Helmand River Dispute

 Syllabus: GS2/ Foreign Affairs, IR

Why in News?

  • Iran and Afghanistan dispute sharing water from the Helmand River.
  • Helmand River crucial for agriculture, livelihoods, and ecosystems.
  • Tensions arise due to competing water needs

 What is the Dispute?

  • 1973 Helmand River Treaty unratified and unimplemented, leading to ongoing disputes.
  • Iran accuses Afghanistan of violating water rights, receiving only 4% of agreed share.
  • Afghanistan cites climatic factors for reduced water volumes.
  • Iran concerned about Afghanistan’s dam construction along the Helmand River.

Helmand River 

  • Helmand River originates near Kabul, flows 1,150 km southwest, empties into Lake Hamun.
  • Lake Hamun is Iran’s largest freshwater lake, once a major wetland fed by the Helmand.
  • Unai Pass separates the Kabul River watershed from Lake Hamun.

Iran -Taliban Ties

  • Iran and Afghanistan have a 950-km land border with no major territorial disputes.
  • Iran had previously maintained good relations with the Taliban before their capture of Kabul in August 2021


Akhand Bharat

Syllabus: GS1/ History, GS2/ International

Why in News?

  • Controversy in Nepal over mural of Indian subcontinent landmass in new Parliament building.


  • Minister Pralhad Joshi refers to the mural as a map of “akhand Bharat” (undivided India).
  • Mural depicts Lumbini, birthplace of Buddha, implying India’s claims. Nepal views Lumbini as a cultural center on its map.

Clarification by Government

  • Ministry of External Affairs clarifies mural represents Ashokan empire and responsible governance.
  • Official description emphasizes Ashoka’s spread of Buddhism.
  • Mural is in one of 16 niches in Constitutional Foyer.
  • Other niches dedicated to sages, texts, Ramayana, and Patel/Nehru.

History of the idea of Akhand Bharat

  • Akhand Bharat envisions a unified Greater India.
  • Concept includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
  • M. Munshi and Veer Savarkar advocated Akhand Bharat during the Indian independence movement.
  • Hindu Mahasabha, RSS, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena occasionally support the idea.


Salt Cavern-based Oil Storage Facility

Syllabus: GS 1/GS 3/Natural Resources /Economy 

Why in News?

  • Engineers India (EIL) studying salt cavern-based strategic oil reserves in Rajasthan.
  • Aims to increase India’s strategic oil storage capacity.
  • Government-owned firm conducting feasibility study for the project.

What are salt caverns?

  • Salt caverns: artificial underground cavities in salt formations.
  • Created through controlled dissolution of rock salt using water injection during solution mining.

How is it different from rock caverns?

  • Salt caverns developed through solution mining, not excavation like rock caverns.
  • Water pumped into salt deposits to dissolve salt, creating space for oil storage.
  • Salt cavern storage operations mostly conducted from the surface, unlike rock caverns.

Benefits Salt Cavern

  • Salt caverns offer simplicity, speed, and cost-effectiveness compared to excavated rock caverns.
  • Well-sealed and designed for rapid oil injection and extraction, making them attractive for storage.
  • Low oil absorbency of salt lining creates impermeable barrier against hydrocarbons.
  • Used globally for storing liquid fuels, natural gas, and potential for compressed air and hydrogen storage.

Indian Scenario 

  • Strategic crude oil reserves mitigate global supply disruptions.
  • India heavily relies on imports for over 85% of its crude oil requirement.
  • India’s current Strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) capacity is 5.33 million tonnes, meeting 9.5 days of demand.
  • Expansion underway: Chandikhol (4 million tonnes) and Padur (2.5 million tonnes).
  • Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (ISPRL) manages India’s strategic oil reserves; EIL played a key role in setting up the existing SPR.
  • International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends 90 days of import protection; India has SPR for 9.5 days and additional storage (OMCs) for 64.5 days, covering around 74 days of petroleum demand.

