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Article
24 May 2024

From Mahabharata and Beyond: A Message on the Model Code of Conduct for Leaders

Context

  • The profound declaration Satyameva Jayate or Truth alone triumphs, originating from the Mundaka Upanishad was inscribed (26th Jan 1950) on the base of the national emblem, the Ashokan pillar, signifies the importance of truth in the nation's ethos.
  • Coincidentally, the day before, the Election Commission of India (ECI) was established with the primary objective of ensuring free and fair elections, upholding the democratic principle of allowing citizens to choose their government.
  • The ECI's role includes enforcing a level playing field where candidates and political parties do not manipulate voters through excessive money, muscle power, or deceit but the challenge lies in defining and upholding "truth" amidst political machinations.

The Philosophical Complexity of Truth

  • The philosophical inquiry into truth is complex as Francis Bacon’s Essay of Truth opens with a reference to Pilate’s rhetorical question, "What is truth?"a query often left unanswered due to its intricate nature.
  • This complexity is mirrored in the Ashokan pillar's depiction of three visible lions, symbolising the three dimensions of truth: my perspective, your perspective, and a third-person perspective.
  • The fourth, unseen dimension represents the absolute truth, often perceived as known only to a higher power.
  • The ECI, however, operates within the realm of human imperfection, aiming to enforce a Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that seeks to curb dishonest practices during elections.
  • Yet, expecting individuals to adhere to this model for a brief period during elections, if they have not lived by such principles otherwise, is arguably naive.

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • The MCC was introduced with the hope that it would instil a sense of self-restraint among political stakeholders.
  • In the 2019 Manual on the Model Code of Conduct, it was emphasised that those aspiring to public office should exemplify conduct worthy of emulation.
  • The ECI considers the MCC a crucial contribution by political parties to democracy, expecting them to exhibit model behaviour in their actions and rhetoric.
  • However, the reality often deviates, with political discourse sometimes degenerating into coarse and ignoble exchanges.
  • This has led to debates on whether the MCC should be termed a moral rather than a model code.

The Intersection of Morality and Law in Electoral Process

  • Philosophical Foundations of MCC
    • At the heart of the MCC lies a fundamental tension between legal requirements and moral expectations.
    • Morality pertains to the principles governing individual behaviour based on notions of right and wrong, often derived from cultural, religious, or personal beliefs.
    • Law, on the other hand, comprises rules established by a governing body to regulate behaviour, ensuring order and justice within society.
    • Immanuel Kant’s philosophy offers a vital perspective on the distinction between morality and law. According to Kant, moral actions are those performed out of a sense of duty, whereas legal actions are governed by societal rules.
    • Utilitarianism, as advocated by philosophers like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, evaluates actions based on their consequences.
      • From this viewpoint, the morality of an action is judged by its contribution to the overall happiness or well-being of society.
      • In the context of the MCC, this perspective suggests that political behaviour should be assessed not only by legal standards but also by the broader impact on societal harmony and democratic health.
  • Legal Framework and Enforcement
    • The legal framework underpinning the MCC includes specific provisions in the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
    • These laws delineate actions that constitute corrupt practices and electoral offenses, providing a legal basis for enforcing the MCC.
    • However, the intersection of morality and law within this framework presents unique challenges.
    • In legal terms, mens rea refers to the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing and establishing mens rea is crucial for proving guilt in many legal cases.
      • The MCC implicitly addresses mens rea by prohibiting actions intended to manipulate or deceive voters, such as false promises or appeals to communal sentiments.
    • Sections 123(3) and 123(3A) of the Representation of the People Act classify appeals to caste or communal feelings as corrupt practices, punishable under the law.
      • Similarly, Section 125 of the Act prohibits promoting enmity between different groups in connection with elections.
      • These legal provisions aim to curb divisive tactics and uphold the ethical conduct envisioned by the MCC.
      • However, enforcement requires clear evidence linking the actions to the intent of influencing electoral outcomes.

