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Current Affairs 20 April 2024

  1. Department of Posts Opens Second Post Office Branch in Antarctica at Bharati Research Station
  3. NCERT Revises Textbooks with New Findings and Inclusive Language
  4. Gold Price Dynamics and Correlations
  5. Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
  6. Dragonfly Mission


The Department of Posts has recently inaugurated a second branch of the post office at the Bharati research station in Antarctica, marking a significant development after almost four decades. Letters intended for Antarctica will now bear a new experimental PIN code, MH-1718, which is customary for a new branch. Currently, Maitri and Bharati are the two active research stations operated by India in Antarctica. This initiative by the Department of Posts will facilitate better communication and connectivity for the researchers and personnel stationed in Antarctica, enhancing the logistical and operational support for India’s Antarctic missions.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significance of India’s Post Office in Antarctica
  2. Antarctic Treaty System Overview
  3. India’s Antarctic Programme Overview

Significance of India’s Post Office in Antarctica

Historical Context

  • In 1984, India inaugurated its inaugural post office in Antarctica at Dakshin Gangotri, India’s first research station on the continent. However, due to submergence in ice in 1988-89, this station was decommissioned.

Establishment of the New Post Office

  • Subsequently, on 26th January 1990, India set up another post office at the Maitri research station in Antarctica.

Unique Postal Administration

  • Even though the Maitri and Bharati research bases are approximately 3,000 km apart, both fall under the postal jurisdiction of the Goa postal division in India.
  • Correspondence intended for the Antarctic post office is first directed to the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa.
  • Letters are then transported to Antarctica by a researcher from the NCPOR, ‘cancelled’ (stamped to prevent reuse), and subsequently returned to the senders via regular mail.

Strategic and Symbolic Importance

  • The presence of an Indian post office in Antarctica holds strategic significance.
  • While traditionally Indian post offices operate within Indian territory, the Antarctic post office serves as a symbolic assertion of India’s presence on the continent.
  • This initiative underscores India’s dedication to scientific exploration and environmental conservation.

Alignment with Antarctic Treaty Principles

  • The Antarctic Treaty, which neutralizes territorial claims, prohibits military activities and nuclear testing, and emphasizes scientific research, is complemented by the establishment of the Indian post office in this neutral territory.

Antarctic Treaty System Overview

Nature and Purpose

  • The Antarctic Treaty System encompasses a comprehensive set of arrangements designed to govern relations among states with interests in Antarctica.
  • Its primary objective is to guarantee, in the interests of all humankind, that Antarctica remains exclusively dedicated to peaceful activities and remains free from international disputes or conflicts.
  • Representing a global achievement, the treaty has stood as a testament to international cooperation for over five decades.

Legal Framework

  • The agreements within the Antarctic Treaty System are legally binding and have been tailored to the unique geographical, environmental, and political characteristics of Antarctica.
  • This system forms a robust international governance framework, ensuring effective management and conservation of the Antarctic region.

Evolution and Current Challenges

  • While the Antarctic Treaty has effectively addressed various challenges over the years, the context in the 2020s differs significantly from the 1950s.
  • Technological advancements and the impacts of climate change have made Antarctica more accessible, leading to increased interest and presence from more nations beyond the original 12 signatories.
  • As global resources, particularly oil, become scarcer, there is growing speculation and concern regarding nations’ intentions and interests in Antarctic resources, including fisheries and minerals.

Future Considerations

  • Given the shifting landscape and the increasing number of countries with substantial interests in Antarctica, it is imperative for all treaty signatories, especially those with significant stakes in the continent, to prioritize the future of the Antarctic Treaty and its evolving challenges.

India’s Antarctic Programme Overview

National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCPOR)

  • The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCPOR) oversees India’s Antarctic Programme.
  • Established in 1998, NCPOR has been pivotal in advancing India’s scientific research and exploration in the Antarctic region.

Historical Background

  • India’s engagement with Antarctica began in 1981 with its first scientific expedition to the continent.
Research Stations
  • Dakshin Gangotri:
    • Established as India’s inaugural scientific research base in Antarctica.
    • Unfortunately, it was submerged in ice during the 1988-89 season and subsequently decommissioned.
  • Maitri:
    • India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica.
    • Located in the Schirmacher Oasis, a rocky mountainous region.
    • Maitri is surrounded by Lake Priyadarshini, a freshwater lake constructed to support the station.
  • Bharti:
    • India’s latest research station, operational since 2012.
    • Designed to provide a safe working environment for researchers despite Antarctica’s harsh conditions.
    • Located approximately 3000 km east of Maitri, Bharti serves as India’s primary dedicated research facility.
Research Vessel: Sagar Nidhi
  • Commissioned in 2008 by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
  • Sagar Nidhi is an ice-class vessel capable of navigating through ice up to 40 cm thick.
  • This pioneering vessel has been utilized for various research activities, including the launch and retrieval of remotely operable vehicles (ROV), deep-sea nodule mining systems, and tsunami studies.

