Gaj Utsav 2023: 30 years of Project Elephant

In News

  • President Droupadi Murmu inaugurated the ‘Gaj Utsav 2023′ at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam to mark 30 years of Project Elephant.
    • Project Elephant is a Centrally-sponsored Scheme launched in 1992 by the Ministry of Environment to support states to ensure the long-term survival of elephants in their natural habitats.

Asian elephants

  • Scientific Name: Elephas maximus indicus.
  • Size: The Asian elephant is the largest land mammal on the Asian continent. 
  • Habitat and distribution: They inhabit dry to wet forest and grassland habitats in 13 range countries spanning South and Southeast Asia.


  • There are about 50,000 – 60000  Asian elephants in the world. 
  • India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to the 2017 census by Project Elephant, i.e. about 60% of the species’ global population.
  • India has 33 Elephant Reserves (ER). Lemru ER (Chhattisgarh), Agsthyamalai ER (Tamil Nadu) and Terai ER (Uttar Pradesh) were notified in 2022.

Conservation Status

  • Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species
  • Asian elephants have also been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention of the Migratory species (CMS). It was decided at the Conference of Parties of CMS 13 held at Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat in 2020.

Threats posed to Elephant Population

  • The demand for ivory leads to the illegal poaching of both African and Asian elephants.
  • The loss of habitat due to deforestation increases in mining and agricultural activities has become problematic, especially for Asian elephants.
  • It is a significant concern, as human populations increase and forest cover decreases, forcing elephants into close proximity with human settlements.
  • A lack of legislation regarding the care and treatment of elephants in zoos, circuses, and tourism often leads to their mistreatment.

Other Government Initiatives

  • The National Portal on human-elephant conflict called “Surakshya” for the collection of real-time information & also for managing the conflicts on a real-time basis.
  • The government is using LiDAR technology in order to provide fodder and water augmentation in forest areas so that animals will get food and water in forest areas and will not come outside.
  • Under the Project RE-HAB, bee boxes will be used as a fence to prevent the attack of elephants.
    • The bee boxes are set up in the passageways of human-elephant conflict zones to block the entrance of elephants to human habitations.

75 Years of the WHO

In News

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) marks its 75th anniversary on 7 April 2023.


  • In April 1945, politicians from around the world gathered in San Francisco to establish the United Nations.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) was born three years later, when its constitution came into effect on April 7, 1948.
  • It states that health is a human right that every human being is entitled to, “without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition” and that “the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security.”

World Health Organization (WHO)

  • It is a specialised agency of the United Nations with a mandate to act as a coordinating authority on international health issues.
  • It was founded in 1948 and has headquarters at Geneva, Switzerland. 
  • It has 194 Member States, 150 country offices, six regional offices.
  • It works in collaboration with its member states usually through the Ministries of Health.

Successes of WHO

  • Eradication of smallpox: One of the biggest successes in the WHO’s quest to ensure the global population’s well-being came in 1980, when the organization officially announced it had wiped out a common but deadly centuries-old infectious disease.
    • Smallpox eradication was a perfect example of when the WHO works best
  • Health as a human right: Efforts helped in realising the goal of health as a human right.

Failed attempts of WHO

  • The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone offers an example of a WHO job less well done.
  • The organization’s agreement to give up on trying to eradicate malaria in the 1960s represents another example of what some consider a botched job.
    • The WHO launched the Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP) in 1955. But there was little to no progress in sub-Saharan Africa under the program, and in many places, failure to sustain GMEP actually led to a resurgence of malaria. In 1969, the program was discontinued.
  • In the COVID-19 pandemic the WHO was criticized for not doing enough to support member states in their fight against the disease.

Need for WHO Reforms

  • Lack of funding: Any attempt to build a stronger WHO must first begin with increased mandatory funding by member states.
  • Providing more powers: It is time to provide the agency with more powers to demand that member states comply with the norms and to alert WHO in case of disease outbreaks that could cause global harm.
    • WHO does not have the authority to enforce its recommendations.
  • Lack of information sharing: The long delay and the reluctance of China to readily and quickly share vital information regarding the novel coronavirus, including the viral outbreak in Wuhan.
  • Member states do not face penalties for non-compliance: This has to change for any meaningful protection from future disease outbreaks.

Changes Made 

  • After the Ebola epidemic from 2014 to 2016, the WHO made significant changes to its structure. One example: It now relies to a lesser degree on national governments for crucial health information, thus lowering the chances of missing the start of another serious disease outbreak.
  • WHO also cooperates with tech companies.

