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Current Affairs 06 January 2024

  1. New Regulations for Symbol Allocation to RUPPs
  2. Space Exploration Highlights in 2023 and Upcoming in 2024
  3. Biodiversity Credits
  4. Study on Liquid Nano Urea Efficacy
  5. Revised Interest Rates on Financial Schemes
  6. Photocatalysts
  7. Northeast African Cheetah


The Election Commission of India has implemented fresh regulations for the allocation of symbols to Registered Unrecognised Political Parties (RUPPs). To obtain symbols, these parties are now required to submit audited accounts from the past three financial years, expenditure statements from the last two elections, and the signature of the authorized party official along with their symbol application.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Revised Rules for Symbol Allocation to Unrecognised Political Parties
  2. Registered Unrecognised Political Parties (RUPPs)
  3. Allotment of Election Symbols:
  4. Split of a Recognised Political Party and the Issue of Election Symbol

Revised Rules for Symbol Allocation to Unrecognised Political Parties

The Election Commission of India has implemented fresh regulations for assigning symbols to Registered Unrecognised Political Parties (RUPPs). Here are the key highlights:

Existing Practice:

  • Common symbols were allocated to RUPPs based on an undertaking to field a minimum of 5% of total candidates in a Legislative Assembly election.

Transparency Measures in 2014:

  • To enhance transparency, in 2014, the EC mandated RUPPs seeking common symbols to submit:
    • Proof of up-to-date contribution reports,
    • Audited annual accounts,
    • Updated election expenditure statements,
    • Latest organization details.

Changes Introduced:

  • Previously, RUPPs submitted the mentioned details separately.
  • Now, these details are integrated into the application format for a common symbol.
  • The new rules are effective from January 11 this year.

Registered Unrecognised Political Parties (RUPPs)

Registration of Political Parties:

  • Article 324 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Election Commission of India (ECI) to register political parties.
  • Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, governs the registration of all political parties.
  • Parties must file an application with the ECI within 30 days of their formation to seek registration.

About RUPPs:

  • RUPPs include newly registered parties, those without sufficient votes to be a state/national party, and those that have never participated in elections since registration.
  • Such parties do not enjoy all benefits granted to recognized parties, which can be either National or State parties based on specific conditions.

Allotment of Election Symbols:

  • The ECI is responsible for symbol allotment under The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  • Symbols can be reserved (exclusive to recognized parties) or ‘free.’
  • The EC publishes lists specifying parties and symbols through Gazette of India notifications.

Unrecognised Registered Parties and Election Symbol:

  • Candidates of unrecognised registered parties can choose from free, non-exclusive symbols.
  • After each election, these symbols become available for others to choose.

Recognised Parties and Election Symbol:

  • Recognised national and state parties receive exclusive symbols.

Unregistered Parties and Election Symbol:

  • Unregistered parties provide names of ten symbols in order of preference from a list of free symbols.
  • They may propose three new symbols for consideration, ensuring no resemblance to existing reserved or free symbols, no religious or communal connotation, and no depiction of birds or animals.

Split of a Recognised Political Party and the Issue of Election Symbol

Authority of the Election Commission (EC):

  • Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, empowers the EC to decide on the claim of rival factions in the event of a split within a recognised political party.
  • The EC considers all available facts and circumstances and hears representatives from the rival factions.

Binding Decision:

  • The decision made by the Commission is binding on all rival sections or groups within the party.

Resolution of Splits in Unrecognised Parties:

  • In cases of splits within registered but unrecognised parties, the ECI typically advises the conflicting factions to resolve their internal differences or seek resolution through legal means.

