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Current Affairs 27 February 2023


  1. Manual scavenging
  2. Sophisticated anatomy of heat waves
  3. Menstrual leave policies
  4. Khalistan movement
  5. ALMA telescope
  6. Mad Cow disease

Manual Scavenging


The Supreme Court has directed the government to place on record within six weeks the steps taken by it to implement its nearly 10-year-old judgment to end manual scavenging and prevent future generations from the “inhuman practice” while making entry into sewers without safety gear a crime even in emergency situations.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Poverty, Minorities, Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Manual Scavenging in India
  2. Prevalence of Manual Scavenging in India
  3. Existing provisions regarding Manual Labour
  4. National Action Plan for elimination of Manual Scavenging

Manual Scavenging in India

  • Manual scavenging is defined as “the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers”.
  • In 1993, India banned the employment of people as manual scavengers (The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993), however, the stigma and discrimination associated with it still linger on.
  • In 2013, the definition of manual scavengers was also broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks. The Act recognizes manual scavenging as a “dehumanizing practice,” and cites a need to “correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.”

Prevalence of Manual Scavenging in India

  • As per the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), a total of 631 people have died in the country while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last 10 years.
  • 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years. 110 workers were killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
  • This is a 61% increase as compared to 2018, which saw 68 cases of such similar deaths.
  • Despite the introduction of several mechanised systems for sewage cleaning, human intervention in the process still continues.
  • As per data collected in 2018, 29,923 people are engaged in manual scavenging in Uttar Pradesh, making it the highest in any State in India.

Why is manual scavenging still a concern after so many years?

  • A number of independent surveys have talked about the continued reluctance on the part of state governments to admit that the practice prevails under their watch.
  • Many times, local bodies outsource sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors. However, many of them fly-by-night operators, do not maintain proper rolls of sanitation workers. In case after case of workers being asphyxiated to death, these contractors have denied any association with the deceased.
  • The practice is also driven by caste, class and income divides. It is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes are expected to perform this job. It is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes are expected to perform this job.

Existing provisions regarding Manual Labour

  • Prevention of Atrocities Act: In 1989, the Prevention of Atrocities Act became an integrated guard for sanitation workers; more than 90% people employed as manual scavengers belonged to the Scheduled Caste. This became an important landmark to free manual scavengers from designated traditional occupations.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: Superseding the 1993 Act, the 2013 Act goes beyond prohibitions on dry latrines, and outlaws all manual excrement cleaning of insanitary latrines, open drains, or pits.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees ‘Right to Life’ and that also with dignity. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.

National Action Plan for elimination of Manual Scavenging

The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry’s National Action Plan aims to modernise existing sewage system and coverage of non-sewered areas; setting up of faecal sludge and septage management system for mechanised cleaning of septic tanks, transportation and treatment of faecal sludge; equipping the municipalities, and setting up of Sanitation Response Units with help lines.

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  • As a part of the Ministry’s National Action Plan, this bill will amend the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
  • The bill proposes to completely mechanise sewer cleaning and provide better protection at work and compensation in case of accidents.
  • The Bill proposes to make the law banning manual scavenging more stringent by increasing the imprisonment term and the fine amount.
  • The funds will be provided directly to the sanitation workers and not to the municipalities or contractors to purchase the machinery.
Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge across 243 Cities to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of ‘hazardous cleaning’.
  • The Challenge was launched on the occasion of World Toilet Day.
  • Aims to prevent ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promoting their mechanized cleaning.
  • Representatives from 243 cities across the country took a pledge to mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by 30th April 2021.
  • The initiative is in line with the core of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U)
  • The actual on-ground assessment of participating cities will be conducted in May 2021 by an independent agency and results of the same will be declared on 15 August 2021.
  • Cities will be awarded in three sub-categories – with population of more than 10 lakhs, 3-10 lakhs and upto 3 lakhs, with a total prize money of ₹52 crores to be given to winning cities across all categories.

-Source: The Hindu

Sophisticated Anatomy Of Heat Waves


Recently, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned that the maximum temperatures over northwest, west, and central India would be 3-5°C higher than the long-term average.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a heat wave?
  2. How do heat waves occur?
  3. The Role of Air Mass in Heat Waves

What is a heat wave?

