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Current Affairs 30 May 2024

  1. Increasing Political Influence on Indian Higher Education
  2. Recent Fire Tragedies Highlight Need for Enhanced Fire Safety Regulations
  3. CCI Chairperson Highlights Monopolistic Tendencies in Digital Markets
  4. Amritpal Singh to Contest Lok Sabha Elections Despite Being in Jail
  5. Environmental Concerns Over Sky Lantern Festival Near Olive Ridley Turtle Nesting Site
  6. Himalayan serow
  7. Golden Rice


Indian higher education has a long history of intertwining with political agendas. This trend has intensified in recent years, affecting various aspects of academic life and compromising institutional integrity.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Higher Education in India
  2. Influence of Politics on Indian Higher Education
  3. Consequences of Hyperpoliticisation of Education
  4. Mitigating Political Interference in Higher Education

Higher Education in India


  • Higher education in India is provided after 12 years of schooling.
  • India has the world’s second-largest higher education system with over 58,000 institutions.
  • Currently, 43.3 million students are enrolled in higher education, with 79% in undergraduate courses, 12% at the postgraduate level, and 0.5% pursuing PhDs. The remaining are in sub-degree diploma programs.

Popular Subject Areas:

  • Undergraduate: Arts (34%), Science (15%), Commerce (13%), Engineering & Technology (12%).
  • Postgraduate: Social Science (21%), Science (15%), Management (14%).
  • PhD: Engineering & Technology (25%), Science (21%).

Participation Rate:

  • The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) has increased to 28.4%, up by 1.1% from 2020-21.
  • Top regions with highest GER include Chandigarh, Puducherry, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, and Telangana.
  • Around 46,000 foreign students were enrolled in Indian institutions in 2021-22.

Influence of Politics on Indian Higher Education

Political Influence:

  • Higher education institutions have been influenced by political agendas, with politicians founding colleges to boost their careers.
  • Institutions were often created to meet socio-cultural demands, reflecting India’s diverse and complex society.
  • Governments placed institutions in politically advantageous locations to cater to socio-cultural demands.

Renaming and Appointments:

  • The naming and renaming of universities, particularly by state governments, are often driven by political motives (e.g., Uttar Pradesh Technical University, now renamed multiple times).
  • Academic appointments and promotions are sometimes influenced more by political considerations than by candidates’ qualifications and merits.

Autonomy and Freedom:

  • Several states show dissent over the appointment of state governors as chancellors for state universities.
  • While academic freedom norms have not always been strictly followed, especially in undergraduate colleges, universities have generally adhered to international norms.
  • Self-censorship is becoming prevalent, especially in social sciences and humanities, with academics facing repercussions for publishing controversial material.

Consequences of Hyperpoliticisation of Education

Undermining Academic Freedom:

  • Political influence may compromise academic freedom, pressuring faculty and students to align with political ideologies.
  • Example: Liz Magill, President of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned under pressure from wealthy donors and alumni after testifying about antisemitism.

Deterrent to Talent:

  • A politicized academic environment can deter talented students and faculty, hindering India’s efforts to become a global leader in higher education.

Stifling of Open Debate:

  • Dominance of political agendas in academia can stifle open debate and discourage the exploration of alternative viewpoints.

Increased Student Activism:

  • Politicisation can lead to increased student activism aligned with political parties. While positive in some aspects, it can disrupt academic life if overly politicised.

Erosion of Public Trust:

  • When universities are seen as pawns in political games, public trust in academic research erodes, weakening the legitimacy of academic expertise in shaping public policy.

Impact on Research and Innovation:

  • Politicians with short-term agendas may be less likely to invest in long-term research projects, stifling innovation and hindering India’s global competitiveness.

Reduced Workforce Readiness:

  • Employers value skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability. A politicized education system that prioritizes ideology over these skills leaves graduates less prepared for the workforce.

Mitigating Political Interference in Higher Education

Strengthening Institutional Autonomy:

  • Encourage universities to diversify funding sources to reduce dependence on government funds.
  • Uphold academic freedom as a non-negotiable principle, ensuring free discourse and research.

Establishing Autonomous University Boards:

  • Establish boards to lead to higher research quality, especially in politically susceptible disciplines.
  • Strive for autonomous status to design innovative curriculums, seek diverse funding sources, and gain recognition as Institutions of Eminence under the UGC Act 2017.

Implementing Recommendations:

  • Follow recommendations from the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) 2005 and Yash Pal Committee 2009 to grant greater autonomy to higher education institutions.
  • Reform existing universities: update curricula every three years, use internal assessments, adopt a course credit system, and attract talented faculty.

