Monday, Dec 25, 2023

UPSC Key—22nd December, 2023: Women in sports in India, Credit rating agencies and Volcanoes and Volcanic Landforms

Exclusive for Subscribers from Monday to Friday: Why Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 and Sakshi Malik are relevant to the UPSC Exam? What significance do topics like XPoSat mission, Organised crime and Plate Tectonics, Volcanoes and Earthquake have for both the preliminary and main exams? You can learn more by reading the Indian Express UPSC Key for December 22, 2023.

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Important topics and their relevance in UPSC CSE exam for December 22, 2023. If you missed the December 21, 2023 UPSC CSE exam key from the Indian Express, read it here


Brij Bhushan aide elected WFI chief, Sakshi quits wrestling


Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.

Main Examination:  

• General Studies I: Role of women and Social empowerment

• General Studies II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Key Points to Ponder:

• What’s the ongoing story- With garlands draped around his neck, firecrackers bursting in the background and supporters chanting his name, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh flashed the victory sign for the cameras. Standing next to him was a beaming Sanjay Singh, Brij Bhushan’s ‘nominee’ who was elected president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Thursday, defeating former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anita Sheoran by a margin of 40-7.

• Who is Sanjay Singh?


• How president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is elected?

• When was Wrestling Federation of India established?

• Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh?

• Why wrestler Sakshi Malik quits wrestling?

• What is the entire issue?

• ‘Politicians and politics should not have any say in sports’-do you agree?

• What Indian Olympic Association have said?

• United World Wrestling (UWW)-Know in detail

• How Government has responded?

Festive offer

• Women in sports in India-what data’s and facts says?

• What is the major issue that affects female athletes participation in sports?

• What are the challenges faced by Indian sportswomen?

• How are females discriminated against in sporting activities?

• Does the Vishaka guidelines apply to female athletes?

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

📍The idea of women wrestlers


Rating agencies too subjective, loaded against India, need reform: CEA


Preliminary Examination: Indian Polity and Governance

Mains Examination: General Studies II: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

Key Points to Ponder:

• What’s the ongoing story-Calling for urgent reforms and transparency in the process of sovereign credit rating, the office of the Chief Economic Advisor in the Union Ministry of Finance, has said that methodologies used by agencies Fitch, Moody’s and S&P, are heavily loaded against developing countries like India due to an “over-reliance” on non-transparent and subjective qualitative factors.

• What is the methodology of credit rating?

• What is AAA and BBB rating?

• What are the credit rating agencies of India?


• What is the role of credit rating agencies in the India?

• What do these ratings mean?

• How credible are the agencies?

• India’s objection to credit ratings-Know the reasons

For Your Information-In an essay ‘Understanding a Sovereign’s Willingness to Pay Back: A Review of Credit Rating Methodologies’ — which is one of five essays in a book called Re-examining Narratives, the CEA’s office pointed out that perception and value judgements end up weighing much more than the countries’ actual macroeconomic fundamentals. The preface for the book has been written by V Anantha Nageswaran, Chief Economic Advisor, and Rajiv Mishra, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Finance.
“The rating of India during the last 15 years remained static at BBB- during the last 15 years, despite it climbing the ladders from the 12th largest economy in the world in 2008 to the 5th largest in 2023, with the second-highest growth rate recorded during the period among all the comparator economies. Thereby, any improvement in macro-economic parameters may virtually mean nothing for a credit rating if qualitative parameters are judged to be in need of improvement. This has serious implications for developing sovereigns’ access to capital markets and ability to borrow at affordable rates,” the essay said.
The essay recommended relying mainly on a country’s debt repayment history to determine its ‘willingness to pay’, instead of “less-than-optimal” qualitative information. “…there cannot be any better-revealed preference for willingness and determination to pay back a country’s debt obligations than its repayment history itself. Thus, a nation that has not defaulted throughout its external debt history and through the vicissitudes of its socio-economic development should be taken as fool-proof in its ‘willingness to pay’ back,” it said.
Such a model, the essay suggests, will “do enormous good” to the credibility of the CRAs. It said that qualitative information and judgement can be the “last resort” when all other options for applying authentic, verifiable information are precluded.
According to the paper, the methodologies used by the rating agencies have an “enormous degree of opaqueness”, and called for far greater transparency and reforms in the ratings process. It claimed that the “qualitative” and subjective perceptions about governance and institutional strength surpass “the collective influence of all other macroeconomic fundamentals” when it comes to the chances of earning India and other developing economies a rating upgrade.
The methodology used by the ratings agencies has been a persistent grouse in the North Block for a few years, with at least two former CEAs — Arvind Subramanian and Krishnamurthy Subramanian — having publicly slammed the agencies for their apparent reluctance to upgrade India’s ratings and for adopting “inconsistent” standards for different countries.
But this time around, the CEA’s office has systematically studied the complex rating methodology of each of the three agencies, to point out biases and highlighted that opaqueness in rating methodologies make for “fertile grounds for sowing suspicion about the discriminatory intent of CRAs”, given that economically weaker countries are usually at the receiving end of rating downgrades.
“There is a strong feeling among the developing countries that subjective assessments tilt, most often, in favour of the advanced economies, as developing countries have borne the brunt of over 95 per cent of all credit rating downgrades despite experiencing economic contractions which were milder than their advanced economy counterparts,” it said.
The CEA and his team raised a strong objection to the heavy reliance of the agencies on the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGIs) for inferring governance and institutional quality of countries. “Institutional Quality, proxied mostly by the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGIs), emerges as the foremost determinant of a developing economy’s credit rating, which presents a problem since these metrics tend to be non-transparent, perception-based, and derived from a small group of experts, and cannot represent the ‘willingness to pay’ of the sovereign,” it said.