Way Forward/ Suggestions

  • Build global solidarity for worldwide health security: WHO will work with countries to improve their own preparedness for pandemics and health emergencies. But for this to be effective, we will ensure that countries work together.
  • Advance health for all: WHO will work across all three levels of the Organisation and with partners worldwide to help countries strengthen systems so that they can respond to COVID-19 and deliver all the essential health services required to keep people of all ages healthy close to home and without falling into poverty.
  • Tackling health inequities: The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the deep disparities that persist between and within countries, some of which are being exacerbated and risk widening even further. 
  • Provide global leadership on science and data: WHO will monitor and evaluate the latest scientific developments around COVID-19 and beyond, identifying opportunities to harness those advances to improve global health.
  • Revitalise efforts to tackle communicable diseases: WHO and partners have worked resolutely to end the scourge of polio, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and to avert epidemics of diseases like measles and yellow fever.
  • Build back better: Manifesto for a Healthy Recovery from COVID-19, with its goals of addressing climate change and health, reducing air pollution and improving air quality, can play a major role in making this happen.

Genome India Project

In News

  • 10,000 genomes are expected to be completely sequenced by the end of the year 2023 under the Genome India Project.

Genome India Project

  • About:
    • It is a Centre-backed, Department of Biotechnology’s (DBT) initiative to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes in three years and create a database.
  • Progress & the target:
    • The project has sequenced close to 7,000 genomes and 3,000 of these are already available for public access by researchers. 
  • Stakeholders:
    • About 20 institutions across India are involved in the project though the analysis and coordination is done out of the Centre for Brain Research, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
  • Data collection:
    • For conducting the project, investigators in hospitals will lead the data collection through a simple blood test from participants and the information will be added to biobanks.
  • Priority areas:
    • Some of the priority areas are Precision health, Rare genetic disorders, Mutation spectrum of genetic and complex diseases in the Indian population, Genetic Epidemiology of Multifactorial Lifestyle Diseases, and Translational Research.

Significance of the Project

  • Disease-based human genetics:
    • The Indian population of 1.3 billion consists of over 4,600 population groups, and many of them are endogamous. 
    • These factors have contributed to the genetic diversity of the current population. Thus, the Indian population harbours distinct variations and often many disease-causing mutations are amplified within some of these groups. 
    • Therefore, findings from population-based or disease-based human genetics research from other populations of the world cannot be extrapolated to Indians.
  • Help in customising drugs and therapies:
    • Creating a database of Indian genomes means that researchers anywhere can learn about genetic variants that are unique to India’s population groups and use that to customise drugs and therapies.
      • The United Kingdom, China, and the United States are among the countries that have programmes to sequence at least 1,00,000 of their genomes.
  • Boost to biotechnology sector:
    • It will also boost India’s biotechnology sector to expand and have more valuable companies and start-ups.
  • Designing of genome-wide association chips:
    • This would aid in the designing of genome-wide association chips which will facilitate further large-scale genetic studies in a cost-effective manner.

What Is Genome Sequencing?

  • A genome is a complete set of genetic instructions which are present in an organism in its DNA. 
  • Sequencing is the sequence of occurrences of the four nucleotide bases i.e., adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T)
  • The human genome is made up of over 3 billion of these genetic letters.
    • The whole genome can’t be sequenced all at once because available methods of DNA sequencing can only handle short stretches of DNA at a time.
  • While human genomes are made of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), a virus genome can be made of either DNA or RNA (Ribonucleic acid).
    • Coronavirus is made of RNA. Every organism has a unique genome sequence. 
  • Genome sequencing is a technique that reads and interprets genetic information found within DNA or RNA.

Significance of Genome Sequencing

  • Understands the Virus: 
    • The purpose of genome sequencing is to understand the role of certain mutations in increasing the virus’s infectivity. Some mutations explain immune escape or the virus’s ability to evade antibodies which have consequences for vaccines.
  • Studying Efficacy: 
    • It helps in studying whether the vaccines developed so far are effective against such mutant strains of the virus and if can prevent re­infection and transmission. 
  • Tracing Mutations: 
    • Sequencing of the genomes of viral strains is important from a “know-thy-enemy” point of view as it becomes easier to trace the mutations. 
    • Scientists can find mutations much more easily and quickly.
  • Developing Vaccines: 
    • Knowledge generated through vital research assists in developing diagnostics and potential therapeutics and vaccines now and for the potential diseases in the future.
  • Vital Information: 
    • Important information and findings can be derived from the Genome sequencing of those who tested positive for COVID or any other virus of concern.

