artefacts indicate an Upper Palaeolithic horizon and on cross dating assigned to Late Pleistocene epoch, which is 20,000 BC.
  • The site was home to the prehistoric man as the excavations at several places in the region revealed stone implements of three distinctive periods and also the pottery of the Neolithic man.
  • Such sand deposits are rare and have been reported only from three places in the tropical regions in south Asia such as Teri Sands in Tamil Nadu, Erra Matti Dibbalu in Visakhapatnam and one more site in Sri Lanka.
    • They do not occur in equatorial regions or temperate regions due to many scientific reasons, which make it geologically very important.

Aviation Safety in India

In News

  • In the latest rankings by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), India’s position has jumped to the 48th place from the 102nd spot in 2018.

Key Highlights

  • Total number of countries: 
    • The rankings are for 187 countries and assessments were done at different points of time. 
    • Under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach, an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) was undertaken from November 9 to 16.
  • The Effective Implementation (EI) of six areas were assessed:
    • LEG is Primary Aviation Legislation and Specific Operating Regulations; 
    • ORG is Civil Aviation Organisation; 
    • PEL is Personnel Licensing and Training; 
    • OPS is Aircraft Operations;
    • AIR is Airworthiness of Aircraft; and 
    • AGA is Aerodrome and Ground Aid.
  • Coordinated Validated Mission:
    • So far for India, the ICAO has done the Coordinated Validated Mission four times, including the last one in November this year.
    • It did the mission in December 2012 that covered all the areas and the EI score rose from 79.84% to 81.32%. 
    • The mission was next conducted in August 2013 that looked at two areas – OPS and AIR. At that time, the score improved from 79.73% to 81.19%.
    • Another mission was done in November 2018. It covered LEG, ORG, AIG, ANS and AGA. During that time, the EI score declined from 71.86% to 69.95%.
      • AIG is Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation; ANS is Air Navigation Services.
  • Eight critical elements: 
    • The ICAO looks at these elements for the safety oversight system, including primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, resolution of safety issues and surveillance obligations.
  • Score: 
    • With a score of 85.49% each, India and Georgia are at the 48th position. 
    • Neighbouring Pakistan’s score is 70.39%. 
    • The rankings are topped by Singapore with a score of 99.69%. 
    • It is followed by the UAE at the second position with a score of 98.8% and the Republic of Korea is at the third place (98.24%).
    • Others in the top ten are France (4th; 96.42%), Iceland (5th; 95.73%), Australia (6th; 95.04%), Canada (7th; 94.95%), Brazil (8th; 94.72%), Ireland (9th; 94.6%) and Chile (10th; 93.9%), as per the DGCA officials.
  • Against China:
    • The ranking, which also places it ahead of China (49), is the highest ever received by India.
  • Coming out of the impacts of COVID 19:
    • The country’s aviation sector is slowly coming back into the growth trajectory after being severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the domestic air traffic is also inching towards the pre-pandemic level.

Aviation Sector in India

  • About: 
    • India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world.  
  • Domestic: 
    • Its domestic traffic makes up 69% of the total airline traffic in South Asia.  
  • Capacity: 
    • India’s airport capacity is expected to handle 1 billion trips annually by 2023. 
  • Responsible Ministry:
    • The Ministry of Civil Aviation is responsible for formulating national aviation policies and programmes. 
  • Airports Authority of India (AAI): 
    • It is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in the country.   
    • As on June 23, 2020, it operates and manages 137 airports in the country. 
    • AAI has leased out eight of its airports through Public Private Partnership (PPP) for operation, management and development on a long term lease basis.
  • Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN):
    • The top 15 airports in the country account for about 83% of the total passenger traffic. 
    • These airports are also close to their saturation limit, and hence the Ministry notes that there is a need to add more Tier-II and Tier-III cities to the aviation network.  
    • The Regional Connectivity Scheme was introduced in 2016 to stimulate regional air connectivity and make air travel affordable to the masses.  
    • The budget for this scheme is Rs 4,500 crore over five years from 2016-17 to 2021-22. 
    • As of December 16, 2021, 46% of this amount has been released.  In 2022-23, the scheme has been allocated Rs 601 crore, which is 60% lower than the revised estimates of 2021-22 (Rs 994 crore).  