Creating Independent Regulatory Bodies:

  • Establish an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE) independent of stakeholders.
  • Implement an independent selection process for key academic positions based on merit and experience to reduce political influence.

Adopting the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020:

  • NEP 2020 recommends motivating, energizing, and building faculty capacity through transparent recruitment, freedom to design curricula, incentivizing excellence, and institutional leadership accountability.

Protecting Academic Freedom:

  • Ensure faculty have the right to engage in research and express views without fear of retaliation or censorship.
  • Implement clear policies and safeguards to protect academic freedom.

Autonomous Student Unions:

  • Ensure university student unions remain autonomous, elected by students without political party or authority interference.

Independent Ombudsman Mechanism:

  • Establish an independent ombudsman to investigate and address complaints of political interference, academic freedom violations, or politically motivated harassment.

-Source: The Hindu


Recent fire incidents at a gaming zone in Rajkot, Gujarat, and a children’s hospital in Delhi have resulted in at least 40 fatalities within 24 hours. These tragedies have brought attention to the need for stricter fire safety regulations and enforcement, especially in buildings prone to man-made disasters.

  • According to the latest Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) Report by the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), 7,435 people were killed in over 7,500 fire accidents in 2022.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fire Safety Regulations in India
  2. Challenges Associated with Fire Safety in India
  3. About the National Building Code

Fire Safety Regulations in India

  • The National Building Code (NBC), established in 1970 and last updated in 2016, serves as India’s primary standard for fire safety.
  • It offers comprehensive guidelines on construction, maintenance, and fire safety for buildings.
  • State governments are mandated to integrate NBC recommendations into their local building bylaws, given that fire services fall under state jurisdiction.
  • The ‘Model Building Bye Laws 2016’ assists states and urban regions in formulating their building bylaws.
  • Additionally, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issues guidelines on fire safety in residential, educational, and healthcare settings.

Challenges Associated with Fire Safety in India

  • Despite the existence of fire safety rules across all states, including the NBC, they are frequently disregarded due to the lack of uniform safety legislation and the NBC’s status as a “recommendatory document.”
  • Mandatory certifications are often neglected, and fire safety audits are not regularly conducted or enforced by local bodies.
  • Staff shortages aggravate the situation, leading to severe fire incidents like the Rajkot game zone and Delhi hospital fires.

The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) underscores the importance of community resilience and adherence to safety norms.

About the National Building Code

  • The NBC prescribes achievable fire safety measures.
  • It designates fire zones, such as residential and educational areas, to prevent the coexistence of hazardous and non-hazardous structures.
  • Buildings are categorized into nine groups based on occupancy, including hotels, hospitals, and assembly buildings.
  • Emphasizes the use of non-combustible materials and a minimum 120-minute fire resistance for internal walls in staircases.
  • Specifies standards for maximum building height, floor area ratio, open spaces, and fire-resistant openings.
  • Highlights the necessity of flame-retardant electrical installations, with separate shafts for medium and low voltage wiring and false ceilings.
  • Requires all metallic items to be bonded to the earthing system.
  • Recommends an emergency power-supplying distribution system for critical needs, covering exit signage, lighting, fire alarms, and public address systems.
  • Advocates for fire protection technologies, such as automatic fire detection systems, down-comer pipelines, sprinklers, fireman’s lifts, fire barriers, and escape routes.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, during the 15th annual day celebrations of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the Chairperson emphasized the tendency of digital markets to concentrate, leading to monopolistic practices.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Digital Market?
  2. Key Highlights of the Event
  3. Challenges with the Competition in Digital Markets
  4. Solutions to Monitor the Digital Markets Competition

What is a Digital Market?

Digital markets, often referred to as online markets, are virtual spaces where businesses and consumers interact and conduct transactions through digital technologies.

  • E-commerce Marketplaces: These are platforms where businesses directly sell products to consumers (B2C). Prominent examples include Amazon and eBay.
  • Digital Advertising: This involves placing advertisements on websites, social media platforms, or search engines. Notable examples are Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
  • Social Media Marketing: This strategy uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage with customers, build brand awareness, and promote products or services.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This practice involves optimizing website content and structure to achieve higher rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), thereby increasing organic traffic.

Digital markets often exhibit certain characteristics that can result in monopolistic tendencies. These include low variable costs, high fixed costs, and significant network effects, which together can lead to a few firms dominating large market shares.

