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Current Affairs 22 March 2024

  1. World Air Quality Report 2023
  2. Forced Labour and its Economic Implications: ILO’s Recent Findings
  3. Arrests Made for Supplying Snake Venom for Rave Party
  4. World Inequality Lab
  5. Asbestos
  6. Earth Hour
  7. Project GR00T


India has been identified as the world’s third most polluted country, as per the World Air Quality Report 2023 by Swiss organisation IQAir.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the World Air Quality Report 2023
  2. WHO Air Quality Guidelines
  3. Particulate Matter (PM)

Key Highlights of the World Air Quality Report 2023:

  • India’s Pollution Ranking: India is ranked as the world’s third most polluted country, with an average annual PM2.5 concentration of 54.4 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • Bangladesh and Pakistan’s Pollution Levels: Both Bangladesh and Pakistan surpassed India in pollution levels, becoming the most and second most polluted countries, respectively.
  • Top Polluted Cities: Nine out of the top 10 most polluted cities globally are located in India.
  • Air Quality in Delhi: Delhi emerged as the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive time.
  • Pollution in Begusarai: Begusarai in Bihar is identified as the world’s most polluted metropolitan area, recording an average PM2.5 concentration of 118.9 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • High Exposure Levels: Approximately 136 million Indians, which is 96% of the population, face PM2.5 concentrations that are seven times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended levels.
  • City Pollution Levels: Over 66% of Indian cities reported annual average PM2.5 concentrations higher than 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • Health Implications: PM2.5 pollution, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is associated with increased risks of heart attack, stroke, oxidative stress, asthma, cancer, and mental health complications.
  • Countries Meeting WHO Guidelines: Only seven countries met the WHO annual PM2.5 guideline of 5 µg/m3 or less, which includes Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand.
  • Air Quality Data in Africa: Africa remains the most underrepresented continent in air quality data, with a third of its population lacking access to such information.
  • Progress in Pollution Reduction: Some countries, like China and Chile, reported reductions in PM2.5 pollution levels, indicating efforts to combat air pollution.
  • Global Impact of Air Pollution: Air pollution contributes to approximately seven million premature deaths annually worldwide, accounting for about one in every nine deaths.
  • Health Risks: Exposure to elevated levels of fine particles can impair cognitive development in children, exacerbate existing illnesses such as diabetes, and lead to mental health issues.

WHO Air Quality Guidelines:

Pollutants Covered:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) updates its air quality guidelines to protect public health from the detrimental effects of air pollution. The latest revision was in 2021, succeeding the 2005 guidelines.
  • The guidelines encompass both particulate matter (PM) and gaseous pollutants. These include:
    • PM2.5 and PM10
    • Ozone (O3)
    • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
    • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
    • Carbon monoxide (CO)

Particulate Matter (PM):

  • Definition: Particulate matter comprises tiny particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air. This mixture consists of various sizes and is composed of numerous compounds.
  • PM10 (Coarse Particles): These are particles with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less.
  • PM2.5 (Fine Particles): These are particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less.

-Source: The Hindu


The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently unveiled a report titled ‘Profits and poverty: The economics of forced labour’, shedding light on the dire economic implications of forced labour globally. According to the report, forced labour is responsible for generating illegal profits amounting to a staggering USD 36 billion annually. This alarming revelation underscores the pressing need for concerted international efforts to combat and eradicate forced labour, ensuring the protection of vulnerable individuals and upholding fundamental human rights worldwide.


GS I: Issues Related to Children

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Forced Labour Defined by ILO
  2. Key Highlights from the Report
  3. Recommendations from the Report on Forced Labour
  4. International Labour Organisation (ILO): Overview

Forced Labour Defined by ILO:

Forced or compulsory labour is described by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as any work or service extracted from an individual under the threat of a penalty, where the person has not offered themselves voluntarily.

