Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs – 21st August 2023



Today Topics List:

  1. Why Shimla is crumbling?

  2. Supreme Court – Reprieve for Bus Driver

  3. DRDO Drone crashes in Karnataka: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

  4. Onions: 40% duty on Exports

  5. Luna 25 Crash Landing -What it tells about Moon Landings

  6. Delhi: Minister launches portal for wild life complaints



Why Shimla is crumbling?

    • Recently, rains have caused havoc in the state of Himachal Pradesh with flash floods and landslides becoming a common phenomenon.
      • This is not unprecedented, The latest Intergovernmental panel on Climate change(IPCC) reports states that the Coastal areas and the Himalayas are poised to experience a rise in extreme climate events and a shift in rainfall patterns.

Case with Shimla: Issues

  • Infrastructure in Shimla has not been Climate smart. An analysis of several incidents reveals a pattern.
    • In Summer hill, the temple was constructed within a gorge and was also the location of water supply system for Totu, a suburb of Shimla.
    • In Krishnagar, houses were erected atop water bauris (Natural water springs)
  • When structures come up in areas closely linked to a water source, they become susceptible to disasters.
    • There are around 25 major springs and over 100 water baurisin Shimla.
  • The reinforced cement concrete led to shift in building strategies after 1990s. The area, which was filled by numerous water bodies, has been filled by human settlements including ravines.
    • Many of Shimla’s development projects, hospital buildings were built on water bodies.
  • Adding to the complexities, the planning for Shimla is not overseen by the elected government, instead it falls under the jurisdiction of a parastatal, namely the town and country planning department.
    • It is not run by democratic principles but by computer generated plans, guided by technological consultancy firms.


Shimla development plan: SDP – Can it be a Wayforward?

  • The Shimla Development Plan (SDP) is pending before the Supreme Court. One critical oversight of the current SDP is the absence of a climate action plan that should ideally precede it. 
    • The existing SDP appears to be primarily focused on creating urban spaces with designations like ‘core’ and ‘open heritage; yet it lacks the necessary emphasis on addressing climate-related challenges.
    • SDP does necessitate is a zonal and sub-zonal planning approach, which is important in Shimla, a region with unique geographical features. 

SDP as a way forward:

  • It is imperative that zones and sub-zones are meticulously defined based on comprehensive geological data and thorough studies.
    • Subsequently, this information should guide the determination of the floor area ratio.
    • The zoning strategy should dictate the regions where the city cannot support further settlements.
    • Conversely, areas with robust rock foundations should be permitted to undergo vertical expansion, but all decisions should be rooted in solid geological and structural foundations. 
    • The priority now should be to initiate comprehensive water contouring, which can be accomplished through a combination of satellite imagery and active participation from the community. 
  • This approach aims to strike a balance between urban development and the preservation of the city’s unique geological features.




Supreme Court – Reprieve for Bus Driver


  • A Kerala Driver who blamed his deformed left wrist for an accident which killed five passengers and injured 63 others won a partial reprieve in the Supreme Court.

What is Reprieve?

  • Reprieve is a stay of the execution of the sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period.
    • Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the president.

Pardoning Powers of the President:

  • It forms part of the Pardoning powers of the executive:
  • Article 72 of the Indian Constitution empowers the President to grant pardons to the persons who have been tried and convicted of any offence in all cases where the:
    • Punishment or sentence is for an offence against a Union Law;
    • Punishment or sentence is by a court martial (Military court)
    • Sentence is a death sentence
  • The Pardoning power of the president is independent of the Judiciary, it is an executive power.
    • But president while exercising this power, does not sit as a court of appeal.
  • The Object of conferring this power on President id two-fold:
    • To keep the door, open for correcting any judicial errors in the operation of law;
    • To afford Relief from a sentence, which the president regards as unduly harsh.
  • The Pardoning power of the President includes the following:




It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments and disqualifications.


It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form.

A death sentence can be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which inturn may be commuted to a simple imprisonment.


It implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character.

A sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.


It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally  awarded due to some special fact, such as physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman convict


It implies stay of the execution of a sentence (especially for the death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the president.



DRDO Drone crashes in Karnataka: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

    • An unarmed testing aircraft of the Defence research and Development Organisation (DRDO) crashed on a farmland in Karnataka.
      • It is TAPAS UAV which was undergoing experimental flight trail.
    • A similar incident happened at Jodi Chikkenahalli in 2019.


DRDO – Defence Research and development Organisation:

  • DRDO is the R&D wing of the Ministry of Defence, GOI.

Its Vision 

  • To empower India with cutting edge defence technologies and a mission to achieve self-reliance in critical defence technologies and systems.
  • Equipping our armed forces with state-of-the-art weapon systems and equipment in accordance with requirements laid down by the three Services.
  • Balasya Mulam Vigyanam“—the source of strength is science-drives the nation in peace and war. 
  • DRDO has firm determination to make the nation strong and self-reliant in terms of science and technology, especially in the field of military technologies.