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

📍Explained: How global credit ratings work


Bill on appointment of CEC, ECs passed; in line with direction of SC, says Minister


Preliminary Examination: Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Main Examination: General Studies II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Key Points to Ponder:


• What’s the ongoing story-THE LOK Sabha passed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 on Thursday, close on the heels of the Rajya Sabha clearing it with some official amendments. The Bill provides for a panel comprising the PM, the Leader of the Opposition and a Cabinet Minister proposed by the PM.

• Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023-Know the key highlights


• “As per the doctrine of separation of powers, appointments to the poll panel come under the domain of the executive”-Comment

• Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023-what are the issues and challenges?


For Your Information-On March 2 this year, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) should be appointed by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The Constitution lays down no specific legislative process for the appointment of the CEC and ECs. As a result, the central government has a free hand in appointing these officials. The President makes the appointments on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
The Supreme Court, however, made it clear that its order would be “subject to any law to be made by Parliament”. Consequently, the government brought The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, which proposed a committee comprising the PM, Leader of Opposition and, instead of the CJI, a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM.
This Bill also proposed giving the CEC and ECs the same salary, perks, and allowances as that of the Cabinet Secretary. The Bill would replace The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, under which the CEC and ECs have the same salary as that of a Supreme Court judge.

• Why was the Bill criticised?

• “There is allegation that the proposed bill seeks to downgrade the service conditions of the three election commissioners and, consequently, threatens to erode their authority”-how far you agree?

• “Over the past few years, the EC’s credibility is increasingly being called into question, with allegations of bias in the scheduling of elections and arbitrary deletion of names of registered voters, ignoring blatant violations of the model code”-Comment

• Who appoints Chief Election Commissioner of India?

• How Chief Election Commissioner of India and other Election Commissioners are appointed?

• Election Commission of India and Article 324 of the Constitution-Know in detail

• Do You Know- As of now, the CEC and ECs are appointed by the government as per Article 324(2) of the Constitution which states: “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President”.

• The independent and impartial functioning of the Election Commission-How it is ensured?

• Election Commission of India- Powers and Functions

• Chief Election Commissioner and the two other Election Commissioners have equal powers-True or False?

• In case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief election commissioner and/or two other election commissioners, the matter is decided by the Supreme Court of India-Right or Wrong?

• In March 2023, the Supreme Court stepped in to check what it called the “pernicious effects of the exclusive power being vested with the Executive to make appointment to the Election Commission” and ordered something-can you recall

Quick Recall-In March 2023, the Supreme Court stepped in to check what it called the “pernicious effects of the exclusive power being vested with the Executive to make appointment to the Election Commission” and ordered that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) shall be appointed on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India. Ruling on petitions seeking an independent mechanism to appoint the CEC and ECs, a five-judge Constitution Bench presided by Justice K M Joseph said where no Leader of Opposition is available, the committee will include the leader of the largest Opposition party in Lok Sabha in terms of numerical strength.

• What experts and scholars are saying about the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023?

• “Over the past few years, the EC’s credibility is increasingly being called into question, with allegations of bias in the scheduling of elections and arbitrary deletion of names of registered voters, ignoring blatant violations of the model code”-Comment

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

📍ECI members to have same status as SC judges: Why Govt has chosen to make U-turn on proposed Bill


ISRO to usher in New Year with launch of XPoSat


Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.

Mains Examination: General Studies III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Key Points to Ponder:

• What’s the ongoing story- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is likely to usher in the New Year, with the launch of its first polarimetry mission XPoSat likely on January 1, according to persons in the know of the matter.

It will become the country’s third space-based observatory after the recently launched solar mission Aditya-L1 and AstroSat launched in 2015.

