UPSC Daily Current Affairs – Prelims & Mains [10th July 2023]

Table of Contents

India signs the US-led Artemis Accords

Syllabus: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

In News

During the Indian PM’s state visit to the US, India signed the Artemis Accords.

About the Artemis Accords

  • Introduce in 2020 by NASA, the US-led international partnership has garnered signatures from 27 countries, including Japan, Australia, the UK, France, and Canada. The partnership revolves around planetary exploration and research.
  • Consisting of 13 principles, these are closely associated with the 2018 US Artemis Program, whose primary objectives are to facilitate the return of astronauts to the lunar surface, establish a space camp there, and conduct deep space explorations.
  • It’s important to note that the partnership operates as a non-binding bilateral arrangement, grounded on the political understanding among participating countries. As such, the Accords lack the formal status of a multilateral treaty or contract and do not establish legal principles or rules in any capacity.

Why were the Artemis Accords initiated by the USA?

The USA established the Artemis Accords in response to domestic laws granting private citizens the rights to extract, own, and commercially exploit asteroid or lunar resources. However, these laws had to align with the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits any national claims of sovereignty, occupation, or appropriation of space resources. Consequently, the Accords serve as a means for the USA to garner international support and cooperation in advancing the 2018 US Artemis Program, aimed at exploring off-Earth territories and engaging in commercial mining of planetary resources. It’s worth noting that the Accords document does not explicitly refer to the commercial exploitation or mining of lunar and asteroid resources.

How can signing the Artemis Accords benefit India?

Signing the Artemis Accords offers several potential benefits for India. Firstly, it could expedite India’s human spaceflight capabilities and ambitions in a cost-effective manner through collaborations. By engaging in a strong NASA-ISRO collaboration, India could contribute to the Gateway, an upcoming NASA-led lunar orbital station for Artemis astronauts, potentially securing a crew seat in return. This partnership would also provide India with an opportunity to shape the governance of resource extraction on the Moon when it becomes a reality. Additionally, India’s involvement in the Indo-Japanese LUPEX Moon rover mission, scheduled for launch between 2026-2028, would supply crucial data for future crewed Artemis missions.

Challenges for India:

India faces challenges due to budget shortages that have led to delays in its upcoming space science missions. Moreover, by signing the Accords, India aligns itself with Western countries regarding space exploration, potentially impacting its geopolitical positioning.

India’s new space policy:

India’s new space policy explicitly encourages ISRO to undertake missions related to in-situ resource utilization, celestial prospecting, and other aspects of extra-terrestrial habitability. This positions India to leverage the opportunities presented by the Accords to shape its lunar exploration endeavors.


Space exploration is intertwined with geopolitics, emphasizing the significance of international cooperation and mutual understanding among nations. For India, engaging in the Artemis Accords is not merely aligning with the US but rather pursuing its national interests and participating in global space exploration efforts.

Restoring the WTO’s dispute settlement system

Syllabus: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate

In News

Since 2019, the WTO’s two-tiered dispute settlement system (DSS) remains paralysed.

About World Trade Organization (WTO)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization driven by its member nations and operates on a consensus-based approach to regulate and facilitate international trade between countries. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it stands as the largest international economic organization, boasting 164 member states that collectively represent over 98% of global trade and global GDP.

Formally commencing its operations on January 1, 1995, the WTO was established through the 1994 Marrakesh Agreement, which marked the conclusion of the 8-year-long Uruguay Round of negotiations. This agreement replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that had been in place since 1948.

The mandate of WTO

The primary mandate of the WTO includes the facilitation of trade in goods, services, and intellectual property. It achieves this by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements that are aimed at reducing or eliminating tariffs, quotas, and other trade restrictions among member nations. Additionally, the WTO serves as a monitor for independent dispute resolution, ensuring that participants adhere to trade agreements and resolve trade-related disputes.

The organization also emphasizes the principle of non-discrimination among trading partners, while allowing certain exceptions for goals such as environmental protection, national security, and other vital objectives.