  • Maintaining: 
    • The challenge now is to maintain and further improve the air safety ecosystem.
  • Financial: 
    • The aviation sector came under severe financial stress during the Covid-19 pandemic. After air travel was suspended in March 2020, airline operators in India reported losses worth more than Rs 19,500 crore while airports reported losses worth more than Rs 5,120 crore. 
  • Congestion at Airports: 
    • Domestic air traffic has more than doubled from around 61 million passengers in 2013-14 to around 137 million in 2019-20.  
    • International passenger traffic has grown from 47 million in 2013-14 to around 67 million in 2019-20, registering a growth of over 6% per annum.  
    • As a result, airports in India are witnessing rising levels of congestion.  
    • Most major airports are operating at 85% to 120% of their handling capacity.   
  • Resource availability: 
    • Lack of availability of land and creation of regional infrastructure has led to delays in the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN). 
    •  Issues with obtaining licenses and unsustainable operation of awarded routes also contribute to the delay.
  • Capacity and infrastructure:
    • Due to the rapid expansion, airspace, parking bays and runway slots will become increasingly scarce over the next few years,
  • Skilled workers:
    • According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Indian aviation could directly support 1.0 to 1.2 million jobs by 2035.
    • This implies that about 0.25 million persons will need to be skilled over the next 10 years.
    • But there is a shortage and gaps in availability of industry-recognised skills.
  • High cost to passengers and of air cargo:
    • Tariff determination: The government has mandated that all airports move from a single to a hybrid till structure. It raises costs for airlines and passengers.
    • Taxes on aviation turbine fuel (ATF): Due to high taxes and lack of competition among providers, ATF is relatively expensive in India. It is also outside the ambit of GST which creates high regional disparity in its price.
    • Incidence of GST on Aircraft Leases and Spare Parts: It also raises cost for the sector.
    • Profitless Growth: Rising aviation turbine fuel cost, slowdown in capacity addition, and decline in the value of rupees leading to a scenario of Profitless Growth.
    • Aviation safety: Although, the number of aviation safety violations in 2017 (337) has declined in comparison to 2016 (442), the absolute number still remains high.
    • Security and Terrorism: Rising global terrorism and airports have become preferred targets of terrorist groups.
    • Lack of Draft Passengers Charter: In the absence of such a draft, adequate services to passengers cannot be ensured.
  • Rising cost of Aviation Turbine Fuel:
    • The cost of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) forms around 40% of the total operating cost of airlines and impacts their financial viability.  
    • ATF prices have been consistently rising over the past years, placing stress on the balance sheets of airline companies.  
    • As per recent news reports, airfares are expected to rise as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is making ATF costlier.

Way Ahead

  • The Government should go for privatisation of some airports to address the problem of congestion.  
  • ATF should be included within the ambit of GST and that applicable GST should not exceed 12% on ATF with full Input Tax Credit. 
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)ICAO is funded and directed by 193 national governments to support their diplomacy and cooperation in air transport as signatory states to the Chicago Convention (1944).Vision:Achieve the sustainable growth of the global civil aviation system.Mission:To serve as the global forum of States for international civil aviation. ICAO develops policies and Standards, undertakes compliance audits, performs studies and analyses, provides assistance and builds aviation capacity through many other activities and the cooperation of its Member States and stakeholders.Core functions:To maintain an administrative and expert bureaucracy (the ICAO Secretariat) supporting these diplomatic interactionsTo research new air transport policy Standardisation innovations as directed and endorsed by governments through the ICAO Assembly, or by the ICAO Council which the assembly elects.In addition to these core diplomatic and research capabilities, ICAO also serves as a critical coordination platform in civil aviation through its seven Regional Offices.

Chinese Presence in the Indian Ocean

In News

  • Recently, China’s top development aid agency convened the first “China-Indian Ocean Region Forum” in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

Key Points

  • About: 
    • The meet is organised by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) 
    • It is the latest Chinese initiative focusing on the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
    • Such moves underline Beijing’s growing strategic interests in a region where its economic footprint has been deepening.
  • Theme:
    • Shared Development: Theory and Practice from the Perspective of the Blue Economy.
  • China on India’s position in this:
    • India, as a major country in the Indian Ocean region, was invited to this forum
    • China looks forward to meeting India at the next forum”. 
  • India’s stand:
    • India has viewed China’s recent moves in the region warily, including the recent visit of a Chinese military tracking vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, to Sri Lanka. 
    • India sees the IORA as an already established platform for the region, which has 23 members, including Australia and Maldives with 10 dialogue partners which include China, Japan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.

