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Current Affairs 26 December 2023

  1. Volcanic Eruption Near Reykjanes, Iceland: No Threat to Human Life Confirmed
  2. UNODC Global Study on Homicide 2023
  3. Commemorating Sacrifice: Execution of Kakori Train Action Revolutionaries
  4. PMAY-G Beneficiary Identification for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
  5. China Bans Rare Earth Metal Technology Export Amid Global Dependency Concerns
  6. Rediscovery of Namdapha Flying Squirrel in Arunachal Pradesh
  7. Gelephu Smart City Project


The Icelandic Government has reassured that the recent volcanic eruption near Reykjanes, situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, does not pose a threat to human life. The eruption, occurring between Sýlingarfell and Hagafell, north of Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula, holds significance given Iceland’s unique geological location.


GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Exploring Iceland: Key Geographical Features
  2. Global Volcanic Hotspots: Distribution and Characteristics

Exploring Iceland: Key Geographical Features

  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge Location:
    • Iceland is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, recognized as the world’s longest mountain range, though it’s mostly submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Tectonic Plate Dynamics:
    • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge serves as a boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, resulting in heightened seismic activity.
  • Unique Geological Formation:
    • Emerging above the ocean surface in the North Atlantic, Iceland’s distinct geology showcases a landscape featuring geysers, glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, and lava fields.
  • “Land of Fire and Ice” Epithet:
    • Home to 33 active volcanoes, Iceland boasts the highest number in Europe, earning it the nickname “Land of Fire and Ice.”
  • Famous Volcanic Eruptions:
    • Eyjafjallajökull, a renowned Icelandic volcano, gained international attention with its 2010 eruption, causing a widespread ash cloud.
  • Notable Volcanoes:
    • Iceland is home to various notable volcanoes, including Hekla, Grímsvötn, Hóluhraun, and Litli-Hrútur, forming part of the Fagradalsfjall system.

Global Volcanic Hotspots: Distribution and Characteristics

Circum-Pacific Belt (Ring of Fire):
  • The Pacific “Ring of Fire” encompasses numerous volcanoes along the
  • ‘s subduction zones, exhibiting high seismic activity.
  • This belt, with a total of 452 volcanoes, extends from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, through Japan and Southeast Asia, to New Zealand.
Mid-Continental Belt:
  • Extending along the Alpine Mountain system, this volcanic belt traverses Europe, North America, Asia Minor, Caucasia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Himalayan Mountain system.
  • Notable features include volcanoes in the Alps, Mediterranean Sea (e.g., Stromboli, Vesuvius, Etna), Aegean Sea, Mt. Ararat (Turkey), Elburz, Hindu Kush, and the Himalayas.
Mid-Atlantic Ridge:
  • Separating the North and South American Plate from the Eurasian and African Plate, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is characterized by undersea volcanoes.
  • Magma rises through cracks, solidifying on the ocean floor, contributing to the longest topographic feature under the world’s oceans.
Intraplate Volcanoes (Hot-Spots):
  • Approximately 5% of known global volcanoes are considered intraplate or “hot-spot” volcanoes.
  • Hot spots are associated with deep-mantle plumes, resulting from slow convection of highly viscous material. Examples include the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chains.

-Source: The Hindu


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has recently published the Global Study on Homicide 2023 report, revealing that homicide surpasses armed conflict and terrorism combined as a leading cause of death. The report delves into the various aspects of homicide, distinguishing between lawful and unlawful killings, intentional and unintentional acts. Additionally, it scrutinizes homicides associated with criminal activities, interpersonal conflicts, and socio-politically motivated incidents, such as the targeted killing of human rights activists, humanitarian workers, and journalists.


GS I: Social Issues

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Insights from the Global Study on Homicide 2023
  2. Key Highlights on Water-Related Homicides in India

Key Insights from the Global Study on Homicide 2023

Annual Homicide Statistics:

  • Approximately 440,000 deaths occurred annually due to homicide between 2019 and 2021.

Lethal Surge in 2021:

  • 2021 witnessed an exceptionally lethal year with 458,000 homicides.
  • Contributing factors include economic repercussions from the Covid-19 pandemic and an increase in organized crime, gang-related, and socio-political violence.

Homicide vs. Conflict Deaths:

  • Despite a more than 95% surge in conflict deaths between 2021 and 2022, global homicide rates in 2022 were twice that of conflict deaths.