-Source: Indian Express


The year 2023 witnessed significant space missions, including NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sample return from an asteroid and India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission. The momentum continues into 2024 with NASA’s upcoming missions under Artemis and Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiatives, focusing on lunar exploration.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Upcoming Space Missions in 2024
  2. ISRO’s Space Missions in 2024

Upcoming Space Missions in 2024

Europa Clipper: Unlocking Europa’s Secrets
  • NASA’s mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa.
  • Aims to study Europa’s icy shell, surface geology, and subsurface ocean.
  • Investigates the potential habitability of Europa’s ocean for extraterrestrial life.
  • Plans to fly past Europa nearly 50 times to gather data on its features and potential geysers.
Artemis II: Human Return to Lunar Orbit
  • Part of NASA’s Artemis program for human lunar exploration.
  • A crewed lunar mission to orbit the Moon for 10 days.
  • Validates systems for sustained lunar presence.
  • Follows the success of Artemis I, which tested an uncrewed lunar capsule in 2022.
  • Includes the first woman and person of color on a lunar mission.
VIPER: Searching for Lunar Water
  • Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) by NASA.
  • A robot exploring the moon’s south pole to search for volatiles, including water.
  • Vital for future human exploration, as these resources can support lunar habitation.
  • Equipped with batteries, heat pipes, and radiators for extreme lunar conditions.
Lunar Trailblazer and PRIME-1: SIMPLEx Missions
  • NASA’s Small, Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx).
  • Lunar Trailblazer, an orbiter mapping lunar water molecules globally.
  • PRIME-1, a drilling mission testing the kind of drill VIPER will use.
  • Both missions save costs by hitching rides as secondary payloads.
JAXA’s Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) Mission
  • Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission to study Mars’ moons.
  • Focuses on Phobos and Deimos to determine their origin.
  • A robotic spacecraft that will spend three years around Mars, observing and collecting samples from Phobos.
ESA’s Hera Mission: Understanding Asteroids
  • European Space Agency (ESA) mission to the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system.
  • Follows NASA’s DART mission that tested a planetary defense technique.
  • Hera will study the physical properties of the asteroids, especially Dimorphos, altered by DART’s kinetic impact.

ISRO’s Space Missions in 2024

PSLV-C58 with XPoSat: Advancing X-Ray Polarimetry
  • Objective: Investigate X-ray source polarization in the universe, focusing on pulsars and black hole X-ray binaries.
  • Status: Launched in January 2023 aboard PSLV-C58, marking India’s first X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite.
NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR): Earth Observation Collaboration
  • Objective: Dual-frequency synthetic aperture radar for Earth remote sensing, monitoring ecosystems, ice mass, vegetation biomass, and natural hazards.
  • Status: Collaborative mission between NASA and ISRO, contributing to global Earth system insights.
Gaganyaan 1: Human Spaceflight Test
  • Objective: Test flight for India’s Human Spaceflight Programme, involving three crew members.
  • Collaboration: Joint effort by ISRO and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
  • Significance: Crucial step toward realizing manned space exploration capabilities.
Mangalyaan-2 (MOM 2): Advancing Martian Exploration
  • Objective: Study Mars’ surface, atmosphere, and climatic conditions with advanced scientific instruments.
  • Instruments: Equipped with a hyperspectral camera, magnetometer, and radar.
  • Significance: Follows the success of India’s first Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan).
Shukrayaan-1: India’s Venus Orbiter Mission
  • Objective: Study Venus’ atmosphere during a five-year orbit around the planet.
  • Significance: Marks India’s inaugural exploration mission to Venus.
  • Exploration: Aims to unravel mysteries surrounding Venus, the second planet from the Sun.

-Source: Indian Express


Biodiversity Credits, proposed as a financial mechanism, aim to support initiatives aligned with the ambitious targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF). Established during the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the KMGBF outlines comprehensive goals for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use, and fair benefit sharing.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Biodiversity Credit?
  2. Biodiversity Credit Alliance
  3. Implementation and Initiatives

What is Biodiversity Credit?

  • Biodiversity credits serve as a financial tool to generate funds dedicated to conserving, restoring, and sustainably utilizing areas abundant in biodiversity.
  • Similar to Carbon Credits, they focus specifically on biodiversity preservation instead of mitigating adverse environmental impacts.
  • The primary objective is to attract private investments that align with international agreements such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Biodiversity Credit Alliance:

  • Launched during the CoP15 of CBD, the Biodiversity Credit Alliance aims to advocate for biodiversity credits.
  • Efforts to promote them included discussions at CoP28 of the UNFCCC in December 2023.
  • The alliance seeks to mobilize support and raise awareness among diverse stakeholders, including governments, non-profits, and private enterprises.