Challenges in Genome Sequencing in India

  • Very High target: 
    • The aim was to sequence at least 5% of the samples, the minimum required to keep track of the virus variants. This has so far been only around 1%, primarily due to insufficient reagents and tools necessary to scale up the process. 
  • Low Capacity: 
    • The ten laboratories together can sequence about 30,000 samples a month, or 1,000 a day, six times less than what is needed to meet the target.
  • Sample Collection: 
    • The healthcare system is already overstretched and this is one additional task for them to sort and package samples and RNA preparations regularly for shipping in a cold chain to sequencing centres along with recording extensive metadata to make sequence information useful.

Way ahead

  • This project allows India to draw upon its tremendous genetic diversity, given the series of large migrations historically, and thus, add greatly to the current information about the human species.
  • This initiative reflects India’s progress in gene therapies and precision medicine, and its movement towards emerging next-generation medicine which yields the possibilities for greater customization, safety, and earlier detection.
IndiGen ProjectThe IndiGen Genome Project was launched by the CSIR in April 2019. It was implemented by CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.The main aim of the IndiGen project is to carry out genome sequencing of 1008 Indian Individuals.Utility: Once such knowledge is established, the CSIR expects to tie up with several pathology laboratories who can offer commercial gene testing services.Project proponents say this will widen public understanding in India about genomes and the information that genes hide about one’s susceptibility to disease.

The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) mission

In News

  • NASA’s high-resolution air pollution monitoring instrument TEMPO lifted atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida


  • It is the first funded project of NASA’s Earth Venture Instrument program, which includes small, targeted science investigations designed to complement NASA’s larger research missions.
    • It is part of the agency’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program. 
  • It will measure atmospheric pollution covering most of North America, from Mexico City to the Canadian tar/oil sands, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific hourly and at high spatial resolution.
    • It covers not only the continental United States, but also Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and part of the island of Hispaniola. 
  • It will take important scientific observations, including that of ozone, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde levels


  • TEMPO’s measurements from geostationary orbit (GEO) of tropospheric ozone, ozone precursors, aerosols, and clouds will create a revolutionary dataset that provides understanding and improves prediction of air quality (AQ) and climate forcing.
  • TEMPO data will play an important role in the scientific analysis of pollution, including studies of rush hour pollution, the potential for improved air quality alerts, the effects of lightning on ozone, the movement of pollution from forest fires and volcanoes, and even the effects of fertilizer application.  
Geostationary orbit (GEO)Satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) circle Earth above the equator from west to east following Earth’s rotation – taking 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds – by travelling at exactly the same rate as Earth. This makes satellites in GEO appear to be ‘stationary’ over a fixed position. In order to perfectly match Earth’s rotation, the speed of GEO satellites should be about 3 km per second at an altitude of 35 786 km. This is much farther from Earth’s surface compared to many satellites.It is used by satellites that need to stay constantly above one particular place over Earth, such as telecommunication satellites. It can also be used by weather monitoring satellites, because they can continually observe specific areas to see how weather trends emerge there

Mera Gaon Meri Dharohar Program

In News

  • In a bid to harness the unique cultural heritage of rural India, the government has identified and documented distinctive features of more than one lakh villages across the country.
    • The entire exercise has been carried out under the ‘ Mera Gaon Meri Dharohar‘ (My Village My Heritage) programme of the National Mission for Cultural Mapping (NMCM).

National Mission for Cultural Mapping (NMCM)

  • The National Mission for Cultural Mapping (NMCM) aims to develop a comprehensive database of art forms, artists and other resources across the country. 
  • It was launched by the Ministry of Culture in 2017, the programme got off to a slow start and was handed over to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) in 2021.
    • IGNCA was established in 1987 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, as a centre for research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts.
  • The IGNCA plans to cover all the 6.5 lakh villages in the country. As of today, short films have been made on 750 clusters villages. The films, which give a 360 degree view of the village, have been shot using drones.

Significance & Need

  • The program seeks to document the cultural identity at the village level by involving citizens to share what makes their village, block, or district unique.
  • In this cultural asset mapping, villages have been broadly divided into seven-eight categories based on whether they are important ecologically, developmentally and scholastically, if they produce a famous textile or product, and if they are connected to some historical or mythological events such as the Independence struggle or epics like the Mahabharata.
  • The mapping aims to develop a comprehensive database of art forms, artists, and other resources across the country.

About the survey process 

  • The survey process involves a CSC Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) conducting meetings with locals and then uploading interesting facts about their village, its places of interest, customs and traditions, famous personalities, festivals and beliefs, art and culture, etc., on to a special application.

CBDT Signs 95 Advance Pricing Agreements in FY 2022-23

In News

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has entered into a record 95 Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) in FY 2022-23 with Indian taxpayers.
    • This includes 63 Unilateral APAs (UAPAs) and 32 Bilateral APAs (BAPAs). 