Organized Crime Impact:

  • Organized Crime accounted for 22% of global homicides, rising to 50% in the Americas.
  • Competition among organized crime groups and gangs significantly escalates intentional homicides.

Regional Disparities:

  • The Americas had the highest regional homicide rate per capita in 2021 (15 per 100,000 population).
  • Africa recorded the highest absolute number of homicides (176,000) with a rate of 12.7 per 100,000 population.

Gender Disparities:

  • Men constituted 81% of homicide victims and 90% of suspects.
  • Women were more likely to be killed by family members or intimate partners.

Impact on Children:

  • 15% of homicide victims in 2021 were children, totaling 71,600 boys and girls.
  • Targeted Killings:
  • Deliberate killings of human rights defenders, journalists, aid workers, etc., accounted for 9% of global homicides.
  • Humanitarian aid workers faced an increased threat level during 2017-2022.

Projections and Sustainable Goals:

  • The global homicide rate is projected to decrease to 4.7 in 2030, falling short of the Sustainable Development Goals target.
  • Africa is identified as the most vulnerable region due to its younger population, persistent inequality, and climate-related challenges.

Key Highlights on Water-Related Homicides in India

Disputes Over Property, Land, and Water:

  • Nearly 16.8% of murder cases recorded in India between 2019 and 2021 were associated with disputes over property, land, or access to water.

Specific Water-Related Homicides:

  • Approximately 0.5% of recorded murders in India (300 cases) between 2019 and 2021 were explicitly attributed to conflicts related to water, signaling the emergence of water-related disputes as a significant contributor to homicides.

Drivers of Water-Related Violence:

  • Population growth, economic expansion, and climate change were identified as key factors exacerbating tensions over water access in India.
  • These factors contribute to increased violence associated with disputes over water resources, indicating a complex interplay of environmental and socio-economic dynamics.

-Source: Down To Earth


Ninety-six years ago, in December 1927, four key figures of the Indian independence movement faced execution. These revolutionaries, associated with the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), were hanged for their involvement in the Kakori Train Action, a daring act where a train transporting funds to the British treasury was looted. Their sacrifice stands as a poignant reminder of their bravery and pivotal roles in shaping India’s fight for freedom, reigniting reflections on their enduring legacy.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and Its Evolution into Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA)
  2. Kakori Train Action Incident: HRA’s Pioneering Revolutionary Act

Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and Its Evolution into Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA)

Non-Cooperation Movement and Chauri Chaura Incident:
  • Initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920, the Non-Cooperation Movement advocated non-violence and withdrawal of support from British activities in India.
  • The movement took a turn after the Chauri Chaura Incident in 1922, marked by police firing leading to protester deaths and subsequent mob violence resulting in the death of policemen.
  • Gandhi, facing internal dissent within the Indian National Congress (INC), abruptly halted the Non-Cooperation Movement.
Formation of Hindustan Republican Association (HRA):
  • Disillusioned by the sudden halt of the Non-Cooperation Movement, a group of young men founded the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA).
  • Founders included Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Sachindra Nath Bakshi, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, and later, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh.
Manifesto and Revolutionary Ideals:
  • The manifesto, titled “Krantikari” (Revolutionary), was released on January 1, 1925.
  • Aimed to establish a federal Republic of the United States of India through organized, armed revolution.
  • Rejecting terrorism for its own sake, they considered it a potent retaliatory measure when necessary.
Vision for the Republic:
  • Envisioned a republic based on universal suffrage and socialist principles.
  • Prioritized abolishing systems enabling human exploitation.
Transformation into HSRA:
  • In 1928, the HRA evolved into the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
  • Shifted its focus from political independence to encompass socio-economic equality, aligning with socialist ideologies.
Leadership and Altered Trajectory:
  • Led by figures like Bhagat Singh, the HSRA merged nationalist aspirations with socialist principles.
  • This alteration marked a significant shift in the trajectory of India’s freedom struggle, broadening its scope to include socio-economic reforms alongside political independence.