Implementation and Initiatives:

Ocean Conservation Commitments (OCCs): Launched in September 2023, OCCs are linked to Niue’s Moana Mahu Marine Protected Area, covering 127,000 square kilometers.

  • Available for purchase, OCCs represent commitments to support conservation efforts for 20 years.
  • Priced at USD 148 per OCC, attracting investments from entities like the Blue Nature Alliance, Conservation International, and private donors.

Wallacea Trust: A UK-based organization focusing on biodiversity and climate research, making substantial financial commitments equivalent to 5 million biodiversity credits.

  • Indicates a notable interest from research-oriented entities in utilizing biodiversity credits for conservation.
Challenges and Uncertainties:
  • Despite their potential, the success of biodiversity credits faces uncertainties, including regulatory frameworks, ensuring fair pricing structures, and avoiding corporate interests overshadowing genuine biodiversity conservation.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


A two-year field experiment conducted by Punjab Agricultural University reveals a significant decrease in rice and wheat yields with Liquid Nano Urea compared to conventional nitrogen fertilizers. The findings underscore the importance of extended, long-term field evaluations spanning 5-7 years to determine nano urea’s equivalence to conventional urea and its sustainability in maintaining crop yields.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings on the Efficacy of Liquid Nano Urea
  2. What is liquid nano urea?

Key Findings on the Efficacy of Liquid Nano Urea

Decreased Crop Yields:

  • A notable reduction in crop yields was observed when using nano urea compared to traditional nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Specifically, there was a substantial 21.6% decrease in wheat yield and a 13% decrease in rice yield.

Grain Nitrogen Content Decline:

  • Application of nano urea resulted in a decline in grain nitrogen content for both rice and wheat crops.
  • A significant reduction of 17% and 11.5% was observed in the grain nitrogen content of rice and wheat, respectively.

Impact on Protein Levels:

  • Lowered grain nitrogen content suggests reduced protein levels in the harvested crops.
  • In a country like India, heavily reliant on rice and wheat as staple foods providing protein and carbohydrates, this reduction in protein content raises concerns about meeting the population’s protein energy requirements.

Cost Implications:

  • The cost of the nano urea formulation was found to be 10 times higher than that of granular urea.
  • This higher cost poses a financial burden on farmers, contributing to increased cultivation expenses.

Effect on Biomass and Root Volume:

  • Application of nano urea led to a reduction in above-ground biomass and root volume.
  • This decrease in root volume resulted in reduced root-surface area, impacting nutrient uptake processes by the roots.

What is liquid nano urea?

  • It is essentially urea in the form of a nanoparticle.
  • Urea is a chemical nitrogen fertiliser, white in colour, which artificially provides nitrogen, a major nutrient required by plants.
  • The product has been developed at IFFCO’s Nano Biotechnology Research Centre (NBRC) at Kalol.
Benefits of liquid nano urea:
  • This patented product is expected to not only substitute imported urea, but to also produce better results in farms.
  • Apart from reducing the country’s subsidy bill, it is aimed at reducing the unbalanced and indiscriminate use of conventional urea, increase crop productivity, and reduce soil, water, and air pollution.
  • While conventional urea has an efficiency of about 25 per cent, the efficiency of liquid nano urea can be as high as 85-90 per cent.
How does it work?
  • Conventional urea fails to have the desired impact on crops as it is often applied incorrectly, and the nitrogen in it is vaporised or lost as gas. A lot of nitrogen is also washed away during irrigation.
  • Liquid nano urea is sprayed directly on the leaves and gets absorbed by the plant.
  • Fertilisers in nano form provide a targeted supply of nutrients to crops, as they are absorbed by the stomata, pores found on the epidermis of leaves.
  • IFFCO advises that 2-4 ml of nano urea should be mixed a litre of water and sprayed on crop leaves at active growth stages.
  • Liquid nano urea has a shelf life of a year, and farmers need not be worried about “caking” when it comes in contact with moisture.

-Source: Down To Earth


The Union government has announced an increase in returns for the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme (SSAS) from 8% to 8.2% and for the 3-year Post Office Time Deposit Scheme (POTDS) from 7% to 7.1% for the first quarter of 2024. The interest rates for all other small savings schemes remain unchanged.