The Imperative for Ethical Reflection in the Electoral Process: Lesson from Mahabharata

  • The imperative for ethical reflection in the electoral process stems from the need to uphold democratic integrity and ensure that the conduct of elections aligns with the core values of truth and fairness.
  • The story of Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata, who lost his moral high ground despite technically telling the truth, underscores the importance of ethics over mere adherence to rules.
  • Ethics in elections is about more than just following the law; it involves adhering to higher standards of honesty, integrity, and fairness.
  • Ethical reflection ensures that political actions and decisions are not just legally compliant but also morally sound.
  • This is particularly important in a democracy, where the legitimacy of the government is derived from the consent of the governed, and this consent must be obtained through fair means.
  • When ethical standards are compromised, democratic norms such as transparency, accountability, and fairness are weakened.
  • This erosion can lead to a governance crisis where the authority of elected officials is questioned.

Conclusion

  • Satyameva Jayate is more than a motto; it is a guiding principle that should permeate the conduct of individuals and institutions alike.
  • The ECI’s efforts to enforce the MCC reflect an ongoing struggle to balance legal enforcement with moral persuasion.
  • For a truly democratic society, this balance must be continually sought, ensuring that the pursuit of political power does not erode the foundational value of truth.
Editorial Analysis

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

Key Facts about Neanderthals
Neanderthals who lived 50,000 years ago were infected with three viruses that still affect modern humans today, researchers have discovered recently.
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About Neanderthals:

  • They were an extinct relative of modern humans once found across Europe, extending into Central and Southwest Asia.
  • Species: Homo neanderthalensis
  • They are our closest extinct human relative.
    • Current evidence from both fossils and DNA suggests that Neanderthal and modern human lineages separated at least 500,000 years ago.
  • The last populations of Neanderthals are thought to have died out roughly 40,000 years ago, several thousand years or so after a wave of modern humans migrated deeper into Europe.
  • Although they are long extinct, their genes are still present in modern human DNA
  • Features:
    • Some defining features of their skulls include the large middle part of the faceangled cheek bones, and a huge nose for humidifying and warming cold, dry air. 
    • Their bodies were shorter and stockier than modern humans, another adaptation to living in cold environments.
    • But their brains were just as large as modern humans and often larger-proportional to their brawnier bodies.
    • Their bones reveal that they were extremely muscular and strong, but led hard lives, suffering frequent injuries.
    • Unlike modern humans, Neanderthals didn't have much of a chin.
    • Neanderthals made and used a diverse set of sophisticated toolscontrolled fire, lived in shelters, made and wore clothing, were skilled hunters of large animals, ate plant foods, and occasionally made symbolic or ornamental objects
    • There is evidence that Neanderthals deliberately buried their dead and occasionally even marked their graves with offerings, such as flowers.
      • No other primates, and no earlier human species, had ever practiced this sophisticated and symbolic behavior.

Geography

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

What is Preeclampsia?
World Preeclampsia Day, observed annually on May 22nd, aims to raise crucial awareness about preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication.
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About Preeclampsia: 

  • It is a serious condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth (called postpartum preeclampsia).
  • Most people who have preeclampsia have dangerously high blood pressureand may have problems with their kidneys or liver.
    • High blood pressure (also called hypertension) can stress the heart and cause problems during pregnancy.
  • What causes preeclampsia? It is believed to come from a problem with the health of the placenta (the organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy and is responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the fetus). 
  • Symptoms:
    • Many people with preeclampsia do not have any symptoms.
    • For those that do, some of the first signs of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and retaining water (this can cause weight gain and swelling).
    • Other signs of preeclampsia include Headaches, Blurry vision or light sensitivity, Dark spots appearing in your vision, Right side abdominal pain, Swelling in your hands and face (edema), and Shortness of breath.
  • While most people who have preeclampsia have healthy babies, this condition can cause serious problems.
    • It can also affect other organs in the body and be dangerous for both the mom and her developing fetus.
    • It can cause preterm delivery and even death.
  • Treatment:
    • The only cure for preeclampsia is to give birth.
    • Even after delivery, symptoms of preeclampsia can last 6 weeks or more.
    • Treatment, if necessary, is based on how far along the pregnancy is, and may include induced labor or a Caesarean section (C-section).
Health

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

What is Ferroptosis?
A new study by researchers found that ferroptosis is the major cell death mechanism that underlies COVID-19 lung disease.
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About Ferroptosis:

  • It is a form of regulated cell death caused by a toxic buildup of lipid peroxides on cell membranes.
  • It is different from other forms of cell death, such as apoptosis. This type of cell death requires iron, which is why it has the name “FERroptosis.”
  • How does it happen?
    • Lipid peroxides, which are generated through normal metabolic activities, can lead to oxidative damage to cell membranes.  
    • Ferroptosis is characterized by a reduction in intracellular glutathione (GSH) and decreased activity of glutathione peroxidase, so that lipid peroxides cannot be oxidized, leading to an increase in lipid peroxidation from iron. 
    • Our cells have powerful defense mechanisms to maintain cell survival.
    • However, when our defense mechanisms become defective, unchecked lipid peroxides accumulate to toxic levels, damage membrane integrity, and kill cells through ferroptosis.
  • Several studies have linked ferroptosis with many diseases, including ischemia-reperfusion and kidney injuries, nervous system diseases, cancer, and blood diseases.

What is Apoptosis?

  • Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms.
  • It is a highly regulated and controlled process that occurs normally during development and aging as a homeostatic mechanism to maintain cell populations in tissues.
    • For example, the separation of fingers and toes in a developing human embryo occurs because cells between the digits undergo apoptosis.
  • It also occurs as a defence mechanism such as in immune reactions or when cells get damaged by disease or by noxious agents.
  • It can be triggered by mild cellular injury and by various factors internal or external to the cell; the damaged cells are then disposed of in an orderly fashion.
  • It involves condensation of the nucleus and cytoplasm, followed by cellular partitioning into well-defined fragments for disposal.
Health

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

What is ASMPA Missile?
France has marked a significant milestone in its defence capabilities by successfully testing the updated ASMPA supersonic missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
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About ASMPA Missile:

  • The Air-Sol Medium Range (ASMP/ASMP-A) is an air-launched land-attack supersonic cruise missile that carries a nuclear payload. It is a central component of France’s nuclear deterrent
  • Versions:
    • ASMP-A, an upgraded version of the ASMP, arrived into French service in 2009. This version had an extended range of up to 500 km, and supported a new 300 kt thermonuclear warhead. 
    • The ASMPA-R project is a renovated version of the AMSPA intended to add additional range and support another advance in its warhead. 
  • Features:
    • It is an inertial-guided, air-to-surface missile most likely directed by terrain-mapping and a pre-programmed onboard computer
    • The motor assembly is comprised of a solid-propellant engine which fires after the missile has been released from the aircraft.
      • Upon ignition, the missile accelerates to Mach 2.0 in five seconds, after which the booster cartridge is ejected from the ramjet exhaust nozzle.
      • Then, the liquid (kerosene)–powered ramjet motor takes over and accelerates to a maximum speed of Mach 3.0, depending on the altitude.
Internal Security

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

What is Arab League?
The Arab League recently called for UN peacekeeping forces in the Palestinian territories during a summit in Bahrain's Manama.
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About Arab League:

  • The Arab League, also called the League of Arab States (LAS), is a regional organization of Arab states in the Middle East and parts of Africa.
  • Formation:
    • It was formed in Cairo on March 22, 1945.
    • It was chartered in response to concerns about postwar colonial divisions of territory as well as strong opposition to the emergence of a Jewish state on Palestinian territory.
  • Goals:
    • The overall aim of the league is to promote Arab interests.
    • Its main goals are to strengthen and coordinate the political, cultural, economic, and social programs of its members and to try to settle disputes among them or between them and third parties.
    • In 1950, the members also agreed to provide military support to help defend each other.
  • Headquarters: Cairo, Egypt.
  • Official language: Arabic
  • Members:
    • Currently, it has 22 members. The founding member states of the league are Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
    • Members who joined later are Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Somalia, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Djibouti, and Comoros.
    • The League regards Palestine as an independent state. 
  • There are four nations that were conferred observer status by the League: Brazil, Eritrea, India, and Venezuela.
  • Council:
    • The highest body of the league is the Council, composed of representatives of member states, usually foreign ministers, their representatives, or permanent delegates. 
    • The League makes decisions on a majority basis, but there is no mechanism to compel members to comply with resolutions.
    • Each member has one vote on the Council, with decisions binding only on those states that have voted for them.
International Relations

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

Mount Ibu
Recently, Mount Ibu erupted again, sending ash 4 km high, as streaks of purple lightning flashed around its crater.
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About Mount Ibu:

  • The Ibu volcano is an active stratovolcano located along the NW coast of Halmahera Island in Indonesia.
  • Ibu's activities follow a series of eruptions of different volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has 127 active volcanoes.