  • This year, CBDT recorded the highest ever APA signings in any financial year since the launch of the APA programme. This year, CBDT also signed the maximum number of BAPAs in any financial year till date. 
  • The BAPAs were signed as a consequence of entering into Mutual Agreements with India’s treaty partners namely Finland, the UK, the US, Denmark, Singapore, and Japan.

Advance Pricing Agreement (APA)

  • An APA is an agreement between a taxpayer and tax authority determining the transfer pricing methodology for pricing the tax payer’s international transactions for future years.
  • The methodology is to be applied for a certain period of time based on the fulfillment of certain terms and conditions (called critical assumptions).
  • Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) provisions were introduced in the Income-tax Act, 1961 (Act) w.e.f. 1 July 2012. 

Different types of APAs

  • An APA can be unilateral, bilateral, or multilateral.
    • Unilateral APA: A unilateral APA involves only the taxpayer and the tax authority of the country where the taxpayer is located.
    • Bilateral APA (BAPA): It involves the taxpayer, associated enterprise (AE) of the taxpayer in the foreign country, tax authority of the country where the taxpayer is located, and the foreign tax authority. 
    • Multilateral APA (MAPA): an APA that involves the taxpayer, two or more AEs of the taxpayer in different foreign countries, tax authority of the country where the taxpayer is located, and the tax authorities of AEs.


  • The APA programme has contributed significantly to the Government of India’s mission of promoting ease of doing business, especially for MNEs which have a large number of cross-border transactions within their group entities.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. The officials of the Board in their ex-officio capacity also function as a Division of the Ministry dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.Composition and Functions of CBDT:The Central Board of Direct Taxes consists of a Chairman and following six MembersChairmanMember (Income Tax & Revenue)Member (Legislation)Member (Administration)Member (investigation)Member (TPS & system)Member (Audit & Judicial) 

Application Supported by a Blocked Amount (ASBA)

In News

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) approved a framework for an Application Supported by a Blocked Amount (ASBA)-like facility for trading in the secondary market.

SEBI’s recent decision 

  • It gave its nod to an ASBA-like facility for secondary market trading. 
  • The facility is based on the blocking of funds for trading in the secondary market through UPI (Unified Payments Interface).
    • At present, ASBA is available for the primary market, wherein the initial public offering (IPO) funds only are blocked on application, and are debited only on the allotment.

About ASBA

  • It was first introduced by SEBI in 2008.
  • It is an application by an investor that contains an authorisation to a Self Certified Syndicate Bank (SCSB) to block in the bank account the application money for subscribing to an issue.
    • An SCSB is a recognised bank capable of providing ASBA services to its customers.
  • The application money of an investor applying through ASBA shall be debited from the bank account only if her application is selected for allotment after the basis of allotment has been finalised. 
  • In public issues and rights issues, all investors have to mandatorily apply through ASBA.


  • It provides an alternative mode of payment in issues whereby the application money remains in the investor’s account till finalization of basis of allotment in the issue.
  • ASBA process facilitates investors bidding with multiple options, to apply through Self Certified Syndicate Banks (SCSBs), in which the investors have bank accounts.
  • ASBA in secondary market trading will ensure that clients will continue to earn interest on the blocked funds in their savings account till the debit takes place.
  • There will be direct settlement with Clearing Corporation (CC), without passing through the pool accounts of the intermediaries. 
  • Hence, it will provide client-level settlement visibility to CC, and help avoid the risk of co-mingling of clients’ funds and securities.
  • It will eliminate the custody risk of client collateral, which is currently retained by the members, and is not transferred to the CC. 

Sports Authority of India integrates Khelo India Games Certificates with Digilocker

In News

  • The Sports Authority of India integrates Khelo India Games Certificates with Digilocker.
  • Khelo India Games certificate is a document that is awarded to athletes who participate in the Khelo India Games.
  •  The certificate recognizes the participation of the athlete in the games and serves as proof of their achievement. 


  • This will allow athletes, support staff, technical officers and competition managers to access their certificates digitally. It would also provide for real time verification of Certificates.

Sports Authority of India (SAI) 

  • Sports Authority of India (SAI) was set up in 1982. SAI was set up as a Society registered under Societies Act, 1860
  • SAl has been entrusted with the twin objectives of promoting sports and achieving sporting excellence at the national and international level.
  • SAI has played a significant role in shaping India’s sports development by providing training to elite athletes and at the same time operating a number of schemes for the identification and development of young talent


  • DigiLocker is a flagship initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) under Digital India programme.
  • DigiLocker aims at ‘Digital Empowerment’ of citizens by providing access to authentic digital documents to citizen’s digital document wallet.
  • DigiLocker is a secure cloud-based platform for storage, sharing and verification of documents & certificates.


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