GS II: Government policies and Intervention

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme (SSAS)
  2. Post Office Time Deposit Scheme (POTDS)

Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme (SSAS)

  • SSAS is a small deposit scheme launched by the Ministry of Finance, designed exclusively for girl children.
  • It is a part of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Campaign with the aim of providing financial support for a girl child’s education and marriage expenses.
  • Any resident Indian girl child can be a beneficiary from the time of opening the account until maturity or closure.
  • The account can be opened by a guardian in the name of a girl child who is below ten years of age at the time of account initiation.
  • Families can open a maximum of two accounts for girl children, with exceptions for twins or triplets, supported by affidavits and birth certificates.
  • Minimum annual investment is Rs 250, with a maximum limit of Rs 1,50,000 per annum.
  • The maturity period is 21 years.
  • SSAS offers various tax benefits and boasts the highest interest rate among all Small Savings Schemes.

Post Office Time Deposit Scheme (POTDS)

  • POTDS, also known as National Savings Time Deposit scheme, is a government-backed savings option offered by India Post Payments Bank (IPPB).
  • It allows individuals to deposit a specific amount for a fixed tenure and earn a predetermined interest rate on their investment.
  • Four account types are available with maturity periods of 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 5 years.
  • Deposits can range from Rs. 1,000 to any amount, in multiples of Rs. 100.
  • Allows joint accounts, minor accounts, and nomination facility.
  • Provides income tax benefits for the 5-year account under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • Section 80C permits deductions from gross total income for specific investments and expenses, encouraging savings and investments while reducing taxable income.
  • Aims to promote savings and investments in designated avenues, offering taxpayers the dual benefit of reducing taxable income and providing tax savings.

-Source: The Hindu


Researchers at IISER Bhopal recently developed a new photocatalyst called UC-POP-Au, which absorbs the entire spectrum of light, making it a potent catalyst for chemical processes.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Photocatalysts
  2. Applications


  • The term “photocatalyst” combines “photo” related to photons and “catalyst,” a substance influencing reaction rates.
  • Photocatalysts are materials altering chemical reaction rates upon exposure to light, a phenomenon known as photocatalysis.
  • Illumination generates free charges (electrons and holes) in the catalyst, actively participating in chemical reactions.
  • All photocatalysts are essentially semiconductors.

Material Effectiveness:

  • Various materials exhibit photocatalytic capability, with titanium dioxide (TiO2) recognized as highly effective.
Categories of Photocatalysis:
  • Homogeneous Photocatalysis:
    • Occurs when the semiconductor and reactant share the same phase (gas, solid, or liquid).
  • Heterogeneous Photocatalysis:
    • Involves different phases for the semiconductor and reactant.


Valuable for:

  • Air and Water Purification: Utilized in the degradation of pollutants.
  • Self-Cleaning Surfaces: Applied in coatings for surfaces that self-clean upon exposure to light.
  • Solar Energy Conversion: Plays a role in certain aspects of solar energy conversion processes.

-Source: Times of India


A group of experts have appealed to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to reclassify the status of the Northeast African Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii) to ‘endangered’ from ‘vulnerable’.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Northeast African Cheetah: A Unique Subspecies

Geographical Presence:

  • Found in the Horn of Africa.
  • Also referred to as the Sudan cheetah.

Genetic Relations:

  • More closely related to the Southern African cheetah than to Saharan cheetah populations.

Distinctive Features:

  • Possesses a long tail aiding in balance during rapid changes in direction.
  • Agile, capable of making sharp turns, even up to 90 degrees, while sprinting.

Physical Characteristics:

  • Fairly large in size.
  • Physically resembles the East African cheetah.

Habitat and Distribution:

  • Contemporary records indicate presence in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
  • Inhabits open landscapes, grasslands, semi-arid areas, and other open habitats with abundant prey, such as the East Sudanian Savanna.


  • Cubs of this subspecies are subjected to heavy trafficking across the Red Sea to Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN: Vulnerable.

-Source: The Hindu

March 2024