The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB)

The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) serves as a crucial mechanism within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to handle disputes between its member countries. It holds authority over issues arising from any agreement within the Final Act of the Uruguay Round. The DSB has the power to establish dispute settlement panels and make decisions based on the recommendations of these panels, along with reports from the Appellate Body, which handles appeals from panel reports. The DSB plays a pivotal role in providing security and predictability to the multilateral trading system.

Issues Faced by the Dispute Settlement System (DSS)

One of the key elements of the WTO’s DSS, the Appellate Body, has encountered significant challenges, rendering it non-functional. This issue has arisen due to a shift in the stance of the United States, which was once a supporter of the Appellate Body.

Reasons Behind Non-Functionality and the USA’s Argument

The Appellate Body played a crucial role from 1995 to 2019 by upholding the international rule of law and holding powerful countries, such as the US and the EU, accountable for breaching international law. However, this led to the US becoming the biggest critic of the Appellate Body, obstructing the appointment of its members.

The USA argues that the Appellate Body should ensure consistency in interpreting and applying WTO agreements without creating binding precedents. According to the US, the Appellate Body has overstepped its institutional mandate through its decisions, resulting in judicial overreach. They emphasize that these rulings cannot alter the rights and obligations of WTO member countries, necessitating a precise definition of the Appellate Body’s role.

The Larger Game Plan of the USA – De-judicialisation of Trade Multilateralism

The USA’s broader strategic objective involves de-judicialisation of trade multilateralism. In the context of a neoliberal economic system, where the “invisible hand” of market competition operates, the “visible hand” of the law, represented by the WTO, regulates global trade. However, this has implications for national sovereignty as decision-making power shifts to international institutions. De-judicialisation aims to weaken international courts to reclaim decision-making authority.

Motivation Behind the Game Plan

The USA’s game plan of de-judicialisation is driven by emerging geo-economic challenges posed by a rising China. By retaining full control over its trade policies, the US seeks to address these challenges effectively.

Recent Efforts to Sustain Trade Multilateralism

During the Geneva ministerial conference in June 2022, WTO member countries negotiated a face-saving deal, with India playing a crucial role. An essential aspect of this deal is the revitalization of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement System, often referred to as the WTO’s “crown jewel,” with a target to achieve this by 2024.

The Way Ahead

To keep trade multilateralism operational, other countries can opt to elect appellate body members through voting at the WTO’s General Council meeting. This may help in resolving the impasse and restoring functionality to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement System.

Mains Question

What are the key areas of reform if the WTO has to survive in the present context of the ‘Trade War’, especially keeping in mind the interest of India? (UPSC 2018)

Intellectual property protection in agriculture

Syllabus: Issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights

In News

The Delhi HC upheld an order by the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA), revoking the intellectual property protection granted to PepsiCo India with respect to a potato variety developed by it.

Case Background: Revocation of Intellectual Property Protection for PepsiCo India’s Potato Variety

The case involves FL 2027, a potato variety developed by a US breeder working for PepsiCo Inc, known for its Lay’s brand of potato chips. This variety has high dry matter and low sugar content, making it ideal for chip production. Approximately 14,000 farmers in India grew FL 2027 through contract cultivation and buy-back arrangements with PepsiCo India at pre-fixed rates. In 2016, PepsiCo India received a certificate of registration from the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA), granting them intellectual property protection for FL 2027 for a period of six years. This protection prohibited anyone else from commercially producing, selling, marketing, distributing, importing, or exporting the variety without the breeder’s authorization.

Revocation of Registration by PPVFRA

In 2021, the PPVFRA revoked the registration for FL 2027 and rejected PepsiCo India’s application for renewal due to a lack of novelty. In response, PepsiCo India challenged both decisions before the Delhi High Court, seeking to retain their intellectual property rights for the potato variety. However, the court upheld the PPVFRA’s decision, finding that PepsiCo had incorrectly applied for registration under the category of a “new variety” and provided an inaccurate date for its first commercialization.

The Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001

The Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 aims to establish an effective system for protecting plant varieties and the rights of farmers and plant breeders. The objectives of the Act include encouraging the development of new plant varieties, recognizing and protecting farmers’ rights to conserve and improve plant genetic resources, promoting agricultural development, protecting plant breeders’ rights, stimulating investment in research and development for new plant varieties, and facilitating the growth of the seed industry to provide high-quality seeds to farmers.

