Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2023

Feb 22, 2023

Current Affair 1:
special category status”



Recently, Union Finance Minister made it clear that the Centre will not consider demands for special category status” for any state as the 14th Finance commission has clearly said no special status can be given. This comes as a blow to states like Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh which have been pushing for it for some years now.

What is Special Category Status?

There is no provision of SCS in the Constitution; the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others. The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.

Some prominent guidelines for getting SCS status:

  • Must be economically backward with poor infrastructure.
  • The states must be located in hilly and challenging terrain.
  • They should have low population density and significant tribal population.
  • Should be strategically situated along the borders of neighboring countries.


What are the benefits these states get?


The Planning Commission used to allocate funds to states through central assistance for state plans. Central assistance can be broadly split into three components

  • Normal Central Assistance (NCA)
  • Additional Central Assistance (ACA)
  • Special Central Assistance (SCA)

NCA, the main assistance for state plans, is split to favour special category states: the 11 states get 30% of the total assistance while the other states share the remaining 70%.

The nature of the assistance also varies for special category states; NCA is split into 90% grants and 10% loans for special category states, while the ratio between grants and loans is 30:70 for other states.

For allocation among special category states, there are no explicit criteria for distribution and funds are allocated on the basis of the states plan size and previous plan expenditures.

Allocation between non special category states is determined by the Gadgil Mukherjee formula which gives weight to population (60%), per capita income (25%), fiscal performance (7.5%) and special problems (7.5%).

Special category states also receive specific assistance addressing features like hill areas, tribal sub-plans and border areas.

Beyond additional plan resources, special category states can enjoy concessions in excise and customs duties, income tax rates and corporate tax rates as determined by the government.


Challenges with SCS

  • Multiple Demands: Aside from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar had demanded SCS status. 
  • Economic Burden: The SCS puts additional economic burden when the increased devolution is already flowing to the State as recommended by the FFC.
  • Affecting Federalism: It affects the centre state financial relations and hinders competitive federalism among the states.


Difference between Special Category Status and Special Status

The constitution provides special status through an Act that has to be passed by 2/3rds majority in both the houses of Parliament whereas the special category status is granted by the National Development Council, which is an administrative body of the government.

For example, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status as per Article 370 and also special category status. But now that Article 35A has been scrapped and it has become a union territory with legislature, special category status doesn't apply to J&K anymore.

Special status empowers legislative and political rights while special category status deals only with economic, administrative and financial aspects.

Current Affair 2:
Deep sea mining


Recently, a study suggested that commercial-scale Deep seabed mining operations can potentially harm the oceans and endangered species, such as cetaceans including blue whales and several dolphin species. The evaluation emphasizes the need for continued conservation efforts to protect these species.

What is deep-sea mining?

About: Deep-sea mining is the process of exploring for and retrieving minerals from the deep seabed.


Types: Three types of deposits hold most of these minerals:




Polymetallic nodules, also called manganese nodules, which are lying on the seabed

Sulphide deposits around hydrothermal vents

Ferromanganese crusts, which are rich in cobalt and manganese and line the sides of ridges and seamounts.


Importance: These sources hold a wide variety of critical minerals, including cobalt, manganese, titanium, and rare earth elements, as well as gold, copper, and nickel.

Ferromanganese crusts, which are rich in cobalt and manganese and line the sides of ridges and seamounts.


What is the significance of the buoy-based coastal observation and water quality nowcasting system?

High-end sensors are part of the system and are mounted on an automated buoy that is connected to a Kochi coastal observatory.

Coastal residents, fishermen, the maritime sector, researchers, and organisations that deal with pollution, tourism, fisheries, and the coastal environment will all profit from the system.

Real-time data on 19 water quality-related measurements, including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity, will be made available.


These measurements will help create accurate nowcasts about the quality of the coastal waters, enhance measures of the health of the coastal ecosystems, and calibrate and validate sensors on satellites like Oceansat-III.

Through a special website, INCOIS will make this information available to the public without charge.





Concerns related to Deep Sea Mining

Research suggests deep-sea mining could severely harm marine biodiversity and ecosystems, but we still lack the knowledge and means to implement protections. As the deep sea remains understudied and poorly understood, there are many gaps in our understanding of its biodiversity and ecosystems. This makes it difficult to assess the potential impacts of deep-sea mining or to put in place adequate safeguards to protect the marine environment, and the three billion people whose livelihoods depend on marine and coastal biodiversity.

Disturbance of the seafloor

The digging and gauging of the ocean floor by machines can alter or destroy deep-sea habitats. This leads to the loss of species, many of which are found nowhere else, and the fragmentation or loss of ecosystem structure and function. It is the most direct impact of deep-sea mining and the damage caused is most likely permanent.