What is Stratovolcano?

  • Stratovolcano is also called a composite volcano.
  • Characteristics:
    • This volcanic landform is characterized by a conical shape formed by layers of volcanic material deposited during successive volcanic eruptions.
    • These volcanoes tend to slope gently at the base but rise quickly near the summit to form tall mountain peaks.
    • They are typically found above subduction zones, and they are often part of large volcanically active regions, such as the Ring of Fire that frames much of the Pacific Ocean.
    • These are build up on height by layering lava, ash and tephra. By definition, they have alternating layers of pyroclastic and lava.
  • Examples for Stratovolcano are Nevado del Ruiz Volcano and Ubinas Volcano (Andes Mountains of Colombia).
Geography

Article
24 May 2024

Declining Household Savings - Not a Mere Change in Saving Pattern

Why in News?

Household net financial savings to GDP ratio in India have declined due to increased borrowing and structural shifts rather than a mere change in savings pattern.

Hence, there is a need for macroeconomic policies to support household income growth to reduce financial stress on individuals and stabilise the macroeconomy.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • How the Debate on India’s Declining Household Savings Emerges?
  • Declining Household Savings is Not a Mere Change in Savings Pattern
  • What is the Argument of the CEA?
  • What is the Problem with the CEA’s Argument?
  • Is a Higher Household Debt-to-Income Ratio a Sign of a Structural Change?
  • What are the Macroeconomic Challenges Highlighted by this Structural Change?

How the Debate on India’s Declining Household Savings Emerges?

  • According to a news article, there has been a drastic fall in household net financial savings to GDP ratio during 2022-23 in India on account of a higher borrowing to GDP ratio.
    • The higher borrowing to GDP ratio largely reflected a household’s need to finance greater interest payment commitments, leading to an increase in financial distress of the household.
  • In response to this article, the Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) to the Government of India has interpreted this trend as a mere shift in the composition of household savings.
  • According to the CEA, households incur greater borrowing (or reduce net financial savings) solely to finance higher physical savings (investment).
  • Therefore, there is the need to find inconsistencies in this interpretation of the CEA and highlight some signs of structural shifts in the Indian economy.

Declining Household Savings is Not a Mere Change in Savings Pattern:

  • The household savings to GDP ratio is the sum of its net financial savings to GDP ratio, physical savings to GDP ratio and gold and ornaments.
  • A mere shift in the composition of savings would have kept the overall household savings to GDP ratio unchanged.
    • This is because the lower net financial savings to GDP ratio or higher borrowing to GDP ratio is compensated by higher physical savings to GDP ratio.
  • However, the trends depict another picture.
    • The net financial savings to GDP ratio declined by 2.5 percentage points, whereas the physical savings to GDP ratio increased only by 0.3 percentage points.
    • The household borrowing to GDP ratio increased by 2 percentage points, significantly more than the increase in the physical savings to GDP ratio.
    • With the gold savings to GDP ratio remaining largely unchanged, the household savings to GDP ratio declined by 1.7 percentage points.

What is the Argument of the CEA?

  • The CEA’s response is based on the analysis of absolute nominal (inflation unadjusted) numbers of household total savings.
  • The nominal value of a household’s total savings has increased, as the nominal value of physical savings has increased more than the fall in nominal value of net financial savings.

What is the Problem with the CEA’s Argument?

  • This trend merely shows that the nominal growth rate of total household savings has been positive during 2022-23.
  • However, this trend neither addresses the historic fall in net-financial savings to GDP ratio nor invalidates the explanation of the higher borrowing to GDP ratio.

 Is a Higher Household Debt-to-Income Ratio a Sign of a Structural Change?