-Source: The Hindu


The Central government has introduced the CDP-SURAKSHA platform to disburse subsidies to horticulture farmers under the Cluster Development Programme (CDP). This initiative aims to enhance the growth of India’s horticulture sector, which accounts for nearly one-third of the agriculture gross value addition (GVA).


GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. CDP-SURAKSHA Overview
  2. How CDP-SURAKSHA Works
  3. Horticulture Sector in India: Current Status
  4. Challenges Faced by the Horticulture Sector in India


CDP-SURAKSHA is a comprehensive platform designed to streamline the process of disbursing subsidies to farmers and ensuring the effective allocation of resources. The acronym SURAKSHA stands for “System for Unified Resource Allocation, Knowledge, and Secure Horticulture Assistance.”

Key Features:
  • e-RUPI Voucher Integration:
    • Allows for instant disbursal of subsidies directly to farmers’ bank accounts.
  • Database Integration:
    • Integrated with PM-KISAN for seamless data management.
  • Cloud-Based Infrastructure:
    • Utilizes server space from the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to ensure data security and accessibility.
  • Validation and Identification:
    • Incorporates UIDAI validation for secure and authenticated access.
  • Additional Features:
    • Local Government Directory (LGD) integration
    • Content Management System (CMS) for efficient content handling
    • Geotagging and geo-fencing capabilities for precise location tracking


User Access:

  • Farmers, vendors, implementing agencies (IA), cluster development agencies (CDAs), and National Horticulture Board (NHB) officials can access the platform.

Farmer’s Process:

  • Farmers log in using their mobile number, place an order, and contribute their share of the planting material cost.
  • Upon payment, an e-RUPI voucher is generated.

Vendor’s Role:

  • The vendor receives the e-RUPI voucher and supplies the required planting material to the farmer.
  • Post-delivery, farmers verify the receipt through geo-tagged photos and videos of their field.

Payment and Subsidy Release:

  • Once the delivery is verified, the implementing agencies (IA) process the payment to the vendor against the e-RUPI voucher.
  • Vendors upload the invoice on the portal for verification.
  • The IA then collects and shares all necessary documents with the CDA for subsidy release.

Horticulture Sector in India: An Overview

Production and Contribution:

  • India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables globally.
  • Fruits and vegetables constitute approximately 90% of the total horticulture production in India.
  • The horticulture sector contributes around 33% to the agriculture Gross Value Added (GVA), marking a substantial contribution to the Indian economy.

Production and Productivity:

  • India currently produces about 320.48 million tons of horticulture produce, surpassing food grain production, even with a much smaller cultivation area (25.66 million Ha for horticulture compared to 127.6 M. ha for food grains).
  • The productivity of horticulture crops stands at 12.49 tonnes/ha, significantly higher than that of food grains at 2.23 tonnes/ha.
  • According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), India leads in the production of specific vegetables like ginger and okra, and fruits including banana, mangoes, and papaya.

Exports and Market Share:

  • India ranks 14th in vegetable exports and 23rd in fruit exports globally, with its share in the global horticultural market at just 1%.
  • Major export destinations include Bangladesh, UAE, Nepal, Netherlands, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the UK, Oman, and Qatar.


  • Wastage: Approximately 15-20% of fruits and vegetables in India are wasted along the supply chain or at the consumer level, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Cluster Development Program (CDP):


  • The CDP is a central sector program aimed at developing identified horticulture clusters to enhance their global competitiveness.


  • National Horticulture Board (NHB) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is responsible for its implementation.
  • The program will be initiated in 12 horticulture clusters as a pilot phase, out of a total of 55 clusters selected for the program.
  • These clusters will be managed through Cluster Development Agencies (CDAs) appointed based on the recommendations of the respective State/UT Government.
Key Goals:
  • Address major issues related to the Indian horticulture sector, including pre-production, production, post-harvest management, logistics, marketing, and branding.
  • Aim to increase exports of targeted crops by about 20% and develop cluster-specific brands to enhance the competitiveness of cluster crops.
  • Leverage geographical specialization and promote integrated and market-led development of horticulture clusters.
  • Converge with other government initiatives such as the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund.