Potential and Related Developments   

  • Rajasthan considered ideal for salt cavern-based strategic storage facilities due to ample salt formations.
  • India’s strategic oil reserves resemble those set up by the US and Western allies after the 1970s oil crisis.
  • Commercialization initiated with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) storing 0.8 million tonnes in Mangaluru reserve.
  • Reserves filled during low crude oil prices in April-May 2020, resulting in estimated savings of Rs 5,000 crore.
  • In 2021, India released 5 million barrels from reserves as part of a coordinated action against oil output cuts by major producing nations.


  • Indian companies lacked technical expertise for salt cavern-based hydrocarbon storage.
  • EIL partnered with DEEP.KBB GmbH, a German company specializing in cavern storage and solution mining technology.
  • Specific site selection and project cost estimation are still pending.

Future Prospects 

    • Salt cavern-based storage offers cost and labor advantages over rock caverns for India’s SPR.
    • Potential for India’s first salt cavern-based oil storage facility.
    • Existing strategic oil storage facilities in Mangaluru, Padur, and Visakhapatnam are rock cavern-based.


Side Notes

  • US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) relies entirely on salt cavern-based storage facilities.
  • Located in Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
  • US SPR has four sites and a total capacity of approximately 727 million barrels.


UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2023

Syllabus: GS 2/Education 

Why in News?

  • New UGC regulations released by Union Education Minister.
  • Replacing the 2019 guidelines for deemed universities.


  • UGC Act 1956 allows non-university institutions to be deemed universities under certain provisions.
  • UGC Regulations govern the process, eligibility, governance, and establishment of deemed universities.
  • Regulations were first notified in 2010, with revisions in 2016 and 2019.
  • Expert committee formed to review and simplify the Regulations following the National Education Policy 2020.

Salient features of the regulations:

  • New rules align with the “light but tight” approach of NEP 2020.
  • Aim to simplify eligibility criteria for institutions seeking deemed-to-be university status.
  • Focus on multi-disciplinarity, NAAC grading, NIRF ranking, and NBA grading.
  • Cluster of institutions managed by multiple bodies can also apply for the status.
  • The new regulations also introduce the “Distinct Institution” category, where an existing institution 
    • or an institution starting from the beginning with the focus on teaching and research in unique disciplines and/
    • or addressing the strategic needs of the country or engaged in the preservation of Indian cultural heritage 
    • or preservation of the environment or dedicated to skill development or dedicated to sports or languages 
    • or any other discipline, so determined by the Expert Committee of Commission, will be exempted from eligibility criteria.
  • Faculty strength increased from 100 to 150.
  • Corpus fund for private institutions increased from Rs 10 crore to Rs 25 crore.
  • Creation of executive councils like central universities.
  • Deemed universities must register on Academic Bank of Credits (ABC).
  • Permitted to offer twinning, joint, and dual degree programs.


  • Emphasis on quality and excellence in universities.
  • Strengthening the research ecosystem.
  • Transforming the higher education landscape.
  • Promoting objective and transparent establishment of quality-focused deemed universities.

Accidents in Indian Railways

Syllabus: GS3/ Infrastructure, Railways

Why in News?

  • Three-train collision in Balasore District, Odisha.
  • Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a Goods train involved.
  • Approximately 250 fatalities.

Term Accident

  • Railway Accident Manual defines an accident as any occurrence that affects railway safety, including engines, rolling stock, tracks, passengers, causing delays or loss to the railway.

Train Accidents: Statistics

  • In 2020, there were over 13,000 train accidents in India, resulting in the deaths of nearly 12,000 passengers.
  • Approximately 70% of these accidents occurred due to passengers falling off trains or crossing tracks unsafely.
  • Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of railway accidents and fatalities.
  • In the year 2019-2020, the Indian Railways reported no deaths from consequential accidents caused by operational failures.

What are the causes of Railway accidents in India?

  • Ageing infrastructure and lack of resources contribute to poor performance in the Indian Railways.
  • Accidents are also caused by lapses from railway staff, including long working hours and manpower shortages.
  • Failures in rolling stock, track, electrical systems, signaling, and telecommunications can lead to accidents.
  • Traffic and commercial lapses, such as defective loading and train operations, also contribute to accidents.
  • Incidental accidents result from natural or human-made factors like landslides, floods, earthquakes, or sabotage.