• What is India’s first polarimetry mission?

• What is the XPoSat mission?

For Your Information-According to ISRO, “XPoSat will study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions.”
The mission is meant to study the “polarisation” of astronomical X-rays, which can provide insights into the processes that resulted in its emissions.
It is a method of studying astronomical phenomenon, in addition to imaging them, studying the fluctuations in light from a source, and the energy radiated by the celestial bodies. The observatory can help in understanding the emission mechanism from sources such as black holes and neutron stars (collapsed core of a massive star).
The planned life of the mission is five years.
It will carry two playloads – POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays) and XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing) – in a low earth orbit.
POLIX is designed to make observations in 8-30 keV. It is expected to observe about 40 bright astronomical sources of different categories during the planned lifetime, according to the ISRO.
XSPECT uses a method of observation called spectroscopy that studies the electromagnetic spectrum generated by different matter.
US space agency NASA had launched its polarimetry satellite Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) in 2021. It takes measurements in the energy range of 2-8 keV. What this essentially means is that IXPE and XPoSat will be complementary and can provide coordinated observations of phenomena across a wide energy spectrum of 2-30KeV, the ISRO said.
After the opening of the Indian space sector to private players, there has been an increase in the number of scientific missions launched by ISRO. In 2023, Chandrayaan-3 landed on the South Pole of the Moon and ISRO sent a satellite hurtling towards the L1 point between the Earth and the Sun to allow uninterrupted observations.
In addition to the two missions, ISRO also undertook five other missions, including the first completely successful flight of SSLV, a navigational satellite for the Indian GPS-like service, and a commercial mission on board its heaviest LVM3 vehicle.

• How are X-Rays witnessed in space?

For Your Information-As NASA explains on its website, X-rays have much higher energy and much shorter wavelengths, between 0.03 and 3 nanometers, so small that some x-rays are no bigger than a single atom of many elements. The physical temperature of an object determines the wavelength of the radiation it emits. The hotter the object, the shorter the wavelength of peak emission.
X-rays come from objects that are millions of degrees Celsius — such as pulsars, galactic supernova remnants, and black holes.
“Like all forms of light, X-rays consist of moving electric and magnetic waves. Usually, peaks and valleys of these waves move in random directions. Polarised light is more organised with two types of waves vibrating in the same direction,” says a video from NASA on IXPE. It adds that fishermen use polarised lenses to reduce glare from sunlight when they are near water.
The field of polarimetry studies the measurement of the angle of rotation of the plane of polarised light (that is, a beam of light in which the vibrations of the electromagnetic waves are confined to one plane) that results upon its passage through certain transparent materials, according to Britannica.
ISRO’s website says that the emission mechanism from various astronomical sources such as black holes, neutron stars, active galactic nuclei, pulsar wind nebulae etc. originates from complex physical processes and are challenging to understand.
Space based observatories are also unable to give information about the exact nature of the emission from such sources. Therefore, newer devices can measure specific properties.

• What are XPoSat’s payloads?

• Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)-About the Organisation

• Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)-Background, Achievements and upcoming Missions

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

📍X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat)


IPC to BNS, what has changed


Preliminary Examination: Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Mains Examination: General Studies II: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary-Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

Key Points to Ponder:

• What’s the ongoing story- From bringing terrorism and organised crime under the ambit of ordinary criminal law, introducing gender neutrality for offences pertaining to children, to repealing Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 makes several key departures from the Indian Penal Code it seeks to replace.

• The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 makes several key departures from the Indian Penal Code-What are the changes done?

• The BNS on “love jihad”-What you know?

• The BNS provisions codify offences linked to mob lynching and hate-crime murders-Know more in detail

• What is Organised crime?

• How BNS defines Organised crime?

• “The BNS brings terrorism under the ambit of ordinary criminal law”-Know more in detail

• What has been repealed under the BNS?

• Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023; and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023-What are the highlights of these bills?

• ‘According to the government, three specific provisions that have been symbols of colonial imprint in the IPC have
been repealed’-What are they?

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

📍Proposed IPC Bill with new clause on ‘false promise to marry’: What it says and how such cases been dealt thus far



Preliminary Examination: Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.

Mains Examination: General Studies I: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Key Points to Ponder:

• What’s the ongoing story- Lava flows from a volcano in Iceland were slowing down on Wednesday (December 20), although new vents could open at short notice, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The volcano, which is known as Fagradalsfjall and located on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, erupted on Monday (December 18) after weeks of intense earthquakes and tremors.

• Volcanoes and Volcanic Landforms-Know in detail

• Know the Types of Volcanoes

• Plate Tectonics, Volcanoes and Earthquake-connect the dots

• How can volcanic eruptions affect the environment and natural ecosystem?