Challenges Faced by the Horticulture Sector in India

Agricultural and Operational Challenges:
  • Small Operational Landholdings: The majority of Indian farmers have small operational landholdings, which limits the scale and efficiency of production.
  • Lack of Irrigation Facilities: Inadequate irrigation facilities lead to dependency on monsoons, affecting crop yield and productivity.
  • Poor Soil Management: Inadequate soil testing and poor soil management practices affect the fertility and health of the soil, leading to reduced crop yields.
  • Threat of Pests: Pest attacks can severely damage horticulture crops, leading to significant losses for farmers.
Financial and Investment Challenges:
  • Limited Outreach of Farm Insurance: Many farmers do not have access to farm insurance, leaving them vulnerable to losses due to crop failures or natural disasters.
  • Lack of Farm Mechanisation: Limited use of modern farm machinery and technology results in lower productivity and higher production costs.
  • Lack of Access to Institutional Credit: Small and marginal farmers often face difficulties in accessing institutional credit, which hampers investment in the sector.
Climate Change and Environmental Challenges:
  • Changing Weather Patterns: Climate change has led to unpredictable and extreme weather conditions, affecting crop cultivation and productivity.
  • Droughts and Floods: Irregular rainfall patterns and increasing instances of droughts and floods can lead to crop failures and significant economic losses.
Institutional and Organisational Challenges:
  • Weak Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs): Inefficient FPOs limit farmers’ ability to leverage collective strength and benefit from economies of scale.
  • Perishable Nature of Produce: Fruits and vegetables being perishable in nature require efficient and timely harvesting, storage, and transportation facilities to prevent post-harvest losses.
Logistical and Supply Chain Challenges:
  • Poor Logistics: Inefficient transportation and distribution systems lead to delays and losses in the supply chain.
  • Lack of Equitable Cold Storage and Warehousing Facilities: Inadequate cold storage and warehousing facilities result in significant post-harvest losses.
Information and Guidance Challenges:
  • Lack of Guidance on Crop Selection: Farmers often lack proper guidance and information on suitable crops to plant, leading to overproduction of certain commodities and shortages of others.

-Source: The Hindu


The latest revisions by NCERT in its textbooks incorporate DNA analysis findings from Rakhigarhi to emphasize ancient Indian continuity. Other notable changes include highlighting Ahom victories, using honorifics for Shivaji, and modifying terms like “rebel” to “revolt” in historical contexts to present a more accurate and inclusive representation of India’s history and culture.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Facts Related to Rakhigarhi
  2. Ahom Dynasty
  3. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
  4. National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)

Key Facts Related to Rakhigarhi:

Location and Historical Context:
  • Location: Rakhigarhi is an archaeological site located in the Hisar district of Haryana, situated in the Ghaggar-Hakra river plain.
  • Size and Importance: It is one of the largest sites of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) and is located on the banks of the now-dry Sarasvati River.
  • Phases of Civilization: Rakhigarhi has revealed three distinct phases of the Indus Valley civilization: Early, Mature, and Late.
Major Archaeological Findings:
  • Infrastructure and Settlement: The site has revealed a well-structured drainage system, lanes, and possibly a walled settlement.
  • Artifacts: Numerous artifacts have been discovered, including jewelry made of copper and gold, terracotta toys, earthen pots, seals, and semi-precious stones such as agate and carnelian.
  • Significant Discoveries: Two female skeletons were found buried with a wealth of pottery and adorned jewelry. A cylindrical seal with five Harappan characters on one side and an alligator symbol on the other is also among the notable findings.
Genetic Analysis and Cultural Continuity:
  • DNA Analysis: The DNA analysis of Rakhigarhi suggests a genetic continuity between the inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) and modern populations.
  • Implications: This finding supports the argument for an indigenous origin of the IVC, challenging previous theories of large-scale migrations.