  • Involuntary Work: This refers to work carried out without the worker’s free and informed consent.
  • Coercion: This denotes the methods employed to force an individual into work against their will and without their consent.
Key Highlights from the Report:
  • Illegal Profits: Forced labour results in illegal gains amounting to USD 36 billion annually, marking a 37% surge since 2014.
  • Regional Illegal Profits: Europe and Central Asia lead with annual illegal profits of USD 84 billion, trailed by Asia and the Pacific at USD 62 billion, the Americas at USD 52 billion, Africa at USD 20 billion, and the Arab States at USD 18 billion.
  • Profit per Victim: Traffickers and criminals now make approximately USD 10,000 per victim, up from USD 8,269 ten years prior.
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation: This form accounts for 73% of the total illegal profits, despite constituting only 27% of the victims in privately imposed labour.
  • Sectors Profiting from Forced Labour:
    • Industry: Leads with illegal profits of USD 35 billion, which includes mining, quarrying, manufacturing, construction, and utilities.
    • Services: Follows with USD 20.8 billion, covering wholesale and trade, accommodation and food services, art and entertainment, personal services, administrative and support services, education, health and social services, and transport and storage.
    • Agriculture: Contributes USD 5.0 billion, including forestry, hunting, crop cultivation, livestock production, and fishing.
    • Domestic Work: Yields USD 2.6 billion and is performed in third-party households.
  • Increase in Forced Labour Population: In 2021, 27.6 million people were subjected to forced labour on any given day, indicating a rise of 2.7 million since 2016.

Recommendations from the Report on Forced Labour:

  • Investment in Enforcement: There is an urgent call to invest in robust enforcement measures to disrupt illegal profit flows and ensure those responsible face consequences.
  • Strengthening Legal Frameworks: Enhancing and reinforcing legal frameworks is pivotal to effectively combat forced labour. This includes drafting and implementing stricter laws and regulations against forced labour practices.
  • Training for Enforcement Officials: Continuous training and capacity-building initiatives should be provided to law enforcement officials. This will equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to identify, investigate, and prosecute cases of forced labour effectively.
  • Expansion of Labour Inspection: Extending labour inspection activities to high-risk sectors is crucial. This proactive approach can help identify and address forced labour practices in industries where exploitation is prevalent.
  • Coordination Between Law Enforcement Agencies: There is a need for improved coordination and collaboration between labour and criminal law enforcement agencies. This synergy will facilitate a more cohesive and efficient response to forced labour cases.
  • Addressing Root Causes: While enforcement actions are vital, addressing the root causes of forced labour is equally important. Efforts should focus on tackling issues such as poverty, inequality, lack of education, and limited access to decent work opportunities.
  • Safeguarding Victims: Victims of forced labour must be provided with adequate support, protection, and rehabilitation services. It is essential to prioritize their well-being and ensure they have access to justice, compensation, and redress.
  • Promotion of Fair Recruitment: To prevent forced labour at its source, there is a need to promote fair recruitment practices. This involves establishing and enforcing regulations that safeguard workers from exploitative recruitment practices and ensuring transparency throughout the recruitment process.
  • Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: Upholding and protecting the rights of workers to associate freely and bargain collectively is crucial. Empowering workers to voice their concerns, negotiate better working conditions, and participate in decision-making processes can significantly contribute to the prevention and elimination of forced labour.

International Labour Organisation (ILO): Overview


  • Founded in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles post-World War I.
  • Established to promote universal and lasting peace through social justice.

UN Specialized Agency:

  • Became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1946.

Tripartite Structure:

  • Unique tripartite organization involving representatives of governments, employers, and workers in its executive bodies.


  • India is a founding member, and the ILO has a total of 187 member states.

Leadership Role:

  • In 2020, India assumed the Chairmanship of the Governing Body of ILO.


  • Located in Geneva, Switzerland.

Awards and Recognition:

  • Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969 for efforts in improving fraternity and peace among nations.
  • Recognized for pursuing decent work, justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to developing nations.