Kakori Train Action Incident: HRA’s Pioneering Revolutionary Act

Train Robbery at Kakori:
  • The Kakori Train Action incident occurred in August 1925 and marked the Hindustan Republican Association’s (HRA) first major revolutionary action.
  • The targeted train, Number 8 Down, operated between Shahjahanpur and Lucknow.
Execution of the Robbery:
  • As the train approached Kakori, a revolutionary named Rajendranath Lahiri pulled the emergency chain, halting the train.
  • Lahiri overpowered the guard, and the revolutionaries aimed to seize treasury bags containing government funds destined for the British treasury in Lucknow.
  • The motive behind the robbery was to fund the HRA’s activities and draw public attention to their cause.
British Crackdown and Arrests:
  • The British authorities responded with a harsh crackdown, resulting in the arrest of numerous HRA members involved in the Kakori Train Action.
  • Among the forty individuals arrested, four received death sentences: Rajendranath Lahiri on December 17th, and Ashfaqullah Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil, and Thakur Roshan Singh on December 19th.
Objective and Public Attention:
  • The objective of the Kakori Train Action was dual: to financially support the HRA and attract public attention to their mission and revolutionary activities.
Legal Outcomes:
  • Rajendranath Lahiri and others faced severe legal consequences, with four individuals receiving death sentences.
  • Chandrashekhar Azad was the only prominent HRA leader who managed to evade capture during the subsequent crackdown.
Impact on the HRA:
  • The Kakori Train Action had a profound impact on the HRA, shaping its trajectory and leaving a significant mark on the history of India’s struggle for independence.

-Source: Indian Express


The Centre has initiated a survey and registration process to identify eligible beneficiaries for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) within 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). This effort aims to ensure housing support for marginalized and vulnerable tribal communities under the PMAY-G scheme.


GS II : Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Scheduled Tribes in India: Characteristics and Government Initiatives
  2. Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG): Characteristics and Government Initiatives
  3. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G)

Scheduled Tribes in India: Characteristics and Government Initiatives

Population Overview:

  • According to the 2011 Census, Scheduled Tribes constitute 104 million individuals, accounting for 8.6% of the total population in India.

Geographic Distribution:

  • Spread across the country, these tribes primarily inhabit forest and hilly regions, showcasing a diverse presence.

Characteristics of Scheduled Tribes:

  • Essential traits include primitive characteristics, geographical isolation, distinct culture, a tendency to avoid interaction with the larger community, and economic backwardness.

Establishment of Ministry of Tribal Affairs:

  • In 1999, the Government of India established the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, separate from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Ministry’s Objective:

  • The primary objective is to focus on the integrated socio-economic development of Scheduled Tribes, the most underprivileged section of Indian society.

Three-Pronged Empowerment Strategy:

  • Similar to Scheduled Castes, the empowerment of tribal communities is pursued through a three-pronged strategy:
    • Social empowerment,
    • Economic empowerment,
    • Social justice.

Coordinated Development Approach:

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs works towards achieving its goals in a coordinated and planned manner, aiming to uplift the socio-economic status of Scheduled Tribes.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG): Characteristics and Government Initiatives

Vulnerability Within Tribal Groups:

  • PVTGs are identified as the more vulnerable segments among tribal communities, facing distinct challenges that require special attention.

Resource Allocation Disparities:

  • As more developed and assertive tribal groups often receive a significant share of tribal development funds, PVTGs face the need for dedicated resources to address their unique developmental requirements.

Declaration and Recommendation:

  • In 1975, the Government of India, based on the recommendation of the Dhebar Commission, declared 52 tribal groups as PVTGs.

Current Status:

  • Presently, there are 75 PVTGs out of the total 705 Scheduled Tribes in India, spread across 18 states and one Union Territory according to the 2011 census.

Characteristics of PVTGs:

  • Population: Stagnant or declining
  • Technology: Predominantly pre-agricultural
  • Literacy Level: Extremely low
  • Economy: Operates at a subsistence level

Government Scheme for PVTGs:

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs oversees the ‘Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’ scheme.
  • This Centrally Sponsored Scheme provides 100% Central assistance to 18 states and the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Objective of the Scheme:

  • The scheme aims at comprehensive socio-economic development for PVTGs while preserving their distinct culture and heritage.

Implementation and Projects:

  • State Governments, as part of the scheme, undertake projects tailored to sectors such as education, health, and livelihoods specifically designed for the holistic development of PVTGs.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G):

Scheme Objective:

  • The primary aim of PMAY-G is to provide pucca houses with essential amenities.

Target Beneficiaries:

  • The scheme caters to individuals who do not own a house and those residing in kutcha houses or severely damaged houses.

Minimum House Size:

  • Currently, houses under the PMAY-G scheme must have a minimum size of 25 sq. mt. with a hygienic cooking space.

Concerned Ministry:

  • The Ministry of Rural Development is responsible for the implementation of PMAY-G.