Ahom Dynasty:

Historical Timeline and Resistance:
  • Duration of Rule: The Ahom dynasty ruled over present-day Assam from 1228 to 1826 CE.
  • Significant Battle: The Battle of Saraighat in 1671 was a pivotal naval battle fought between the Ahom Kingdom and the Mughal Empire.
  • Outcome: The Ahom Kingdom secured a decisive victory against the Mughal Empire, effectively halting Mughal expansion into Assam and marking a landmark event in Ahom history.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj:

Establishment of the Maratha Empire and Military Tactics:
  • Empire Establishment: Shivaji founded the Maratha Empire, a significant power in western India that challenged Mughal dominance.
  • Military Tactics: Shivaji employed innovative guerrilla warfare tactics, leveraging mobility and surprise attacks against larger Mughal forces.
Administrative Reforms and Systems Introduced:
  • Taxation System: Shivaji introduced the collection of two taxes: the Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.
  • Provincial Division: He divided his kingdom into four provinces, each headed by a Mamlatdar.
  • Land Revenue System: Shivaji abolished the Jagirdari System and replaced it with the Ryotwari System.

National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT):

Overview and Establishment:

  • Founded in 1961 by the Government of India, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) operates autonomously.

Primary Objectives and Functions:

  • Conducts research in school education.
  • Develops textbooks and educational materials.
  • Provides teacher training and promotes innovative teaching methods.
  • Collaborates with educational entities.
  • Works towards achieving Universal Elementary Education goals.

Role in National Education Policy 2020:

  • NCERT is designated as the primary agency for developing National Curriculum Frameworks (NCFs) for:
    • Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
    • School Education
    • Adult Education

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, Global price of gold (24 carat) was $2,349.88 per ounce. In India it was ₹7,174 per gram.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Gold Price Dynamics and Correlations
  2. Factors Determining Global Gold Prices
  3. Determinants of Gold Price in India

Gold Price Dynamics and Correlations

Current Gold Prices:

  • Global price of gold (24 carat) as of April 10: $2,349.88 per ounce.
  • Gold price in India: ₹7,174 per gram.

Recent Trends:

  • Gold prices have surged significantly in recent weeks and are anticipated to continue rising.
Correlation Factors:
  • Crude Oil Prices: A direct relationship exists between global crude oil prices and the international gold price (positive correlation).
    • When global oil prices increase, gold prices also rise.
  • U.S. Dollar Value: An inverse relationship is observed between the external value of the U.S. dollar and the international gold price (negative correlation).
    • A decline in the U.S. dollar’s value against major trading partners’ currencies leads to an appreciation in gold prices.
Reasons for Correlations:
  • Inflation Hedge:
    • Rising international crude oil prices indicate potential global inflation.
    • This sparks an increased demand for gold as a safeguard against inflation.
  • Asset Stability:
    • Gold is considered a tangible asset, unlike financial assets, and is thus not prone to value depreciation.
  • Currency Exchange Rates:
    • Since the global price of gold is denominated in U.S. dollars, a depreciation of the dollar results in an increase in the global price of gold.

Factors Determining Global Gold Prices

Supply Side Factors:
  • Production and Mining Costs:
    • Gold production by producing countries and the associated mining costs impact the supply side.
    • With most accessible gold already mined, new production requires deeper and more expensive mining efforts, as gold mining is both energy and labor-intensive.
  • Energy Costs:
    • Rising prices of crude oil and natural gas contribute to increased gold prices due to the energy-intensive nature of gold mining.
Demand Side Factors:
  • Institutional Demand:
    • Central banks’ demand for gold significantly influences its price.
    • Central banks acquire gold to bolster their reserve assets, as gold is a stable store of value and underpins the issuance of new currency.
    • Amid the threat of inflation due to the surge in crude oil prices (with Brent crude nearing $90 a barrel) and geopolitical uncertainty from conflicts in West Asia and Eastern Europe, central banks worldwide, particularly the Central Bank of China, are increasing their gold reserves.
    • Current foreign currency reserves in central banks are susceptible to risks and value depreciation.
  • Investor Demand:
    • Both individual and institutional investors seek to invest in physical gold or its financial derivatives and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) as part of their investment portfolios.
    • While return on investment is a primary concern, the diversification of risks and investment safety, especially under uncertain geopolitical and economic conditions, drives demand from this group.
  • Consumer Demand:
    • Consumer demand comes from both individuals and jewelers.
    • In China and India, the largest consumers and importers of gold, it is purchased as a traditional store of wealth and for ornamental purposes on special occasions. Thus, consumer demand is primarily seasonal.
  • Industrial Demand:
    • Gold’s intrinsic properties like malleability and conductivity make it a preferred metal in various industries, influencing industrial demand.

