UPSC Daily Current Affairs - 22nd February 2023

UPSC Daily Current Affairs – Mains [22nd February 2023]

GS 1

El-Nino Forecast

Syllabus: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis, Volcanic activity, cyclones, etc.

Source: The Hindu

In News

The ongoing La Nina has already lasted for a record-breaking three consecutive years, and forecasts for 2023 suggest that there is a probability of more than 50% for the occurrence of El Niño.

About El-Nino & La Nina

  • El Nino refers to a band of warmer water spreading from west to east in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Similarly, a La Nina occurs when the band of water spreads east-west and is cooler.
  • Both phenomena affect the weather worldwide and can have drastic effects on economies that depend on rainfall.
  • Together, El Nino and La Nina make up a cyclical process called the El Nino Southern Oscillation (or ENSO).

Issues in predicting El-Nino

  • El Nino forecasts made before spring are typically unreliable due to the “spring predictability barrier” phenomenon.
  • The warm water volume in the tropical Pacific Ocean increases during La Nina years as it soaks up heat and builds up warm water.
  • During El Nino, this warm water spills from the western to the eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • With three straight La Nina years, the Pacific’s warm-water volume is fully loaded, which increases the likelihood of an El Nino soon.

Effects on North Indian Ocean

  • El Nino generally results in a significant reduction in monsoon rainfall in the region, by approximately 15%.
  • Additionally, the vertical shear, which is the difference in wind intensity from the surface to the upper atmosphere, tends to be weaker during El Nino. This can promote the formation of cyclones in the area.

International Mother Language Day

Syllabus:  Indian society

Source: IE

In News

February 21 was designated as International Mother Language Day by UNESCO in 1999, in recognition of the deteriorating condition of many languages across the globe.

  • The theme for International Mother Language Day 2023 is “Multilingual education – a necessity to transform education.”
  • The theme highlights the significance of using multiple languages in education to enhance learning performance and the development of socio-emotional and foundational literacy skills, especially since a monolingual system of education has been observed to have negative effects.
  • The use of one’s mother tongue in expressing oneself with authenticity, conveying one’s deepest thoughts, feelings, values, and ideals, is also emphasized since it provides a sense of identity.

What is the significance of the Day in the Indian context?

  • India boasts a diverse array of languages (including hundreds of ancient languages and dialects) and cultures.
  • The Nobel Prize-winning physicist C.V. Raman once remarked, “We must teach science in our mother tongue. Otherwise, science will become an activity in which not all people can participate.”
  • Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi observed in Young India in 1921 that foreign media had transformed Indian children into mere imitators and crammers, leaving them feeling like strangers in their own country.


  • The survival of many Indian dialects and languages is threatened by westernization.
  • Despite India’s celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to mark 75 years of independence, the colonial legacy of English dependency persists.
  • English continues to be given unquestioned priority by educators and parents, resulting in an exclusive and restrictive educational system.
  • Indigenous languages in India are at risk of being lost due to modernization and globalization.
    • This is demonstrated by the challenges faced by tribal students in Odisha who are not familiar with the Odia language spoken by most teachers.
  • The lack of education in tribal languages is a significant contributor to language death in the country.

Steps taken to promote mother languages in India

  • The Indian Constitution (Article 350 A) mandates that every state must provide primary education in a mother tongue.
  • The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 promotes education in one’s mother tongue from the primary-school level, which can instill confidence in students from poor, rural, and tribal backgrounds.
  • AICTE’s recent decision to permit BTech programs in 11 native languages is a landmark step.
  • The UGC has written to governors and CMs of various states, urging them to prioritize mother tongue education in colleges and universities.
  • The Staff Selection Commission has announced plans to conduct examinations in 13 Indian languages in addition to Hindi and English.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision to make verdicts accessible in all Indian languages is also of great significance.

Way ahead

  • Recognize the role of technology and AI in transforming the global educational landscape.
  • Implement fast-track methods to make quality education more accessible, equitable, and inclusive.
  • Involve all key stakeholders in education to accelerate the process of creating content in mother languages, particularly in technical and professional courses.

GS 2


Syllabus: International Relations

Source: IE

In News

The President of Russia has declared the suspension of its involvement in New START, the last major military agreement with the United States.

  • Treaty/START-I, which went into effect in 1994. This treaty placed a cap on the number of nuclear warheads (6,000) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (1,600) that each country could possess.
  • However, START-I lapsed in 2009. Since then, it has been replaced by two successive treaties: the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)/Treaty of Moscow, followed by the New START treaty.