Need and Rights under the Act

The Act aligns Indian legislation with international standards, such as the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1978, and supports the socio-economic interests of stakeholders, including resource-constrained farmers. It grants breeders exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import, or export the protected variety. Researchers can use registered varieties for experiments or research. Moreover, farmers have the right to register and protect new varieties they have developed, which can be categorized as extant varieties based on distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability, even if not deemed novel.

Implementation and Functions of the PPVFRA

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare established the PPVFRA in 2005 to implement the provisions of the Act. The PPVFRA’s general functions include registering new plant varieties, essentially derived varieties (EDV), and extant varieties, developing guidelines for Distinctiveness, Uniformity, and Stability (DUS) tests for new plant species, preserving plant genetic resources, maintaining the National Register of Plant Varieties, and managing the National Gene Bank.

Registration Criteria

For a variety to be eligible for registration, it must fulfill the criteria of Distinctiveness, Uniformity, and Stability (DUS). Meeting these requirements ensures protection under the Act.

Prelims Question: (UPSC 2019)

Consider the following statements:

  1. According to the Indian Patents Act, a biological process to create a seed can be patented in India
  2. In India, there is no Intellectual Property Appellate Board
  3. Plant varieties are not eligible to be patented in India

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Ans: 3

Marine Heatwaves

In News

The northern Bay of Bengal is currently experiencing an intense marine heatwave, causing a surge in rainfall in India’s typically arid northwest region.

  • The warmth in the Bay of Bengal plays a crucial role in determining the trajectory of the southwest monsoon, allowing the monsoon winds to traverse the Bay and bring much-needed moisture to the Indian subcontinent. However, the ongoing heatwave is unusually intense, and it appears to be contributing to the extreme rainfall in northwest India. According to data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the intensity of marine heatwaves in the Bay of Bengal has been on the rise.

About Marine Heatwaves

Marine heatwaves are defined as periods when seawater temperatures exceed a seasonally-varying threshold (usually the 90th percentile) for at least five consecutive days. Beyond affecting weather patterns, these heatwaves also have detrimental impacts on marine biodiversity, leading to coral bleaching and potential harm to mangroves in the Sundarbans.

Normally, marine heatwaves result in a drier monsoon for central India and increased rainfall in the southern peninsula. However, several other factors, such as changes in the timescales of depressions and the trajectory of the current depression, are contributing to above-average rainfall in northwest India. It is plausible that the warmer Bay of Bengal may be influencing these alterations in weather patterns.

GST Network (GSTN)

In News

Geocoding functionality has been recently introduced by the GST Network (GSTN) across all states and union territories of India.

This new feature allows for the conversion of location descriptions into geographic coordinates. Its primary aim is to ensure precise address details in GSTN records and streamline the verification process. By utilizing geocoding, the GSTN can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of its location-based information, benefiting businesses and authorities alike.

Variable Rate Reverse Repo Auctions (VRRRs)

In News

Since June 30, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been conducting variable rate reverse repo auctions (VRRRs) as part of its efforts to withdraw excess liquidity from the banking system.

What is Repo and Reverse Repo?

To understand these actions, it’s important to know about the concepts of Repo and Reverse Repo. The Repo rate is the rate at which the central bank lends money to commercial banks, while the Reverse Repo rate is the rate at which the central bank borrows money from commercial banks. These rates are employed to influence liquidity, credit availability, and inflation in the economy.

What is VRRR?

The VRRR auctions serve as a tool for the RBI to manage the money supply in the banking system. When there is an abundance of liquidity, the RBI conducts these auctions to absorb excess money from banks. The main objective of VRRRs is to maintain the overnight call money rate close to the target rate of 6.50%.

What is Liquidity?

Liquidity is a measure of how easily an asset can be converted into cash. High liquidity indicates ease of trading, while low liquidity suggests difficulty in buying or selling the asset without impacting its price. Efficient financial markets rely on sufficient liquidity, enabling investors to enter or exit positions with minimal transaction costs.