  • The share of interest payment in household income is the product of interest rate and debt-income ratio.
    • The recent period has been associated with a sharp rise in both these variables.
  • The debt-income ratio of the household is increasing due to -
    • A higher net borrowing-income ratio of the household, where net borrowing is the difference between total borrowing and interest payments.
    • The increase in interest rates and reduction in nominal income growth rate of households. The phenomenon is known as “Fisher dynamics”.
  • The key structural feature that has emerged in the post-COVID period is that the nominal income growth rate has often been lower than the weighted average lending rate.
  • However, the good news is that India’s debt servicing ratio (at present) is still lower than that of many countries.
    • Debt servicing ratio is a comparison of one's debt commitment to his/her income.

What are the Macroeconomic Challenges Highlighted by this Structural Change?

  • With the emergence of the Fisher dynamics, there are two unique challenges that confront the Indian economy.
  • The first challenge pertains to decreasing the gap between interest rate and income growth, which can quickly push up household’s interest payment burdens.
  • The second challenge is preventing aggregate demand from declining in the face of household debt obligations and rising interest rates.
  • These challenges point towards the need to include a macroeconomic policy to stimulate and support household income growth and stabilise the economy.
Economics

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

Project Udbhav
The Indian Army, under its initiative Project Udbhav, is delving into the epic battles of the Mahabharata and the strategic brilliance of past Indian dynasties, shaping India's rich military heritage.
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About Project Udbhav:

  • It is collaboration between the Indian Army and the United Service Institution of India(USI), a defence services think tank.
  • The project, named ‘Udbhav’, translates to ‘origin’ or ‘genesis’, recognizing the profound knowledge embedded in our nation’s historical texts spanning centuries.
  • At its core, the project seeks to amalgamate ancient insights with modern military practices, creating a comprehensive approach to tackle present-day security challenges.
  • Aim: This initiative aims to bridge the gap between age-old wisdom and contemporary military education.
  • India’s ancient knowledge system, rooted in a 5000-year-old civilizational legacy, boasts a repository of intellectual texts and manuscripts.
  • Project Udbhav, as per MoD, aims to facilitate a profound understanding of these systems and their enduring relevance in the modern era.
  • This project takes inspiration from
    • Literature like Chanakya's Arthashastra underscores the importance of strategic partnerships, alliances and diplomacy, aligning with modern military practices such as international cooperation and soft power projection.
    • Chanakya’s teachings on statecraft and warfare are studied by various institutions the world over.
    • Similarly, the wisdom of Thirukkural, the classical Tamil text authored by Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil philosopher, advocates ethical conduct in all endeavours, including warfare.
    • This aligns with modern military codes of ethics of just war and principles of Geneva Convention.
Internal Security

Current Affairs
May 24, 2024

Sweet sorghum
Sweet sorghum is a hardy, nutritious, biofuel crop that offers solutions in drought-hit southern Africa because of El-Nino phenomenon.
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About Sweet sorghum:

  • It is the most important millet crop occupying largest area among the cereals next to rice.
  • One of the key characteristics of sweet sorghum varieties is their drought resistance. It allows them to enter a dormant state during extended periods of dryness and resume growth afterwards.
  • Required climatic conditions and
    • The crop does not prefer high rainfall as high soil moisture or continuous heavy rain after flowering may hamper sugar increase.
    • All soils that have medium depth with good drainage are suited.
    • Depending on the soil (red, black, laterite and loamy) and its depth water requirement may vary which in turn decide the suitability of the crop.
  • Unique features of Sorghum
    • It has ability to withstand low water and nitrogen inputs, as well as its tolerance for salinity and drought stress, makes it an ideal crop for farmers in arid regions.
    • Research has shown that, under intense water scarcity conditions, sweet sorghum makes use of its stalk juice to supplement its plant needs.
  • It is used in food industry and its stalk is used for the production of value-added products like ethanol, syrup and jaggery and bioenriched bagasse as a fodder and as a base material for cogeneration.
  • It can produce grains, animal feed and sugary juice, making it unique among crops.
  • The grains from sweet sorghum are prepared as steamed bread or porridge malt for traditional beer, as well as in commercial beer production across the continent.
Geography
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