Cost Sharing:

  • In plain areas, the cost is shared in a 60:40 ratio between the Central and State governments, providing Rs. 1.20 lakh of assistance per unit.
  • In Himalayan states, north-eastern states, and the UT of Jammu & Kashmir, the ratio is 90:10, with up to Rs. 1.30 lakh of assistance per unit.
  • Union Territories, including Ladakh, receive 100% financing from the Centre.

Beneficiary Identification:

  • Beneficiaries are identified using parameters from the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data, verified by Gram Sabhas.

Additional Benefits:

  • Beneficiaries are entitled to 90/95 person-days of unskilled labor under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
  • Assistance for constructing toilets, up to Rs. 12,000, is provided under Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G) in collaboration with MGNREGS or other schemes.

Electronic Payments:

  • Payments are made electronically directly to bank accounts or post office accounts linked to Aadhaar.


  • Against the mandated target of constructing 2.95 crore houses under PMAY-G, the Ministry has allocated a target of 2.94 crore houses to States/UTs.
  • States/UTs have sanctioned 2.85 crore houses, with 2.22 crore houses already completed as of March 24, 2023.

-Source: The Hindu


China has recently implemented a ban on the export of technology crucial for the extraction and separation of Rare Earth Metals. This includes production technology for rare earth metals and alloy materials, as well as technology related to the preparation of certain rare earth magnets. The decision is part of an overhaul of technologies considered vital for national security. This move by China has significant implications as Europe and the United States strive to reduce dependence on rare earths sourced from China, which currently dominates 90% of the global refined output.


GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are rare earths?
  2. What are rare earths used for?
  3. Rare Earth Minerals Reserves – India Ranks 3rd in the World
  4. Global Ramifications of Rare Earth Export Technology Ban
  5. Impact on India

What are rare earths?

  • Rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table — the 15 lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium, which tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides, and have similar chemical properties.
  • The 17 rare earths are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and yttrium (Y).
  • Despite their classification, most of these elements are not really “rare”.
  • One of the rare earths, promethium, is radioactive.

What are rare earths used for?

  • These elements are important in technologies of consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, clean energy, advanced transportation, healthcare, environmental mitigation, and national defence, among others.
  • Scandium is used in televisions and fluorescent lamps, and yttrium is used in drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
  • Rare earth elements are used in space shuttle components, jet engine turbines, and drones.
  • Cerium, the most abundant rare earth element, is essential to NASA’s Space Shuttle Programme.
  • In recent years, rare earths have become even more important because there has been an increase in demand for green energy.
  • Elements like neodymium and dysprosium, which are used in wind turbine motors, are sought-after more than ever as wind mills across the world continue to grow.
  • Moreover, the push for switching from internal combustion cars to electric vehicles has also led to a rise in demand for rare earth magnets — made from neodymium, boron, and iron — and batteries.

Rare Earth Minerals Reserves – India Ranks 3rd in the World

  • India has the third-largest reserves of rare earth minerals in the world. Due to radioactivity of monazite sands, Indian Rare Earths Ltd under the Department of Atomic Energy is the sole producer of rare earth compounds.
  • Globally, China has a monopoly over rare earth, after USA’s recede in this industry due to high environmental and health concerns.
  • China had once, almost shivered the Japanese economy by halting the export of rare earth elements.
  • India is also blessed with some crucial rare earth minerals like zirconium, neodymium etc., available in plenty in monazite sands.
  • This could contribute to Indian export markets if utilized properly. However, owing to various reasons such as cost reduction due to high production (economies of scale) in China, lack of demand in the domestic market, lack of domestic processing technologies, the production of rare earth minerals has depleted over years.
  • Most of the products that use rare earth minerals as raw materials are imported. Despite rare earth minerals having high value add the potential for export growth, inadequate processing technologies have made India suffer.

Global Ramifications of Rare Earth Export Technology Ban

Disruption to Global Supply Chains:
  • China’s role as the leading processor of rare earths makes the technology export ban a potential disruptor for global industries dependent on these materials.
  • Countries and industries relying heavily on Chinese rare earth exports may encounter shortages or increased costs.
Vulnerability of Dependency on China:
  • The ban highlights the vulnerability of nations heavily reliant on China for critical materials.
  • Dependence on a sole source raises concerns about supply security, urging nations to explore alternative supply chains or domestic production.
Incentive for Innovation and Diversification:
  • The ban could stimulate innovation and investments in alternative technologies and supply sources outside China.
  • Countries may actively seek to diversify their rare earth supply chains, reducing reliance on a single market.