Key Highlights of the Event

Control of Digital Platforms:

  • The CCI Chairperson noted that control of digital platforms over large datasets can create barriers to entry for new players, compromise platform neutrality, and lead to algorithmic collusion.

Monopoly Concerns:

  • The Attorney-General for India highlighted the monopoly of e-commerce platforms over user data as an area for scrutiny, emphasizing the need for new ideas to balance free market and social benefits through legal innovation.

Future of the Digital Economy:

  • The digital economy presents immense opportunities for innovation, growth, and consumer benefit but challenges traditional competition law frameworks worldwide.

Importance of Behavioural Economics:

  • The event underscored the significance of using behavioural economics to understand human preferences in the context of digital markets.

Challenges with the Competition in Digital Markets

Anti-competitive Practices:
  • Market Dominance: A few powerful players can control a large market share, stifle innovation, and limit consumer choice.
  • Self-Prioritisation: Platforms may prioritise their own products or services over competitors in search results or promotions.
    • Example: Google allegedly favouring its own shopping results over other platforms.
  • Bundling Products: Forcing users to purchase unwanted products or services alongside desired ones.
    • Example: iPhones offer a smooth user experience when paired with other Apple products, potentially limiting user options with other brands.
  • Exclusive Agreements: Locking suppliers or distributors into exclusive agreements, hindering competition.
    • Example: Streaming platforms like Hotstar and Jio Cinema securing exclusive rights to shows, limiting viewer options.
  • Network Effects: The value of a platform increases as more users join, creating a snowball effect that makes it difficult for new entrants to compete.
    • Example: Social media platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram become more valuable with more users.
User Data and Privacy:
  • Vast Data Collection: Digital companies collect vast amounts of user data, giving them an advantage in personalisation, targeted advertising, and product development.
  • Opaque Data Practices: The method through which user data is collected, stored, and used can be opaque, leading to privacy violations.
  • Barriers for New Entrants: New entrants may struggle to compete with established players who have a rich data set to leverage.
Regulatory Challenges:
  • Fast-Paced Nature: The fast-paced nature of digital markets can make existing regulations ineffective.
  • Defining Anti-competitive Behaviour: Proving anti-competitive behaviour in complex digital ecosystems can be difficult.
  • Identifying Dominant Firms: Determining a dominant firm is a substantial challenge.

Solutions to Monitor the Digital Markets Competition

Regulatory Designation and Actions:
  • Designation of Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries (SIDIs): Identify dominant players with significant market power and subject them to stricter regulations.
  • Ban Self-Preferencing and Exclusive Dealing: Explicitly ban practices that stifle competition.
    • Example: A platform can’t prioritise its own products over competitors in search results.
  • Mandate Data Sharing or Interoperability: Allow users to move data or services between platforms more easily.
    • Example: Allow users to transfer their online shopping cart from one platform to another.
Strengthening Regulatory Bodies:
  • Provide Additional Powers to CCI: Equip the Competition Commission of India (CCI) with more powers, resources, and personnel to effectively monitor digital markets and investigate potential anti-competitive practices.
    • Example: The 53rd Parliamentary Standing Committee Report recommended strengthening the CCI.
Framework for Startups and Data Protection:
  • Establish a Regulatory Framework for Startups: Enable testing of innovative products and services in a controlled environment with reduced regulatory burdens.
  • Enforce Transparent Data Collection Practices: Frame detailed regulations requiring platforms to be transparent about data collection practices and provide users with meaningful control over their data.
    • Example: The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 aims to empower users with greater control over their personal data.

-Source: Indian Express


Amritpal Singh, the imprisoned leader of the pro-Khalistan group Waris Punjab De, announced his candidacy for the Lok Sabha elections from Punjab’s Khadoor Sahib constituency on June 1. Despite facing criminal charges, he is eligible to run for office unless convicted. However, like other inmates in Indian prisons, he will be prohibited from voting in the upcoming elections.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Legal Framework of Voting Rights and Candidacy
  2. Disqualification Due to Criminal Convictions and Related Challenges
  3. Restriction on Voting Rights for Confined Individuals

Legal Framework of Voting Rights and Candidacy

Nature of Voting and Election Rights:

Statutory Status:

  • Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975): The Supreme Court affirmed that free and fair elections are integral to the Constitution’s basic structure, nullifying any laws contravening this principle.
  • Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India (2006): The Supreme Court determined that voting is a statutory right, not a fundamental one, and subject to regulation by parliamentary laws. This ruling also applies to the right to be elected.