China Indian Ocean Region Forum

  • About: 
    • It is headed by the former Vice Foreign Minister of China.
  • Jointly Held: 
    • The forum was “the first high-level official development cooperation forum jointly held by China and countries in the Indian Ocean Region
    • Over 100 participants, including senior officials from 19 countries bordering the Indian Ocean attended. 
  • China’s Proposal:
    • To establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region
  • Other country’s proposal:
    • To strengthen policy coordination, 
    • Deepen development cooperation, 
    • Increase resilience to shocks and disasters, 
    • Enhance relevant countries’ capacity to obtain economic benefits through use of marine resources such as fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, and shipping in a sustainable way.
  • Supporting Countries:
    • 19 countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, and Australia.
    • But at least two of those countries, Australia and Maldives, subsequently released statements rebutting the claim, emphasising that they did not participate officially. 

China’s Plans for the IOR

  • China’s prominent role in global supply chains, the vast resource base of the Indian Ocean, and the passage of strategic sea lines of communication through the IOR.
  • Earlier, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during a visit to Sri Lanka, proposed creating a forum “on the development of Indian Ocean island countries” to “build consensus and synergy, and promote common development”.
  • China is establishing a more frequent military presence in the waters of the IOR. Beijing’s first ever overseas military facility was set up in Djibouti near the Horn of Africa.
  • Chinese military planners have previously said the PLA Navy, which earlier this year launched its third aircraft carrier, has a long-term plan to deploy six aircraft carriers to secure China’s maritime interests, and that two of them will be based in the Indian Ocean Region.


  • China’s initiation of a new forum for IOR countries despite the other successfully established forums is worrisome.
  • China has been relentlessly trying to ramp up political, economic and security inroads in the region despite being geographically far from IOR.
  • Apparently aimed at countering India’s strong influence in the region.
  • China has often been accused of engaging in “debt diplomacy”.

Way Ahead

  • India has a central role in the region and for regional actors. Thus,  IOR countries should not ignore India’s strategic interests and concerns.
  • India’s importance in the region can not be marginalised as there is a growing trust deficit when it comes to China.

India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide

In Context

  • Recently, the NGO Oxfam India released ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’.

Report highlights

  • Data from CMIE:
    • The report analyses the primary data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) household survey held from Jan 2018 to Dec 2021.
  • Indian Women internet users:
    • Indian women are 15 percent less likely to own a mobile phone and 33 percent less likely to use mobile internet services than men.
    • Women constitute only one-third of internet users in India.
    • India’s position globally:
      • In Asia-Pacific, India fares the worst with the widest gender gap of 40.4 percent, says the study. 
  • Rural-urban digital divide:
    • The report also points to the rural-urban digital divide.
      • Despite registering a significant (digital) growth rate of 13 percent in a year, only 31 percent of the rural population uses the Internet compared to 67 percent of their urban counterparts, says the report.
    • Caste-wise divide:
      • In rural India, the tendency to use formal financial services is lowest for ST households, followed by SC households and OBC households.
      • The likelihood of access to a computer is more for the General and OBC groups than for the SC and ST populations. 
      • The difference between the general category and ST is as high as seven to eight percent between 2018 and 2021.
    • Religion-wise:
      • Among all religions, Sikhs have the highest likelihood of having a computer followed by Christians, Hindus and lastly Muslims.
  • Data of states:
    • Among states, Maharashtra has the highest internet penetration, followed by Goa and Kerala, while Bihar has the lowest, followed by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the report said.
  • Access to computer & internet for education:
    • As per the National Service Scheme [NSS (2017-18)], only about 9 percent of the students who were enrolled in any course had access to a computer with internet and 25 percent of enrolled students had access to the internet through any kind of devices.
    • The chances of having a computer are higher with higher levels of education as well as income. 
  • Effect of pandemic & digital payments:
    • The digital push driven by the pandemic resulted in India experiencing the largest number of real-time digital transactions in 2021 at 48.6 billion.
    • However, the likelihood of a digital payment by the richest 60 percent is four times more than the poorest 40 percent in India.
  • Citing other indices:
    • According to UN’s e-participation index (2022), which is a composite measure of three important dimensions of e-government, namely provision of online services, telecommunication connectivity and human capacity, India ranks 105 out of 193 nations.