  • According to the IMD, a region has a heat wave if its ambient temperature deviates by at least 4.5-6.4°C from the long-term average.
  • There is also a heat wave if the maximum temperature crosses 45°C (or 37°C at a hill-station).
  • Heat waves are expected to become longer and more intense and frequent over the Indian subcontinent.
  • In 2022 itself, the heat waves started early and were more numerous. They also extended further south into peninsular India due to a north-south pressure pattern set up by the La Niña, a world-affecting weather phenomenon in which a band of cool water spreads east-west across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • The last three years have been La Niña years, which has served as a precursor to 2023 likely being an El Niño year.
  • As we eagerly await the likely birth of an El Niño this year, we have already had a heat wave occur over northwest India. Heat waves tend to be confined to north and northwest India in El Niño years.

How do heat waves occur?

Heat waves are a phenomenon that can be formed in two ways:
  • Local phenomenon: When the air is warmed by higher land surface temperature or compressed along the way, producing hot air near the surface.
  • Air-flow phenomenon: When warmer air flows in from elsewhere, either due to global warming or due to the direction of air-flow.
Factors contributing to the formation of heat waves in India:
  • Air-flow from West Asia: West Asia is warming faster than other regions in latitudes similarly close to the equator, serving as a source of warm air that blows into India.
  • Air-flow over mountains: Air flowing in from the northwest rolls in over the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with some compression happening on the leeward side, entering India with warmth.
  • Warming of the Arabian Sea: The Arabian Sea is unfortunately warming faster than most other ocean regions.
  • Upper atmospheric westerly winds: Strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean over to India during spring control the near-surface winds, which generates heat waves due to the energy needed to run past the earth near the surface.
  • Decline in lapse rate: Global warming tends to warm the upper atmosphere faster than the air near the surface, meaning that sinking air is warmer due to global warming, which produces heat waves as it sinks and compresses.

The Role of Air Mass in Heat Waves:

  • Age of the air mass: The age of the air mass is a factor that affects the formation of heat waves. North-northwestern heat waves are typically formed with air masses that come from 800-1,600 km away and are around two days old.
  • Travel distance of the air mass: The distance that the air mass has travelled is also a contributing factor. Heat waves over peninsular India arrive from the oceans, which are closer (around 200-400 km) and are barely a day old. As a result, they are on average less intense.
The Anatomy of Heat Waves and the Importance of Early Warning Systems:
  • Heat waves have a complex structure, which makes it difficult to predict them accurately.
  • However, early-warning systems can use the age and distance of the air mass, as well as the mode of formation and location of the heat wave, to improve the quality of warnings and increase the lead time for issuing warnings.
  • India has made significant investments in human and computational resources to improve its forecast skills in the last decade.
Protecting the Vulnerable from Heat Waves:
  • Despite lower mortality rates in India compared to other regions, it is important to further improve forecast warnings, issue them as soon as possible, and couple them with city-wide graded heat action plans to protect the vulnerable.

-Source: The Hindu

Menstrual Leave Policies


Recently, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a PIL about menstrual leave for workers and students across the country, calling it a policy matter. It highlighted that there were different “dimensions” to menstrual pain leave.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is menstrual leave?
  2. Arguments Against Menstrual Leave
  3. Global Menstrual Leave Policies
  4. Are attempts being made in India?

What is menstrual leave?

  • Menstrual leave refers to all policies that allow employees or students to take time off when they are experiencing menstrual pain or discomfort.
  • In the context of the workplace, it refers to policies that allow for both paid or unpaid leave, or time for rest.
  • More than half of those who menstruate experience pain for a couple of days a month; for some it is debilitating enough to hamper daily activities and productivity.
  • A 2017 survey of 32,748 women in the Netherlands published in the British Medical Journal found that 14% of them had taken time off from work or school during their periods.
  • The researchers estimated that employees lost around 8.9 days’ worth of productivity every year due to menstrual-cycle related issues.

Arguments Against Menstrual Leave:

  • Not necessary: Some people argue that menstrual leave is not necessary as women can manage their menstrual pain with over-the-counter pain relief medication.
  • Potential for discrimination: Others believe that menstrual leave may backfire and lead to employer discrimination against women. For example, employers may be less likely to hire women if they are required to grant menstrual leave, or may provide less opportunities for advancement to women who take menstrual leave.
  • Policy implications: There is a policy dimension to menstrual leave. Compelling employers to grant menstrual leave may operate as a de facto disincentive for employers to engage women in their establishments.