Impact on India

Opportunity for Reassessment and Diversification:
  • India, similarly dependent on Chinese rare earth exports, has an opportunity to reassess its reliance and explore diversification strategies.
  • Focus on developing domestic extraction and processing capabilities or forming partnerships with other nations becomes crucial.
Initial Disruptions and Long-Term Mitigation:
  • Industries in India reliant on rare earth materials may face initial disruptions due to potential supply constraints.
  • However, this scenario could prompt investments in domestic production or collaborations with alternative suppliers, mitigating long-term risks.
Abundant Rare Earth Resources:
  • India’s Rare Earth (RE) resources, reported as the fifth largest globally, provide a solid foundation for potential development and self-sufficiency in rare earth production.

-Source: The Hindu


The Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi) has recently reappeared in Arunachal Pradesh after an absence of 42 years. The last documented sighting was in 1981 when a single individual was observed in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Namdapha Flying Squirrel: A Rare Nocturnal Species
  2. Namdapha Tiger Reserve: Key Points

Namdapha Flying Squirrel: A Rare Nocturnal Species

The Namdapha Flying Squirrel is a rare nocturnal flying squirrel species exclusively found in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, India.

Distinctive Features:

  • Distinguished from the red giant flying squirrel by the notable tuft of hair on its ears, setting it apart in the same ecosystem.

Concerns and Conservation:

  • Difficulty in locating this elusive species has raised concerns, leading to fears of potential misidentification or, worse, extinction.
  • Threats to the Namdapha flying squirrel include habitat loss and degradation due to activities like clear-felling for human settlements, shifting agriculture, and extraction of non-timber forest products, especially leaves of the rattan palm Zalacca secunda used for roofing.

Protection Status:

  • Listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, signifying a high risk of extinction.
  • Recognized under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2022, emphasizing legal protection measures for its conservation.

Namdapha Tiger Reserve: Key Points

Establishment and Tiger Project Designation:

  • Declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972, Namdapha Tiger Reserve was officially designated as the 15th Tiger Project of India in 1983.

Evolution of Protected Status:

  • Progressing from a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972, it attained the status of a National Park in 1983.
  • Simultaneously, it became a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger scheme in the same year.

Geographic Significance:

  • Named after the Namdapha River, originating from Daphabum, with “Dapha” referring to the hill and “Bum” signifying the peak of the hill.
  • The river flows in a North-South direction across the National Park, influencing its nomenclature.


  • Situated in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Namdapha Tiger Reserve is positioned between the Dapha Bum range of the Mishmi Hills and the Patkai range.

Climate Variations:

  • Enjoys a sub-tropical climate with distinct variations.
  • Mountainous areas experience a climate typical of high altitudes, while low-lying plains and valleys encounter a tropical climate.

Biodiversity Conservation:

  • As a Tiger Reserve, Namdapha plays a crucial role in the conservation of the Bengal tiger and other diverse flora and fauna within its ecosystem.

Environmental Importance:

  • The reserve’s rich biodiversity and unique geography contribute to its significance in maintaining ecological balance and supporting various endangered species.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, Bhutan’s King has announced plans to build a massive “international city” in an area of over 1,000 sq. km. on its border with Assam. This project is known as the Gelephu Project.


Facts for Prelims

Gelephu Smart City Project: Key Highlights

Economic Corridor and Connectivity:

  • Positioned as an economic corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia through India’s northeastern states.

Environmental Sustainability:

  • Emphasis on adhering to environmental standards and sustainability goals, with a focus on attracting quality investment from specially screened international companies.

Industry Focus:

  • Inclusion of “zero emission” industries and the development of a “mindfulness city,” capitalizing on Bhutan’s strengths in tourism and wellness.
  • Integration of infrastructure companies as part of the project.

Special Administrative Region:

  • Designation as a “Special Administrative Region” with distinct laws to facilitate increased international investment.

Significance for Bhutan and South Asia:

  • Project envisioned as a “point of inflection” and a transformative initiative for both Bhutan and the broader South Asian region.

India-Bhutan Railway Construction:

  • The Government of India commits to constructing the first India-Bhutan railway line to Gelephu.

Connectivity Beyond Borders:

  • The railway project includes connectivity with roadways and border trading points extending into Assam and West Bengal.
  • This connectivity aims to provide Bhutan access to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore, enhancing regional trade and collaboration.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024