More about the digital divide

  • Meaning:
    • The digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology (ICT), and those that don’t or have restricted access. 
    • This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and internet connectivity.
    • Even among populations with some access to technology, the digital divide can be evident in the form of lower-performance computers, lower-speed wireless connections, lower-priced internet use connections such as dial-up and limited access to subscription-based content.
  • Bridging the divide:
    • Proponents for bridging the digital divide include those who argue it would improve digital literacy, digital skills democracy, social mobility, economic equality and economic growth.
  • Loopholes causing the divide:
  • Online safety: 
    • According to a survey, more than half of young women have experienced violence online, including sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent.
      • The vast majority believe the problem is getting worse.
    • Women’s rights defenders and female journalists were targeted for abuse more than most.
  • Inadequate artificial intelligence:
    • The third threat comes from badly designed artificial intelligence systems that repeat and exacerbate discrimination. 

Solutions & way ahead

  • Addressing the divide:
    • Addressing the digital divide requires special, urgent and focused efforts of the government.
    • A large investment needs to be made, year after year, in digital infrastructure. 
    • The establishment of a Broadband Infrastructure Fund with a large corpus from private, multilateral and government sources, including spectrum auction revenues, is a must. 
  • Creation of an entity:
    • An empowered entity needs to be set up which is accountable for quality and timeliness to design and construct digital highways, their rural branches, and ensure their optimum utilisation by sharing the infrastructure
  • Online safety of women:
    • Social media sites can use their “algorithm power” to proactively tackle the issue of safety.
    • Governments need to strengthen laws that hold online abusers to account, and the public to speak up whenever they witness abuse online.
  • Skills:
    • Digital skills, required today both for life and for livelihoods, must be imparted on a war footing by transforming government digital literacy programmes into skilling missions, expanding outreach, including through the private sector.
  • Delivery of services:
    • The last mile delivery of services has to be made a reality and connectivity, devices and handholding assistance of trained persons at village service centres, schools and clinics is imperative.
Government initiatives to bridge the digital divideDigital India Initiative:Aim:To transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.Vision Areas:Digital Infrastructure as a Core Utility to Every CitizenGovernance & Services on Demand Digital Empowerment of CitizensAchievements:India today is home to more than 75 crore smartphones, 133 crore Aadhaar cards, more than 80 crore internet users, has 4G and is now accelerating towards 5G. Above all, it has among the lowest data tariffs in the world.Digital Payments India has emerged as the fastest-growing ecosystem for fintech innovations. India’s digital payments revolution is being appreciated globally. This was made possible due to innovative digital payment products like UPI and Aadhaar-Enabled Payment Systems (AEPS). When banks and ATMs were shut during Covid-19, AEPS-based micro-ATM at CSCs and post offices provided doorstep delivery of cash.The Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity:It has ensured that the poorest receive every penny of their entitled benefits.Financial benefits worth nearly Rs 23 lakh crore have been transferred using DBT technology in the last eight years. Bharat Net:To provide high-speed broadband to all the villages, optical fibre has been laid in 1.83 lakh gram panchayats under Bharat Net.Education:PM e-VIDYA: Launched to enable multi-mode access to education.One class-One Channel: Dedicated TV channel per grade for each of the classes 1 to 12.E-PG Pathshala: An initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to provide e-content for studies.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad


  • Recently, the Prime Minister paid tributes to India’s first President Rajendra Prasad on his birth anniversary on 3rd December 2022. 