Global Menstrual Leave Policies:

  • Spain: On February 16, 2021, Spain became the first European country to grant paid menstrual leave to workers. Workers now have the right to three days of menstrual leave, which can be expanded to five days, per month.
  • Japan: Menstrual leave was introduced as part of Japan’s labour laws in 1947. Under Article 68, employers cannot ask women who experience difficult periods to work during that time.
  • Indonesia: Indonesia introduced a menstrual leave policy in 1948, amended in 2003, which states that workers experiencing menstrual pain are not obliged to work on the first two days of their cycle.
  • Philippines: In the Philippines, workers are permitted two days of menstrual leave per month.
  • Zambia: Zambia introduced one day of leave per month without needing a reason or a medical certificate, calling it a “Mother’s Day.”

These policies vary in the number of days granted, eligibility requirements, and whether the leave is paid or unpaid. However, they all recognize the impact of menstrual pain on women’s health and well-being, and aim to provide support and accommodations for workers who experience menstruation.

Are attempts being made in India?

  • Among State governments, Bihar and Kerala are the only ones to introduce menstrual leave to women.
  • The Bihar government, then headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav, introduced its menstrual leave policy in 1992, allowing employees two days of paid menstrual leave every month.
  • Recently, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced that the State’s Higher Education department will now grant menstrual and maternity leaves for students in universities that function under the department.

-Source: The Hindu

Khalistan Movement


Recently, hundreds of followers of Amritpal Singh, a radical preacher and pro-Khalistan leader, clashed violently with police outside Ajnala police station near Amritsar, demanding the release of one of their colleagues who had been taken into custody in an alleged kidnapping case.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Khalistan movement?
  2. When and why did the movement start?
  3. What was the Anandpur Sahib Resolution?
  4. Operation Blue Star

What is the Khalistan movement?

  • The Khalistan movement is a fight for a separate, sovereign Sikh state in present day Punjab (both India and Pakistan).
  • Over the years, it has survived in various forms, in various places and amongst different populations.
  • The movement was crushed in India following Operation Blue Star (1984) and Operation Black Thunder (1986 and 1988), but it continues to evoke sympathy and support among sections of the Sikh population, especially in the Sikh diaspora in countries such as Canada, the UK, and Australia.

When and why did the movement start?

  • The origins of the Khalistan movement can be traced back to India’s independence and the subsequent Partition along religious lines.
  • The Punjab province was divided between India and Pakistan during Partition, leading to communal violence and the displacement of millions of Sikhs and Hindus to the east.
  • Lahore, the capital of the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, went to Pakistan, along with holy Sikh sites like Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
  • Despite being a minority in India, with only around 2% of the population being Sikh, the community began a political struggle for greater autonomy, starting with the Punjabi Suba Movement for the creation of a Punjabi-speaking state.
  • The States Reorganisation Commission rejected this demand in its 1955 report, but after years of protests, the state of Punjab was eventually reorganized in 1966 to reflect the Punjabi Suba demand.
  • The erstwhile Punjab state was trifurcated into the Hindi-speaking, Hindu-majority states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, and the Punjabi-speaking, Sikh-majority Punjab.

What was the Anandpur Sahib Resolution?

  • The Akali Dal became a major political force in the Sikh-majority Punjab after the Punjabi Suba movement, giving the Congress tough competition in the state’s legislative assembly elections in 1967 and 1969.
  • However, after Indira Gandhi’s victory in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, the Akali Dal’s performance in the state was lackluster.
  • In 1973, the Akali Dal held a meeting in Anandpur Sahib, the birthplace of the Khalsa, and released the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which outlined several demands.
  • The resolution demanded autonomy for the state of Punjab, identified specific regions that would be included in a separate state, and sought the right to frame its own internal constitution.
  • The Akali Dal was trying to capitalize on the growing demand for an autonomous state, which had emerged alongside the Punjabi Suba movement and had gained global attention by 1971.
  • Despite the Akalis’ insistence that they were not seeking secession from India, the Indian state viewed the Anandpur Sahib Resolution as a serious threat.
Background of Operation Blue Star:
  • The Khalistan movement had gained momentum in Punjab during the 1980s.
  • In 1984, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh separatist leader, and his followers took refuge in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab.