Disqualification Due to Criminal Convictions and Related Challenges

Prohibition on Candidacy Post-Conviction:

  • Representation of People Act, 1951 (RP Act): Section 8, titled “Disqualification on conviction for specific offences.”
    • Individuals convicted of certain offences are barred from contesting elections to Parliament or state legislatures from the date of their conviction.
    • They face a six-year disqualification period starting from their release date.
    • Disqualification is applicable only upon conviction, not merely by being charged.
Issues and Legal Challenges:

Challenges to Section 8 of the RP Act in the Supreme Court:

  • 2011 Petition: Filed by the Public Interest Foundation, arguing for disqualification of individuals with criminal charges or false affidavits. The Supreme Court ruled that only the legislature could amend the RP Act.
  • 2016 Petition: Sought permanent disqualification of convicted individuals; the case is ongoing.

Delays in Criminal Proceedings Against MPs and MLAs:

  • November 2023: The Supreme Court highlighted delays in criminal cases involving MPs and MLAs, directing Chief Justices to ensure prompt and effective resolution through a suo motu case titled “In Re: Designated Courts for MPs/MLAs.”
  • April 2024 Report: Indicated that 4,472 such cases were still pending.
Exceptions to Disqualification:
  • Election Commission of India (ECI) Authority to Alter Disqualification Period:
  • 2019: The ECI used its power under Section 11 of the RP Act to reduce the disqualification period for Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, who had been released after a one-year prison term for misappropriation of funds and subsequently won a bye-election.
  • Section 11 empowers the ECI to remove or reduce disqualification, except under Section 8A.
Supreme Court Rulings on Stayed Convictions:
  • Disqualified MPs or MLAs can contest if their conviction is stayed on appeal.
  • In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that staying a conviction removes the associated disqualification.

Restriction on Voting Rights for Confined Individuals

Prohibition Under Section 62 of the RP Act:
  • General Restriction: Section 62 of the RP Act stipulates that individuals confined in prison or police custody are not permitted to vote, with the exception of those under preventive detention.
Exclusion Based on Criminal Charges:
  • Voting Bar: Section 62 of the RP Act also prevents individuals facing criminal charges from voting unless they are released on bail or acquitted.
  • 1997 Supreme Court Ruling: In the case of Anukul Chandra Pradhan v. Union of India, the Supreme Court upheld this provision, rejecting arguments that it violated the right to equality by discriminating against undertrials and those unable to post bail.
Judicial Reasoning:
  • Statutory Nature of Voting Rights: The court reaffirmed that voting is a statutory right, subject to statutory limitations.
  • Resource Constraints: The court acknowledged that providing infrastructure and deploying police resources would be challenging.
  • Conduct-Based Incarceration: The court ruled that individuals in prison due to their conduct cannot claim the same freedoms of movement, speech, and expression.
  • Reasonableness of Restrictions: The court concluded that restrictions on prisoners’ voting rights are reasonable and linked to keeping individuals with criminal backgrounds out of the election process.

-Source: Indian Express


Recently, the traditional Chinese sky lantern festival has ignited outrage among environmentalists and wildlife conservationists due to its proximity to a nesting site of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. According to environmentalists, the bamboo or metal wire frames of these lanterns take months to decompose and pose a significant threat by trapping wildlife, including fish, dolphins, birds, and turtles.


Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
  2. Breeding Grounds of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle in India
  3. Threats to the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
  4. Turtles and Turtle conservation in India

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

  • The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known commonly as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, is a species of turtle in the family Cheloniidae.
  • The species is the second smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
  • This turtle and the related Kemps ridley turtle are best known for their unique mass nesting called arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  • The species is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, Appendix 1 in CITES, and Schedule 1 in Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Olive-ridleys face serious threats across their migratory route, habitat and nesting beaches, due to human activities such as unfriendly turtle fishing practices, development, and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports, and tourist centres.

Breeding Grounds of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle in India

  • The Gahirmatha Beach in Kendrapara district of Odisha (India), which is now a part of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, is the largest breeding ground for these turtles.
  • The Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, which bounds the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary to the east, was created in September 1997, and encompasses Gahirmatha Beach and an adjacent portion of the Bay of Bengal.
  • Bhitarkanika mangroves were designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2002. It is the world’s largest known rookery of olive ridley sea turtles.
  • Apart from Gahirmatha rookery, two other mass nesting beaches have been located, which are on the mouth of rivers Rushikulya and Devi.
  • The spectacular site of mass congregation of olive ridley sea turtles for mating and nesting enthralls both the scientists and the nature lovers throughout the world.