About Dr. Rajendra Prasad

  • Birth: He was born on 3rd December 1884 in the Siwan district of Bihar. 
  • Education: He joined the famed Calcutta Presidency College in 1902. After completing his Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Calcutta in 1907, he went on to study law at the Calcutta Law College and practised at the Calcutta High Court.
    • He completed his Doctorate in Law from Allahabad University in 1937.
    • In the early 1920s, he became the editor of a Hindi weekly Desh and an English biweekly, Searchlight.
  • Role in India’s Independence Movement: In 1911, he became a member of the Indian National Congress and subsequently served as its President thrice.
    • He was imprisoned during the Salt Satyagraha in 1931 and the Quit India movement in 1942.
    • While Gandhiji was on a fact finding mission in Chamaparan district of Bihar to address grievances of local peasants, he called on Dr. Rajendra Prasad came to Champaran with volunteers.
    • Initially he was not impressed with Gandhiji’s appearance or conversation. In time, however, he was deeply moved by the dedication, conviction and courage that Gandhiji displayed.
    • The Rowlatt Act of 1918 and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 pushed Rajendra Prasad closer to Gandhiji.
    • In 1914 floods ravaged Bihar and Bengal. He became a volunteer distributing food and cloth to the flood victims.
    • Dr. Prasad called for non cooperation in Bihar as part of Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement. He gave up his law practice and started a National College near Patna,1921. 
    • In March 1930, Gandhiji launched the Salt Satyagraha. He planned to march from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi seashore to break the salt laws. A salt Satyagraha was launched in Bihar under Dr. Prasad.
    • He presided over the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress in October 1934. Following the resignation of Subhash Chandra Bose as the President of the Congress in April 1939, He was elected President. 
  • Contribution to Constitution Making: In 1946, Rajendra Prasad joined the Interim Government of India as the Minister of Food and Agriculture.
    • As a firm believer in the maximization of agricultural production, he crafted the slogan “Grow More Food.”
    • He was elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly from the Bihar Province where he served as the president of the Constituent Assembly from 1946 to 1950.
    • On 24th January 1950, at the last session of the Constituent Assembly, Prasad was elected as the President of India and has the distinction of being the only President to have been re-elected for a second term.
    • Committees of Constituent Assembly under the chairmanship of Dr. Prasad includes:
      • Ad hoc Committee on the National flag
      • Committee on the Rules of Procedure
      • Finance and Staff Committee
      • Steering Committee
  • Writings: He recorded his life and the decades before independence in manybooks, among the more noted of which are “Satyagraha at Champaran” (1922), “India Divided” (1946), his autobiography “Atmakatha” (1946), “Mahatma Gandhi and Bihar, Some Reminiscences” (1949), and “Bapu ke Kadmon Mein” (1954).
  • Awarded Highest Civilian Award: In 1962, after 12 years as President, Dr. Prasad retired, and was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Indo-French Partnership on Kaziranga Project

In Context

  • Some measures at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam will form the cornerstone of an Indo-French initiative.


  • With French and Indian technical and financial support, the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership will facilitate partnership activities for interesting natural parks of the Indo-Pacific region. 
  • These activities include biodiversity conservation, wildlife management and engagement with local communities.

About The Kaziranga project,

  • The Kaziranga project is a part of a larger Assam Project on Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC) for which the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has committed funding of €80.2 million for a 10-year period, between 2014-2024. 
  • The project conceptualised the reforestation of 33,500 hectares of land and the training of 10,000 community members in alternate livelihoods by 2024.
    •  Kaziranga National Park that remains the heart of the programme.
  • The AFD programme has been most effective in the skilling of communities in the area, particularly forest-dwelling communities.
    • The Assam government has now begun a massive reforestation drive with the help of the AFD.
    • The project has also developed infrared-based early warning systems, triggered by elephant footfall, to either scare off herds from human habitat or to warn villagers.

Kaziranga National Park

  • It is the largest undivided representative area of Brahmaputra valley floodplain grassland, a complex ecosystem of grassland, where various stages of biotic succession in the grassland ecosystem are explicit.
  • The Park is the abode of more than 70% of One Horned Rhinoceros in the world.
  • It is one of the oldest wildlife conservancy reserves of India, first notified in 1905 and constituted as a Reserved Forest in 1908.
  • It was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950, and notified as Kaziranga National Park in 1974 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, of 1972.
  • It  was declared a World Heritage Site back in 1985. It is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.


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