Accident type in Indian Railways

  • The accident type occurred in Indian Railways over the years following the trend Derailment > Level crossing accidents > Collisions > Fire in trains > Miscellaneous accidents.

Factors Contributing to Vulnerability 

  • Safety in railways in most developing countries is influenced by the following constraints:
    • High level of dependency on the human element.
    • Low motivation, non-ideal working conditions for staff.
    • Indiscipline and lack of work ethics amongst the workforce.
    • Casual approach to safety amongst middle level managers.
    • Paying of lip service to safety by top management.
    • Lack of administrative and political will.

Impact of train accidents

  • Train accidents lead to loss of life, property damage, and economic repercussions.
  • Economic losses include transportation and logistics costs, damage to the railway infrastructure, and compensation payments.
  • Train accidents involving hazardous materials can cause environmental contamination and damage to the surrounding ecosystem.

Steps Taken 

  • Mission Zero Accident aimed to eliminate unmanned level crossings and implement the Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).
  • The Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh Fund was created with a corpus of ₹1 lakh crore for critical safety-related works.
  • Over 300,000 non-gazetted officers received refresher training, including disaster management and safety skills.
  • The Fog PASS Device aids crew during foggy weather using GPS and audio-visual alarms.
  • ‘Kavach’ is an indigenously developed automatic train protection system.
  • Construction is underway for the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor to decongest the railway network.
  • Chenab Bridge, the world’s tallest railway bridge, will open in Jammu and Kashmir later this year.

High Level Safety Review Committee (Railways) Recommendations

  • Anil Kakodkar chaired the High Level Safety Review Committee appointed by the Ministry of Railways.
  • The financial state of Indian Railways is critical, leading to neglect of infrastructure maintenance.
  • The committee recommends an independent mechanism for safety regulation.
  • The Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO) is limited in its capabilities to incorporate emerging technologies.
  • Adoption of an Advanced Signalling System for the trunk route length of 19,000 km is recommended, estimated to cost Rs 20,000 crore.

Bima Vahaks

Syllabus: GS 3/Economy

Why in News?

  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI)  issued draft guidelines for Bima Vahaks, outlining regulations for insurance agents or intermediaries.

About Bima Vahaks

  • The draft guidelines aim to establish a distribution channel at the Gram Panchayat level.
  • It introduces Corporate Bima Vahaks (registered legal entities) and Individual Bima Vahaks (appointed by insurers or Corporate Bima Vahaks) as distributors.
  • These Bima Vahaks will facilitate the sale of insurance products in rural areas.


  • BVs (both corporate and individual) can collect proposal information, KYC documents, and assist with claims-related services.
  • Insurers are responsible for ensuring KYC and AML compliance for policies sourced through BVs.
  • Emphasis on local resource development and women’s participation as BVs to build trust.
  • The Chairperson of the Authority has the power to issue clarifications to address any challenges in guideline application or interpretation.

Importance and Objectives: 

  • Dedicated distribution channel for insurance inclusion and awareness in every Gram Panchayat.
  • Improved accessibility and availability of insurance across the country.
  • Bima Vahak initiative holds great potential to enhance insurance inclusion and awareness.

Zambia’s Obstetric Fistula Strategic Plan

  • Ministry of Health launched Obstetric Fistula Strategic Plan for 2022-2026.
  • Obstetric fistula is a condition with a hole between birth canal and bladder/rectum.
  • Collaboration with UNFPA in developing the plan emphasizes the importance of partnerships.
  • Over two million women globally live with obstetric fistula, with a high concentration in Africa.
  • In Zambia, over 33,000 women and girls were affected by obstetric fistula in 2018, requiring urgent interventions and support.

Important News

  • India bans fourteen fixed-dose combination (FDC) medicines that are found to lack therapeutic relevance.
  • Texas becomes largest state to ban transgender care for minors
  • 88% of wage payments made through Aadhaar Based Payment Bridge System till May: Rural Development Ministry.
  • Integrated Command and Control Centre set up in Srinagar under Smart City Mission.

Person in News

  • Celeste Saulo of Argentina has been appointed as the first female Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • UAE Meteorologist Dr Abdulla Al Mandous has been elected as the new President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)



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