Background and Growth:

  • DRDO was formed in 1958 from the amalgamation of the then already functioning Technical Development Establishment (TDEs) of the Indian Army and the Directorate of Technical Development & Production (DTDP) with the Defence Science Organisation (DSO).
    • It was then a small organization with 10 establishments or laboratories.
    • Now, it has grown to a network of 50 laboratories which are deeply engaged in developing defence technologies covering various disciplines, number of laboratories, achievements and stature.




Onions: 40% duty on Exports


  • The Union government imposed a 40% duty on onion exports, which will remain in place till December 31.

Why such a step?

  • It is aimed at ensuring sufficient supply on onions in the domestic market at a time when prices are just about inching upwards.
  • Government is concerned that Onions may go in the way of tomatoes, which soared above Rs.200 in parts of the country in recent times.
    • The average retail price of onions is currently at Rs.30, compared to Rs. 25 this time last year.
    • Tomatoes, even though came down to Rs. 80 still are roughly twice higher than their year ago levels.

Government intervention in food market:

  • Recently, Government has banned export of wheat, non- Basmati white rice and sugar.
  • It has imposed stock limits on tur, urad and wheat.
  • In early August, with Wheat and rice continuing to witness inflation, Government decided to release 5 million tonnes of wheat and 2.5 million tonnes of rice from food Corporation of India’s stock in the open market.

Price trends of Food Market& Concerns:

  • The price trends seem to suggest that food inflation is now getting generalised.
    • With elevated prices in vegetables, cereals, pulses, spices, milk and milk products, the Consumer price Index of July, 2023 remained above the Upper tolerance threshold of RBI ( 6%).
  • Even though they seem temporary, the risk to border food basket remain. Such as,
    • August could be the driest August in recent times, due to low rainfall.
    • An increased likelihood of El Nino strengthening in coming months, which could affect upcoming Rabi season.
  • High Food Inflation can impact, household inflation expectation, complicating matters for the Monetary Policy Committee.
    • While MPC has maintained status quo on rates, it cannot afford to do so. It needs to look into increasing Policy rates to contain Inflation.
  • With series of State elections this year and the General elections in 2024 is an added burden.
    • It is generally believed that Government’s promote Expansionary fiscal policy, which could be inflationary in nature.

Way Forward:

  • The focus should be more on liberalising imports than imposing domestic trading and export control that have long term implications.



Luna 25 Crash Landing -What it tells about Moon Landings


  • The Motivation to go to the moon, mainly started by the Cold War rivalry, and the desire to get geopolitical advantage. Though they were dangerous, extremely expensive and energy inefficient, they achieved feats that were the realms of science fiction just a few years ago. With the current round of moon missions taking place the focus has turned towards the Lunar missions.


  • Modern Russia’s Lunar spacecraft, first after 47 years has crash landed on Moon. This failure highlighted the risks involved in getting a spacecraft to soft land on the moon.

Success rate of Landing:

  • A successful landing has been achieved more than 20 times, including six times with human beings on board.
  • Except the three Chinese landings in the past 10 years, all the successful landings on the moon happened within a decade between 1966 and 1967.

Recent Attempts – failures and Causes:

  • In the past four years, four countries – India, Israel, Japan and Russia have tried to land their spacecrafts on lunar surface but failed.
    • The 15 Minutes of Terror, referred to the final phase of landing by the Ex- Chairman of ISRO K Sivan.
    • Each of these missions encountered problems in the very last stage – during the landing process -and crashed on the moon’s surface.
  • In the case of Luna 25, though the exact reason was not yet known, Ros cosmos said the change in momentum the spacecraft experienced while moving into pre-landing orbit was different from what it should have been.
  • ISRO’s Chandrayaan – 2; Israel’s Beresheet ; Japan’s Hakuto – R also encountered different malfunctions resulted in desired level of speed not being achieved.

China and its success:

  • China has been the sole exception in this, having landed on its very first attempt in 2013 with Chang’e – 3.
  • It has repeated the feat with Chang’e – 4 in 2019 and Chang’e – 5, a sample return mission, in 2020.

Earlier Landings:

  • The technology demonstration, that was exhibited half a century earlier was haunting some of the most advanced space agencies today.
    • However, the landing technology was far from mastered even then, evident from high failure rate during that time.
    • Out of 42 missions during 1963 to 76 only 21 succeeded giving a success ration of only 50%.



Delhi: Minister launches portal for wild life complaints

    • Delhi Environment Minister launched a portal for the better resolution of Complaints over offences related to forests and wildlife.
    • Through this people can check status of their complaints and enables better coordination within the government.

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