-Source: The Hindu


In a recent development, the police have arrested several individuals for allegedly supplying snake venom for a rave party. The arrests were made under the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Indian Penal Code (Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, 2023). Such incidents highlight the illicit and dangerous practices that can endanger both wildlife and human lives. Authorities are conducting further investigations to uncover the extent of this illegal trade and to ensure that those responsible face appropriate legal consequences.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Facts About Snake Venom and its Use:

Key Facts About Snake Venom and its Use:

  • Snake Diversity in India: India is home to approximately 300 out of nearly 3400 snake species globally, spanning diverse habitats across the country.
  • Snake Families: The snake species in India are categorized into four main families – Colubridae, Elapidae, Hydrophiidae, and Viperidae.
  • Venomous Snakes in India: Of the 300 snake species in India, over 60 are venomous, more than 40 are mildly venomous, and approximately 180 are non-venomous.
  • Composition of Snake Venom: Snake venom is a complex cocktail of enzymes, peptides, proteins, and other bioactive compounds. These include neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, cytotoxins, nerve growth factors, lectins, disintegrins, and enzymes with various properties.
  • Medicinal Uses: Snake venom has been traditionally used in Ayurveda, homoeopathy, and folk medicine to treat various conditions like thrombosis, arthritis, and cancer. It is also a critical component in the production of antivenom.
  • Recreational Use: Certain snake venoms, especially from species like cobras and Black mambas, are sought after for recreational purposes due to their psychoactive effects. This illicit trade is a lucrative industry, despite the associated health risks.
  • Effects of Snake Venom: The neurotoxins present in snake venom bind to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the human brain, leading to euphoria and a rewarding experience. However, this can also result in muscular paralysis, analgesia (loss of pain sensation), and drowsiness.
  • Regulation in India: While the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 governs the trade and use of most psychoactive substances, snake venom falls under the Wildlife Protection Act in India. Additionally, crimes related to the illicit use and trade of snake venom can be prosecuted under Section 120A (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

-Source: Down To Earth


According to a paper released by the World Inequality Lab, the shares of income and wealth of India’s top 1% at 22.6% and 40.1% respectively is at their highest historical levels in 2022-23.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. World Inequality Lab (WIL): An Overview
  2. Key Recommendations from the “Billionaire Raj” Working Paper

World Inequality Lab (WIL): An Overview

  • Establishment and Location: The World Inequality Lab (WIL) is housed within the Paris School of Economics.
  • Objective: The primary objective of WIL is to foster research on the dynamics of global inequality.
  • Collaboration: WIL collaborates with an extensive international network comprising over a hundred researchers spanning nearly seventy countries to maintain and update its database.
Key Findings from WIL’s Working Paper: “Billionaire Raj”
  • Authors: The working paper titled “Billionaire Raj” was authored by Nitin Kumar Bharti, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, and Anmol Somanchi.
  • Inequality in India: The paper posits that India’s current level of inequality surpasses that observed during the British colonial era.
Income and Wealth Inequality:
  • In the fiscal year 2022-23, the share of income and wealth held by the top 1% in India reached unprecedented levels: 22.6% and 40.1%, respectively.
  • India’s top 1% income share ranks among the highest globally, surpassing even countries like South Africa, Brazil, and the US. However, in terms of wealth share, India lags behind South Africa and Brazil.
Disparity Among Income Groups:
  • The top 1% of income earners in India possess an average wealth of Rs 5.4 crore, which is 40 times the national average.
  • In contrast, the bottom 50% and the middle 40% of the population hold significantly lower amounts of wealth, with averages of Rs 1.7 lakh (0.1 times the national average) and Rs 9.6 lakh (0.7 times the national average), respectively.
Ultra-Wealthy in India:
  • The wealthiest segment, approximately 10,000 individuals out of 92 million Indian adults, boasts an average wealth of Rs 2,260 crore. This staggering figure is 16,763 times the national average wealth.

Key Recommendations from the “Billionaire Raj” Working Paper

Data Sources:

  • The paper utilized various sources to construct its estimates on income and wealth inequality in India.
  • Notably, India lacks official income estimates and relies on survey-based official statistics for wealth, which may not provide a comprehensive view.

Policy Measures to Address Inequality:

  • Tax Restructuring: The paper advocates for a restructured tax code that addresses both income and wealth. This could potentially help in redistributing wealth more equitably.
  • Public Investments: Broad-based investments in crucial sectors such as health, education, and nutrition are recommended. Such investments can play a pivotal role in reducing inequality by providing opportunities and improving the living standards of the less privileged.