Sediment plumes

Deep-sea mining will stir up fine sediments on the seafloor, creating plumes of suspended particles. This is exacerbated by mining ships discharging wastewater at the surface. Scientists are concerned these particles may disperse for hundreds of kilometers, take a long time to resettle on the seafloor, and affect ecosystems and commercially important or vulnerable species. For instance, such plumes could smother animals, harm filter-feeding species, and block animalsvisual communication.


Species such as whales, tuna, and sharks could be affected by noise, vibrations, and light pollution caused by mining equipment and surface vessels, as well as potential leaks and spills of fuel and toxic products.


Government Steps

National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR): It was established in 2020 by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in Goa, which is tasked with exploring the country's deep-sea mineral wealth.

Draft Deep Seabed Mining Regulations, 2021: It has been formulated by the Indian government to provide a legal framework for the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

International collaborations: The government is also considering setting up a nodal agency to regulate deep sea mining activities in the country, in line with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).


Current Affair 3:
child marriage


 Odisha has been taking a long-term approach to bring about social and behavioral change regarding child marriage over the past 4-5 years. Odisha recorded an overall decline in the prevalence of child marriage: from 21.3% in National Family Health Survey-4 to 20.5% in NFHS-5.

Status of child marriage in India




As per the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), India is home to the largest number of child brides in the world – accounting for a third of the global total. While there has been a decline in the incidence of child marriage nationally (from 54% in 1992-93 to about 23% (2020-21)) and in nearly all states, the pace of change remains slow, especially for girls in the age group 15-18 years.

Pandemic has increased the instances of Child Marriage. Child marriage is more prevalent in rural areas (48 per cent) than in urban areas (29 per cent). Eight States have a higher prevalence of child marriage than the national average — West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura performing worse.

States with a large population of tribal poor have a higher prevalence of child marriage.

Factors leading to child marriage in India

Lack of education: A big determinant of the age of marriage is education. Around 45% of women with no education and 40% with primary education married before the age of 18, according to NFHS-4.

Seen as a Burden: Economically, child marriages work as mechanisms that are quick income earners. A girl child is seen as a leeway to a large dowry, to be given to her family upon her marriage.

Poverty: In terms of economic status, women from poor households tend to marry earlier. While more than 30% of women from the lowest two wealth quintiles were married by the age of 18, the corresponding figure in the richest quintile was 8%.

Social background:Child marriages are more prevalent in rural areas and among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Trafficking: Poor families are tempted to sell their girls not just into marriage, but into prostitution, as the transaction enables large sums of money to benefit the girls family and


harms the girl. There is apathy towards their girls and the money by selling their girls is used for the benefit of their sons


Girls are often seen as a liability with limited economic role. Womens work is confined to the household and is not valued. In addition, there is the problem of dowry. Despite the fact that dowry has been prohibited for five decades (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961), it is still common for parents of girls in India to give gifts to the groom and /or his family either in cash or kind. The dowry amount increases with the age and the education level of the girl. Hence, the incentive” of the system of dowry perpetuates child marriage.

The families and girls who might benefit from social protection programmes are not always aware of them and these schemes are often limited to providing cash transfers without the accompanying messages to address the multi-dimensional nature of child marriage.

Laws and Policies

The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929: It is also known as the Sarda Act. It was a law enacted to restrain the practices of Child Marriage. Its main goal was to eliminate the evils placed on young girls who could not handle the stress of married life and to avoid early deaths.

This act defined a male child as 21 years or younger and a female child as 18 years or younger.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006: Under this act, the marriageable age for a male is prescribed as 21 years and that of a female is 18 years.

Child Marriage is prohibited in India as per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.


Hindu Marriage Act, 1956: Under Hindu Marriage Act, there are no certain provisions for punishing the parents or people who solemnized the marriage. 

A girl can get the marriage annulled only if she wants to get married before attaining the age of fifteen years and she challenges the marriage before turning eighteen.


Muslim Personal Law: Under the Muslim Laws, there is no bar to child marriage. The couple after marriage has an option of puberty” known as Khayar-ul-bulugh in which they can repudiate the marriage after attaining the age of puberty.


The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012: which aim at protecting children from violation of human and other rights. 

A parliamentary standing committee is weighing the pros and cons of raising the age of marriage for women to 21, which has been cleared by the Union Cabinet. 


Current Affair 4:


Recently, the Botanical Survey of India has published a new report titled 'Rhododendrons of Sikkim and Darjeeling Himalaya- An Illustrated Account', which lists 45 taxa of rhododendrons.