Here’s how the VRRR auctions work to address excess liquidity:

  • Excess liquidity: When there is an oversupply of money in the banking system, the RBI aims to reduce it to maintain stability.
  • Auction process: The RBI offers to borrow money from banks through VRRR auctions. Banks participate by submitting bids, stating the interest rate at which they are willing to lend money to the RBI. This interest rate is known as the reverse repo rate.
  • Bid acceptance: The RBI reviews the bids and accepts those with the lowest interest rates first. For instance, if Bank A offers a reverse repo rate of 6.5% and it is the lowest bid, the RBI accepts it.
  • Lending money: Bank A then lends a specific amount of money to the RBI for a short period, typically overnight. In return, Bank A earns interest at the reverse repo rate of 6.5%.
  • Reducing liquidity: The RBI takes this borrowed money out of circulation, thereby reducing the overall liquidity in the banking system.

Reasons for increased liquidity in the Indian market

The reasons for increased liquidity in the Indian market include month-end government spending, deposit of ₹2,000 denomination banknotes, and the return of such banknotes by the public. These factors have contributed to the surplus liquidity situation in the banking system

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution

In News

A science review conducted by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) sheds light on the substantial health implications of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution.

Key findings

Key findings from the review indicate that exposure to NO2, primarily emitted by road transport and diesel engines, can have severe health consequences. These include respiratory and circulatory premature death, asthma development in both children and adults, bronchitis in children, and exacerbation of respiratory or cardiovascular diseases in affected individuals.

WHO Recommendations

In response to the growing body of evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently revised its recommendations, advocating for a stricter maximum annual average concentration of NO2 in the air. The recommended limit has been reduced from 40μg/m3 to 10μg/m3.

Recommendation of HEAL

HEAL, based on its findings, urges policymakers to take action. Their recommendations encompass changing the legally binding limit value for NO2, enhancing information dissemination and air quality indices, improving monitoring efforts, and conducting regular reviews of the health effects associated with NO2 and other pollutants.

About NO2

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a reddish-brown gas with a pungent odor. It is a highly reactive air pollutant mainly released from combustion processes, such as vehicle emissions and power plants. NO2 plays a significant role in the formation of smog and contributes to respiratory problems. Additionally, it contributes to the formation of acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer.

About HEAL

HEAL, the Health and Environment Alliance, is a prominent non-profit organization that addresses the impact of the environment on human health in the European Union (EU) and beyond.

Global Peace Index 2023

In News

The 17th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI) has been released, providing a ranking of 163 independent states and territories based on their levels of peacefulness.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Most Peaceful Countries: Iceland retains its position as the most peaceful country, with Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, and Austria following closely behind.
  • Least Peaceful Countries: Afghanistan remains the least peaceful country, with Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranked among the least peaceful as well.
  • India’s Improvement: India has climbed two spots to the 126th position in the index, showing over 3% improvement in peacefulness. This improvement is attributed to reductions in violent crime, improved relations with neighboring countries, and decreased political instability.
  • Global Peace Deterioration: Over the past fifteen years, there has been an overall decline in global peacefulness, with the global average score of peacefulness decreasing by five percent, indicating a decline in peace worldwide.

What is the Global Peace Index?

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is the leading measure of global peacefulness and is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). It evaluates peace across three domains, namely the level of Societal Safety and Security, the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict, and the degree of Militarization.

About Institute for Economics and Peace

The Institute for Economics and Peace is a global think tank headquartered in Sydney, Australia, aiming to bring about a paradigm shift in the way the world perceives peace. Alongside the Global Peace Index, the IEP publishes other reports such as the Global Terrorism Index, Ecological Threat Report, and Safety Perceptions Index.

Majorana zero modes

In news

Researchers at Microsoft have achieved a significant breakthrough in the creation of Majorana zero modes, a unique type of particle that holds immense potential for advancing quantum computing.