Determinants of Gold Price in India

Demand and Supply:

  • Gold prices in the domestic market are largely influenced by the demand and supply dynamics.
  • Prices tend to rise when the demand for gold surpasses its supply.
  • Conversely, prices decrease when the market demand is lower than the available supply of gold.

Interest Rate:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) monitors and adjusts the gold loan interest rates in India to manage capital flow.
  • Higher interest rates often lead to a significant sell-off of gold, resulting in increased supply and consequently higher gold prices.
  • Conversely, lower interest rates stimulate demand, leading to reduced gold prices.

Economic Situation:

  • Gold is often considered a hedge against inflation and recession, prompting people to invest in it during adverse economic conditions.
  • Economic downturns lead to a decline in the financial market, causing investors to seek safer investments like gold, thereby increasing its demand and price in the domestic market.

Rupee-Dollar Conversion Rate:

  • An increase in the value of the dollar against the Indian rupee makes it costlier for India to import gold from international markets.
  • As a result, the price of gold in the Indian market also rises significantly.

Mathematical Formulas to Calculate Gold Prices:

  • Purity Method (Percentage):
    • Gold value = (Gold rate x Purity x Weight) / 24
  • Karats Method:
    • Gold value = (Gold rate x Purity x Weight) / 100

-Source: Indian Express


The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, in collaboration with other environmental organisations, has called on the ASEAN to take decisive action in response to plastic pollution.


GS: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
  2. What is Incineration?

About Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)


  • GAIA is a global alliance comprising over 1,000 grassroots organizations, non-governmental entities, and individuals from more than 90 countries.


  • GAIA strives to facilitate a shift from the prevailing linear and extractive economy to a circular system that upholds people’s rights to a safe and healthy environment.


  • The organization envisions a just, zero-waste world grounded in respect for ecological boundaries and community rights.
  • GAIA aims for a future where individuals are liberated from the hazards of toxic pollution and resources are conserved sustainably rather than being incinerated or discarded.


  • GAIA focuses on combating pollution and fostering regenerative solutions in urban areas through local campaigns, policy and finance transformations, research and communication initiatives, and movement building.

Primary Intervention Areas:

  • GAIA concentrates its efforts on four key areas: incineration, zero waste, plastic pollution, and climate change.

What is Incineration?


  • Incineration is the process of burning hazardous materials at high temperatures to eliminate contaminants.


  • The process takes place in a specialized furnace known as an “incinerator,” designed specifically for burning hazardous waste in a controlled combustion chamber.

Materials Treated:

  • A variety of hazardous materials, including soil, sludge, liquids, and gases, can be treated through incineration.


  • While incineration effectively destroys many harmful chemicals like solvents, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and pesticides, it does not eliminate metals such as lead and chromium.

Modern Incinerators:

  • Contemporary incinerators are equipped with air pollution control devices, such as fabric filters, scrubbers, and electrostatic precipitators, to remove fly ash and gaseous contaminants.

-Source: Down To Earth


Recently, NASA confirmed a Dragonfly rotorcraft mission to Saturn’s organic compound-rich moon Titan with a budget of $3.35 billion and a launch date set for July 2028.


Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Dragonfly Mission
  2. Key Facts about Titan

About Dragonfly Mission


  • Dragonfly is a “dual quadcopter” designed for exploration across the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
  • It is equipped to investigate various locations on Titan, conducting extensive science measurements primarily from the moon’s surface.

Power System:

  • The mission will utilize a radioisotope power system, similar to the one used by the Curiosity rover on Mars.

Operational Schedule:

  • Most of Dragonfly’s flights, data transmissions, and scientific operations are planned to occur during Titan’s day.
  • The craft will have ample time to recharge during Titan’s night.


  • Scheduled to arrive at Titan in 2034, Dragonfly aims to explore dozens of promising locations on the moon.
  • The mission seeks to identify prebiotic chemical processes that are common on both Titan and early Earth, before the development of life.

Historical Note:

  • Dragonfly represents a groundbreaking achievement as it marks the first instance of NASA flying a vehicle for scientific exploration on another planetary body.
  • With its eight rotors, the rotorcraft operates similarly to a large drone.

Key Facts about Titan

  • Location and Size:
    • Titan is the largest moon of Saturn.
  • Atmosphere:
    • It is the only moon known to have a thick atmosphere.
  • Surface Features:
    • Titan boasts an Earth-like cycle of liquids flowing across its surface, adding to its scientific intrigue.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024