About Rhododendrons-

Rhododendron, meaning rose tree in Greek, is considered an indicator species for climate change.  The BSI in 2017 published  Rhododendron of North East India: A Pictorial Handbook, suggesting that there are 132 taxa (80 species, 25 subspecies, and 27 varieties). The flowering season for rhododendrons starts in March and continues till May. However, recently, flowering was found to begin as early as January for some species. 

This is an indication that those areas are getting warmer and the phenology of rhododendrons can be an important indicator of climate change. It also has a prominent place in the countrys botanical history. Rhododendrons were first recorded by Captain Hardwick in Jammu and Kashmir in 1776 where he spotted the  Rhododendron arboreum. 

However, it was a visit by the British botanist Joseph D. Hooker to Sikkim between 1848 and 1850 that revealed the rhododendron wealth of the Sikkim and Darjeeling Himalayas. The first species of Rhododendron from northeast India — Rhododendron dalhousiae was reported from Sikkim by Hooker in 1848 in his book The  Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya. 

This publication almost 160 years ago made these flowers very popular in the western world and resulted in the horticulture boom in Europe. The BSI publication has a number of historical references to the contribution of British botanists Joseph D. Hooker and David G. Long as well Indian botanists and researchers S.T. Lachungpa, U.C. Pradhan and K.C. Pradhan among others. 

These people played a crucial role in discovery and identification of Rhododendrons in Sikkim and Darjeeling Himalayas.

What are the Major Highlights of the Report?

The report reveals that the Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas are home to more than one-third (34%) of all rhododendron types found in India, despite the region comprising only 0.3% of India's geographical area. There are 132 taxa (80 species, 25 subspecies and 27 varieties) of rhododendrons found in India.

Of the 45 taxa listed in the report, five are facing high threats due to anthropological pressures and climate change. Rhododendron edgeworthii, Rhododendron niveum, Rhododendron baileyi, Rhododendron lindleyi, and Rhododendron maddenii are among the threatened species.

Rhododendron is considered an indicator species for climate change as the flowering season for rhododendrons has been found to begin as early as January for some species.

Current Affair 5:


It is found that Gut Microbiome composition in humans implicates several diseases, including Autism, Crohns disease etc.

Gut microbiome or gut microbiota, are the microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses that live in the digestive tracts of humans, they affect the body from birth and throughout life by controlling the digestion of food, immune system, central nervous system and other bodily processes.




What is Autism?

Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complicated condition that includes problems with communication and behaviour. It can involve a wide range of symptoms and skills. ASD can be a minor problem or a disability that needs full-time care in a special facility.

People with autism have trouble with communication. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it hard for them to express themselves, either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch. People with autism might have problems with learning. Their skills might develop unevenly. For example, they could have trouble communicating but be unusually good at art, music, math, or memory.


What are the signs of Autism?

Symptoms of autism usually appear before a child turns 3. Some people show signs from birth. Common symptoms of autism include:

A lack of eye contact

A narrow range of interests or intense interest in certain topics

Doing something over and over, like repeating words or phrases, rocking back and forth, or flipping a lever

High sensitivity to sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem ordinary to other people

Not looking at or listening to other people

Not looking at things when another person points at them

Not wanting to be held or cuddled

Problems understanding or using speech, gestures, facial expressions, or tone of voice

Talking in a sing-song, flat, or robotic voice

Trouble adapting to changes in routine




Causes: Autism spectrum disorder has no single known cause. Given the complexity of the disorder and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, there are probably many causes. Both genetics and environment may play a role.


Genetics: Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For other children, genetic changes (mutations) may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Still other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.


Environmental factors: Researchers are currently exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder. 


What are the steps taken by India to tackle autism?

1) Autism was recognised as a disability in 2016 under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016. 2) The bulk of learning for autistic children in most schools, private and NGO-run, is implemented through Individualised Education Plans (IEP). It contains joining dots, tracing letters, and putting objects from one container to the others, etc.

3) In 2019, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), launched an app — PedNeuroAiimsDiagnostics. The app aims to help in the early detection of Autism. Despite being very robust, the app has not seen much traction.

Treatment Options

Medication: Several groups of medications like atypical anti-psychotics and mood stabilisers are used to treat behavioral problems such as temper tantrums and aggression associated with ASD.

Psychotherapy: Behavioural therapy has been found to be most helpful in treating children with ASD. Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) focus on language development, social skills and appropriate behaviours. These are all supportive and skill building forms of therapy designed to help children with ASD.

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