About Majorana zero modes

  • Majorana zero modes, also known as Majorana fermions, were initially proposed by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana in 1937. These particles possess extraordinary properties that make them their own antiparticles, a feature that proves advantageous for quantum computing endeavors.
  • The utilization of Majorana zero modes as qubits, the essential units of information in quantum computing, offers promising benefits. One such advantage is the potential to safeguard encoded information from decoherence, a major challenge in quantum computing that leads to information loss.
  • Furthermore, these particles hold the key to enabling topological quantum computing, a revolutionary concept that offers computational advantages and additional degrees of freedom for implementing algorithms. However, it is important to note that direct observation of Majorana zero modes is yet to be accomplished, and further research and technological improvements are essential to fully harness the advantages they offer.

Microsoft’s breakthrough in creating Majorana zero modes marks a significant step towards realizing the potential of quantum computing and its applications in various fields. As researchers continue to explore and refine this exciting realm of quantum physics, the prospects for more robust and powerful quantum computers become increasingly promising.

ISRO to transfer SSLV to the private sector

In News

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to hand over its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) to the private sector following the successful completion of two rocket flights.

  • The SSLV is purposefully designed to cater to on-demand satellite launch services for payloads weighing up to 500 kg into low-Earth orbit. Its focus on nano and micro-satellites enables dedicated launch solutions without the requirement for larger and more expensive rockets.
  • This decision to transfer the SSLV to the private sector aligns with India’s objective of fostering increased participation from private companies in the space industry. A recent report indicates that the commercial satellite launch services sector in India is projected to contribute a substantial $13 billion to the economy by 2025.
  • By involving the private sector in space ventures and satellite launches, India aims to enhance its capabilities, foster innovation, and create new opportunities for economic growth in the space sector. The move signifies a significant step towards a more dynamic and inclusive space industry in the country.

Cluster Bomb

In News

The Biden administration has recently announced an extensive security assistance package of $800 million to Ukraine, which includes the provision of cluster munitions, despite the fact that these weapons have been banned by 111 countries worldwide.

What are Cluster Bombs?

Cluster bombs are highly controversial weapons that scatter explosive submunitions over a wide area, leading to significant civilian casualties and posing long-term risks due to unexploded ordnance.

Convention to Ban it

To address the concerns surrounding these weapons, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) was established to prohibit their use, stockpiling, production, and transfer. However, it’s noteworthy that major countries such as the U.S., Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Ukraine, along with several NATO countries, have not become parties to this convention.

Is India Party to it?

In the context of India, it is important to mention that India is among the countries that have not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2022, India is one of the sixteen countries that produce cluster munitions and have refused to sign the convention. Other countries on this list include Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and Turkey.

While the use and production of cluster munitions remain a contentious issue globally, the recent security assistance package to Ukraine by the Biden administration has sparked discussions and raised concerns about the impact of such weapons on civilian populations.

Churachandpur (Manipur)

In News

Amidst the ongoing violence in the region, the name ‘Churachandpur’ in Manipur is facing challenges. Kuki-Zomi organizations have opted to use the name ‘Lamka’ instead, reflecting their aspiration for autonomy from the state’s Meitei leadership. Both ‘Lamka’ and ‘Churachandpur’ have historical significance, dating back over a hundred years, with ‘Lamka’ originating from the Anglo-Kuki War during 1917-1919.

The name ‘Churachandpur’ was officially introduced in 1921 to honor Maharaja Churachand Singh. However, its present usage is disputed by those who perceive it as a symbol of colonization and oppressive rule. The ongoing conflict over the name represents deeper tensions and historical complexities in the region, as different groups assert their identities and struggle for recognition and autonomy.


In News

The increasing demand for nickel in green technologies has sparked a rush for nickel mining in Indonesia. However, this surge in mining activities is causing concerns about its potential environmental impact and posing a threat to the traditional way of life for indigenous communities.

Nickel is a highly versatile metal widely used in various industries, including stainless steel, rechargeable batteries, and renewable energy storage systems. With the world’s largest nickel reserves and being the largest producer of nickel globally, Indonesia has become a significant player in meeting this growing demand.

In India, nickel reserves are predominantly found in Odisha, with around 93% of the country’s reserve located in regions like Cuttack and Mayurbhanj. Additionally, Jharkhand, Nagaland, and Karnataka also contribute to nickel production in the country. As the demand for nickel continues to rise, it is crucial to balance its extraction with environmental conservation and the well-being of indigenous communities affected by mining activities.

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