Operation Blue Star:

  • On June 1, 1984, the Indian Army launched Operation Blue Star to flush out the militants from the Golden Temple complex.
  • The operation lasted for six days and involved more than 50,000 troops.
  • The militants had fortified the complex and engaged in heavy gunfire with the army.
  • The army used tanks, artillery, and helicopters to neutralize the militants.
  • The operation caused significant damage to the complex and resulted in the death of many civilians, militants, and army personnel.
  • The Indian government faced severe criticism for its handling of the operation.
  • Many Sikhs felt that their religious sentiments had been hurt and that the attack on the Golden Temple was an attack on their faith.
  • The operation also led to a rise in Sikh separatism and militancy in Punjab.
  • In October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for the operation.
  • The assassination triggered anti-Sikh riots in which thousands of Sikhs were killed across India.


  • In the years following the operation, efforts were made to reconcile with the Sikh community.
  • The government set up a commission of inquiry, known as the Nanavati Commission, to investigate the events leading up to the operation and its aftermath.
  • The government also granted greater autonomy to Punjab and made efforts to address the grievances of the Sikh community.
  • In 1995, the Akal Takht, the highest seat of temporal authority for Sikhs, issued a resolution forgiving the Indian government for the operation and urging Sikhs to move on.

-Source: Indian Express

ALMA Telescope


The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) — a radio telescope comprising 66 antennas located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile — is set to get software and hardware upgrades that will help it collect much more data and produce sharper images than ever before, the journal Science reported recently.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is ALMA?
  2. Why is ALMA located in Chile’s Atacama Desert?
  3. Notable Discoveries Made by ALMA

What is ALMA?

  • ALMA is a state-of-the-art telescope that studies celestial objects at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths.
  • It has 66 high-precision antennas spread over a distance of up to 16 km, each with a series of receivers tuned to specific ranges of wavelengths.
  • The antennas can be moved closer together or farther apart for different perspectives, resulting in never-before-seen imagery of deep space.
  • The correlator combines the input from individual antennas to produce a single image.

Why is ALMA located in Chile’s Atacama Desert?

  • ALMA is located at an altitude of 16,570 feet above sea level on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama Desert because the millimetre and submillimetre waves it observes are susceptible to atmospheric water vapour absorption on Earth.
  • The desert is the driest place in the world, making it an ideal location for examining the universe.
ALMA Upgrades:
  • ALMA is set to receive upgrades to its software and hardware, costing $37 million and taking around five years to complete.
  • The most significant upgrade will be the replacement of its correlator, a supercomputer that combines the input from individual antennas to produce highly detailed images of celestial objects.
  • The upgrades will double and eventually quadruple their overall observing speed.
Notable Discoveries Made by ALMA:
  • ALMA has made several notable discoveries since its inception.
  • In 2013, it discovered starburst galaxies earlier in the universe’s history than previously thought.
  • The telescope provided detailed images of the protoplanetary disc surrounding HL Tauri, transforming the previously accepted theories about planetary formation.
  • In 2015, ALMA helped scientists observe the Einstein ring in extraordinary detail. Recently, as part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, it provided the first image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.

-Source: Indian Express

Mad Cow Disease


Brazil has halted its beef exports to China after a case of mad cow disease was confirmed in the northern state of Para.


GS I: Facts for prelims

About Mad Cow disease:

  • Mad Cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a fatal and slowly progressive disease that affects the central nervous system of adult cattle.
  • It is caused by a protein called a prion, which is found on cell surfaces. When this protein gets altered, it destroys the nervous system tissue, including the brain and spinal cord.
  • The disease is transmitted when a cow eats feed contaminated with parts that came from another cow that was sick with BSE.
  • The common sign of BSE in cows is incoordination, where a sick cow has difficulty walking and getting up.
  • It takes four to six years from the time of infection for a cow to show symptoms of BSE, and there are currently no vaccines available to prevent or treat the disease.

-Source: Hindustan Times

July 2024