Proposal for a “Super Tax”:

  • A suggested “super tax” of 2% on the net wealth of the 167 wealthiest families for the fiscal year 2022-23 could yield revenues equivalent to 0.5% of the national income.
  • This tax proposal not only offers a potential revenue stream but also aims to create fiscal room for essential public investments.
  • Implementing such a tax could act as an effective tool in combating the rising inequality in India by redistributing wealth and ensuring a fairer distribution of resources.

-Source: Indian Express


Recently, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a comprehensive ban on all forms of the deadly carcinogen asbestos.


Facts for Prelims

About Asbestos

Definition and Types:

  • Asbestos is a collective term for a group of six naturally occurring silicate minerals known for their unique properties.
  • These minerals are broadly classified into two categories: serpentine and amphiboles. Among these, chrysotile or white asbestos belongs to the serpentine group and has been the most commonly used type.
Key Properties:
  • Heat and Corrosion Resistance: Asbestos exhibits high resistance to heat and corrosion, making it suitable for various applications in industries.
  • Non-flammable: Even at extremely high temperatures, asbestos remains non-flammable.
  • Flexibility and Durability: Its flexibility and durability make it an ideal material for construction and insulation.
  • Tensile Strength: Asbestos possesses a good tensile strength.
  • Thermal and Electrical Properties: It has low heat conductivity and offers high resistance to electricity.

Historical Use:

  • Asbestos has been widely used in various industries, including construction, insulation, and the production of consumer goods due to its unique properties.

Global Trade:

  • India predominantly relies on imports from countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and China to meet its asbestos demand.

Recent Developments:

  • The USA has recently banned chrysotile asbestos, primarily used by the chlor-alkali industry. This industry produces chemicals like chlorine bleach and caustic soda used in water treatment.
Health Impacts:
  • Associated Health Risks: All forms of asbestos are linked to severe health conditions such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, and asbestosis (a lung fibrosis).
  • Airborne Fibers: When disturbed, products containing asbestos release microscopic fibers into the air.
  • Respiratory Concerns: Inhaling these asbestos fibers can lead to their retention in the lungs, potentially causing long-term health issues.

-Source: Indian Express


The power discoms in the national capital are gearing up to make the ‘Earth Hour’ a success by encouraging their consumers to switch off non-essential lights and electric appliances for one hour on March 23 night.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Earth Hour

  • Nature: A global grassroots movement aimed at promoting environmental awareness and encouraging action to safeguard the planet.
  • Organizer: World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
  • Origins: Initiated in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 as a symbolic event to turn off lights.
  • Global Reach: Has evolved into a worldwide movement with participation from over 190 countries and territories.
  • Annual Occurrence: Held towards the end of March each year.
  • Objective: Encourage individuals and communities to switch off non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time, highlighting climate change issues and emphasizing energy conservation.
  • Participation: Governments and organizations globally join by turning off lights in their buildings, monuments, and landmarks.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Key Facts

  • Establishment: Founded in 1961 in Morges, Switzerland.
  • Primary Focus: Protection of endangered wildlife species and conservation of natural habitats.
  • Mission: “To stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.”
  • Collaborative Approach: Engages with various partners, including governments, industries, and local communities, to address environmental challenges and devise sustainable solutions.

-Source: Business standards


Recently, AI chip leader Nvidia announced Project GR00T which promises to revolutionise the evolution of humanoid robots.


Facts for Prelims

About Project GR00T

  • Project GR00T is short for “Generalist Robot 00 Technology.”
Objective and Functionality:
  • Multimodal AI System: GR00T serves as a comprehensive AI system tailored for humanoid robots.
  • Learning and Interaction: It enables robots to learn new skills and engage with the real world.
  • Natural Language Understanding: Robots under this project are designed to comprehend and respond to natural language.
  • Skill Acquisition: By observing human actions, these robots can quickly learn and emulate various skills like coordination and dexterity.
Aims and Goals:
  • Human-like Abilities: The primary objective is to equip humanoid robots with capabilities that resemble human understanding and movement.
Technical Aspects:
  • Training Platforms: The AI model is trained on NVIDIA GPU-accelerated simulation environments.
  • Learning Methods:
    • Imitation Learning: This involves robots observing experts executing tasks and learning to replicate those actions.
    • Reinforcement Learning: A machine learning approach where software is trained to make decisions aiming for optimal outcomes.

-Source: The Hindu

April 2024