What is the New START?

  • The New START, also known as the Treaty between the USA and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, became effective on February 5.
  • The treaty set new verifiable limits for intercontinental-range nuclear weapons to be achieved by 2018.
  • These included, for example, 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
  • The US and Russia later agreed to extend the treaty until February 4, 2026.

To ensure compliance with the treaty, the US and Russia have implemented several measures. These include conducting on-site inspections, exchanging notifications, holding meetings with the Bilateral Consultative Commission, and exchanging data.


Arms control agreements signed over the past few decades have helped to curb the nuclear arms race, which was a major concern during the Cold War era. Unfortunately, the breakdown of many of these treaties in recent years, coupled with underlying tensions in the US-Russia relationship, have heightened the risk of a renewed nuclear arms race.

GS 3

Vostro accounts and how they facilitate trade

Source: TH

In News

Partner banks in India have established Special Rupee Vostro Accounts (SRVAs) for 20 Russian banks.

What is SRVA?

  • SRVA is a banking arrangement in which Indian banks hold accounts for foreign banks in Indian currency, known as the rupee.
  • This allows Indian banks to offer international banking services to their clients who require global banking solutions without physically having to operate abroad.
  • The SRVA system operates in conjunction with the existing framework that uses freely convertible currencies, and it serves as a complementary system.

The system comprises three significant elements:

  1. All imports and exports must be quoted and billed in the domestic currency (e.g. Rupee).
  2. The exchange rate between the trading partners’ currencies is determined by the market.
  3. Final payment is also made in the domestic currency (e.g. Rupee).


To be eligible to open a Special Rupee Vostro Account (SRVA), banks must meet the following criteria:

  • Approval from the apex banking regulator, such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The correspondent bank should not be from a country listed in the updated FATF Public Statement on High Risk & Non-Co-operative jurisdictions.
  • All reporting of cross-border transactions must comply with the existing guidelines under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999.

Benefits of SRVA as per the Economic Survey (2022-23)

  • Reduces net demand for foreign exchange, especially the U.S. dollar, for the settlement of trade flows.
  • Reduces the need for holding foreign exchange reserves.
  • Reduces dependence on foreign currencies, making the country less vulnerable to external shocks.
  • Enables timely payments for Indian exporters by receiving advance payments in INR from overseas clients.
  • Promotes the Indian Rupee as an international currency in the long term once the rupee settlement mechanism gains traction.
    • Currently, the U.S. dollar is the most dominant vehicle currency, accounting for 88% of all trades.
    • The INR accounts for only 1.6% of all trades.

Issues related to SRVA

  • Indian banks with exposure to the EU and US financial system may be reluctant to verify trade through SRVA due to the fear of violating sanctions on Russia.
  • A similar Vostro account established for trade with Iran had become inactive after India was prohibited from sourcing oil from Iran under US sanctions.
  • Western countries have exerted pressure on India to avoid any such mechanisms.

Global assessment of soil carbon in grasslands

Syllabus: Agriculture – Cropping pattern, Soil

Source: FAO

In News

  • The Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP Partnership) financed the initial global evaluation by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Soil Carbon in Grasslands.
  • This evaluation established the baseline levels of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) stocks in both managed and semi-natural grasslands while approximating their capability for SOC sequestration.

About Soil Organic Carbon

  • Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) refers to the carbon stored in soil organic matter.
  • It is a crucial element of soil health and fertility, affecting soil structure, nutrient cycling, water retention capacity, and plant growth support.
  • The SOC content in soil is measurable and is expressed as a percentage of weight (gC/Kg soil).

Findings of the report

The report revealed the following findings regarding soil organic carbon (SOC) in grasslands:

  • Grasslands contain around 20% of the world’s SOC, but have experienced depletion due to various human activities including intensive livestock grazing and agricultural practices.
  • Majority of the world’s grasslands exhibit a positive carbon balance, indicating stable or well-maintained land.
  • Negative carbon balance was observed in regions such as East Asia, Central and South America, and Africa south of the Equator, indicating a likely decrease in SOC stocks due to anthropogenic pressures combined with climatic conditions.
  • The absence of incentives for farmers to adopt better management practices and the difficulty in accurately monitoring SOC stocks and changes are the primary reasons why SOC is not included in national climate plans, known as National Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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