• Do You Know-According to the US Geological Survey: “Volcanoes are openings, or vents where lava, tephra (small rocks), and steam erupt onto the Earth’s surface.”
Volcanoes can be on land and in the ocean. They are formed when material significantly hotter than its surroundings is erupted onto the surface of the Earth. The material could be liquid rock (known as “magma”, when it’s underground and “lava” when it breaks through the surface), ash, and/or gases.
The rise of magma can take place in three different ways, according to NASA. First, when tectonic plates — massive, irregularly shaped slabs of solid rock that carry both continents and oceans and are constantly in motion — move away from each other. “The magma rises up to fill in the space. When this happens underwater volcanoes can form,” it added.
Second, when the plates move towards each other. “When this happens, part of Earth’s crust can be forced deep into its interior. The high heat and pressure cause the crust to melt and rise as magma,” NASA said.
Third is how magma rises at the hotspots — hot areas inside of the Earth, where magma gets heated up. As magma gets warmer, it becomes less dense, leading to its rise.
According to the British Geological Survey, the type of volcano depends on the viscosity of the magma, the amount of gas in the magma, the composition of the magma, and the way the magma reaches the surface.
There are two broad types of volcanoes: a stratovolcano and a shield volcano. Stratovolcanoes have steep sides and are more cone-shaped than shield volcanoes have a low profile and resemble a shield lying on the ground.
There are also a host of different “volcanic features that can form from erupted magma (such as cinder cones or lava domes) as well as processes that shape volcanoes,” the government agency added.

• What is happening in Iceland?

• Why is Iceland so volcanically active?

• Map Work-Iceland

• How many active volcanoes does Iceland currently have?

• For Your Information-Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, technically the longest mountain range in the world, but on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The ridge separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates — making it a hotbed of seismic activity.
On average, Iceland experiences around 26000 earthquakes a year according to Perlan, a Reykjavik-based natural history museum. Most of them are imperceptible and unconcerning. But sometimes, a swarm of earthquakes — a sequence of mostly small earthquakes with no identifiable mainshock — is a troubling precursor to a volcanic eruption.
Deep under the Earth’s surface, intense heat melts rocks to form magma, a thick flowing substance lighter than solid rock. This drives it upwards and most of it gets trapped in magma chambers deep underground. Over time, this viscous liquid cools and solidifies once again. However, a tiny fraction erupts through vents and fissures on the surface, causing volcanic eruptions.
Now, the movement of magma close to Earth’s surface exerts force on the surrounding rock, which often causes earthquake swarms. Now, the underground movement of magma does not necessarily lead to an eruption. But closer it gets to the surface, more likely an eruption is, and more frequent symptomatic earthquake swarms get.
After the ongoing spell of seismic activity began, IMO scientists on October 27 said that it was “the response of the crust to the stress changes induced by continued magmatic inflow at depth beneath the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system.”
Fagradalsfjall lies about 40 km to the southwest of Reykjavík and is the “world’s newest baby volcano.” It had been dormant for eight centuries before erupting in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Since the 2021 eruption, tourists from across the world have swarmed (sic) to Fagradalsfjall to catch a glimpse of molten lava flowing gushing onto Earth’s surface.
The IMO, on Friday, noted that “a considerable amount of magma is moving in an area extending from Sundhnjúkagígum in the north towards Grindavík.” In its most recent statement on Saturday, IMO said that this “poses a serious volcanic hazard”, with the magma, at its shallowest depth just north of Grindavík, being just “800 m under Earth’s surface”.
While it is impossible to pinpoint the exact location of an eruption, it is likely to be around this area. With regards to when the eruption will take place, the IMO said that it could be “possible on a timescale of just days.”
Grindavík, a town of 4,000 on Iceland’s southern coast lies about 10 km from the site of the previous Fagradalsfjall eruptions. It has been evacuated as a precaution.
Iceland is home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world, with volcanos being an integral part of the island’s landscape and culture.
Currently, it boasts of 33 active volcanoes which have erupted over 180 times in the past 1,000 years. According to United States Geological Service, active volcanos are those which have “erupted within the Holocene (the current geologic epoch, which began at the end of the most recent ice age about 11,650 years ago),” or which have “the potential to erupt again in the future.”
One of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes is Eyjafjallajökull. In 2010, this volcano erupted and caused a massive ash cloud to spread across Europe. The ash cloud disrupted air travel for weeks and caused billions of dollars in damage. Other famous volcanoes include Hekla, Grímsvötn, Hóluhraun, and Litli-Hrútur (part of the Fagradalsfjall system).

Other Important Articles Covering the same topic:

📍As thousands of earthquakes rock Iceland, a volcanic eruption to follow?

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First published on: 22-12-2023 at 20:53 IST
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