Threats to the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

  • Known predators of olive ridley eggs include raccoons, coyotes, feral dogs and pigs, opossums, coatimundi, caimans, ghost crabs, and the sunbeam snake.
  • Hatchlings are preyed upon as they travel across the beach to the water by vultures, frigate birds, crabs, raccoons, coyotes, iguanas, and snakes. In the water, hatchling predators most likely include oceanic fishes, sharks, and crocodiles.
  • Adults have relatively few known predators, other than sharks, and killer whales are responsible for occasional attacks. On land, nesting females may be attacked by jaguars. Notably, the jaguar is the only cat with a strong enough bite to penetrate a sea turtle’s shell, thought to be an evolutionary adaption from the Holocene extinction event.
  • In recent years, increased predation on turtles by jaguars has been noted, perhaps due to habitat loss and fewer alternative food sources. Sea turtles are comparatively defenseless in this situation, as they cannot pull their heads into their shells like freshwater and terrestrial turtles.
  • Humans are still listed as the leading threat to L. olivacea, responsible for unsustainable egg collection, slaughtering nesting females on the beach, and direct harvesting adults at sea for commercial sale of both the meat and hides.

Turtles and Turtle conservation in India

  • There are five turtle species in Indian waters — Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley.
  • In India sea turtles are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under the Schedule I Part II.
  • Every year, thousands of sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by mechanised boats, trawl nets and gill nets operated and used by comercial fishermen.
  • The turtle breeding season is usually between November and December. In Tamil Nadu, for example, the Olive Ridley nests between December and April along the Chennai-Kancheepuram coastline.
  • Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans.
  • The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, a Himalayan serow was spotted in the central part of Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve.


GS III: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Himalayan Serow
  2. Key Facts About Nameri Tiger Reserve

Himalayan Serow

Physical Description:

  • The Himalayan serow resembles a mix between a goat, donkey, cow, and pig.

Species Variants:

  • There are several species of serows, all native to Asia.
  • The Himalayan serow (Capricornis sumatraensis thar) is exclusive to the Himalayan region and is a subspecies of the mainland serow (Capricornis sumatraensis).

Dietary Habits:

  • Himalayan serows are herbivores.

Habitat and Distribution:

  • Typically found at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 meters (6,500 to 13,000 feet).
  • They inhabit the eastern, central, and western Himalayas but are absent from the Trans-Himalayan region.

Conservation Status:

  • Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
  • Included in Appendix I of CITES.
  • Protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Key Facts About Nameri Tiger Reserve


  • Situated in the northern part of the Sonitpur district of Assam, along the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh.

Geographical Boundaries:

  • Nameri National Park forms the core of the reserve, bordered by the Jia-Bhoreli River to the west and the Bor-Dikorai River to the east.
  • The Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh lies to the north, creating a contiguous habitat.


  • The reserve is characterized by tropical evergreen, semi-evergreen, and moist deciduous forests, interspersed with cane brakes and narrow grassland strips along rivers.


  • Notable for the presence of the white-winged wood duck.
  • Hosts a variety of species including the leopard cat, common otter, black giant squirrel, Indian mongoose, large-clawed shrew, Indian flying fox, slow loris, Assamese macaque, and rhesus macaque.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, a court in the Philippines recently revoked biosafety permits for commercial propagation of genetically modified golden rice and Bt eggplant.


Facts for Prelims

Golden Rice


  • Golden Rice is a genetically engineered variety of rice that contains beta carotene (provitamin A), a plant pigment that the body converts into vitamin A as needed. This pigment gives the rice its distinctive yellow-orange or golden color.


  • It is created through genetic engineering.
  • While ordinary rice does produce beta carotene, it is not present in the grain. Scientists used genetic engineering to introduce beta carotene into the grain, enhancing its nutritional value.
  • The beta carotene in Golden Rice, enabled by the addition of two new enzymes, is the same as that found in green leafy vegetables, yellow-colored vegetables, orange-colored fruits, and many vitamin supplements and food ingredients.


  • Similar to regular rice, Golden Rice does not require any special cultivation practices and typically achieves the same yield and agronomic performance.

Economic and Nutritional Impact:

  • Golden Rice is expected to be comparable in cost and taste to regular rice. Its enhanced beta carotene content makes it a crucial tool in combating Vitamin A deficiency (VAD).
  • Vitamin A is vital for growth, development, and maintaining the health of the visual and immune systems.
  • VAD impairs the body’s resistance to diseases and infections, leads to blindness, and can be fatal if left untreated.

-Source: Down To Earth

June 2024