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Table of Contents:


GS Paper 1:

1. Dara Shikoh.


GS Paper 2:

1. How to treat a child witness?

2. What is the National Security Act?


GS Paper 3:

1. Very Large Telescope.

2. GISAT-1 — Geo Imaging Satellite.

3. Railways’ corporate train model.


Facts for Prelims:

1. Madhav National Park.

2. Urban bent-toed gecko.

3. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS).


GS Paper  : 1


Topics Covered: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Dara Shikoh

What to study?

For Prelims: Legacy and other related facts, about Humayun’s tomb.

For Mains: His religious tolerance and it’s significance.

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Culture recently set up a seven-member panel of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate the grave of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59). He is believed to be buried somewhere in the Humayun’s Tomb complex in Delhi, one of around 140 graves of the Mughal clan.
  • The panel has been given three months time to complete this task.
  • The panel will use architectural evidence from that time, and also written history and any other information that can be used as evidence.

Who was Dara Shikoh?

  • He was the eldest son of Shah Jahan.
  • He was killed after losing the war of succession against his brother Aurangzeb.
  • He is described as a “liberal Muslim” who tried to find commonalities between Hindu and Islamic traditions.
  • He translated into Persian the Bhagavad Gita as well as 52 Upanishads.

According to the Shahjahannama, after Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh, he brought the latter to Delhi in chains. His head was cut off and sent to Agra Fort, while his torso was buried in the Humayun’s Tomb complex.

His legacy:

Dara Shikoh is described as “one of the greatest free thinkers of that time”.

  • He realised the greatness of the Upanishads and translated them, which were earlier known only to a few upper caste Hindus. Translations from that Persian translation have inspired a lot of free thinkers of today, even inspiring the likes of former United States President Barack Obama.
  • Some historians argue that if Dara Shikoh had ascended the Mughal throne instead of Aurangzeb, it could have saved thousands of lives lost in religious clashes. He was the total antithesis of Aurangzeb, in that he was deeply syncretic, warm-hearted and generous — but at the same time, he was also an indifferent administrator and ineffectual in the field of battle.

Challenges ahead for ASI:

No one knows where exactly Dara Shikoh was buried. All that is known is that it’s a small grave in the Humayun’s Tomb complex. Italian traveller Niccolao Manucci gave a graphic description of the day in Travels of Manucci, as he was there as a witness to the whole thing. That is the basis of the thesis. Now, the ASI’s biggest problem is that most graves in the complex have no names.

About Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi:

This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum). Humayun’s garden-tomb is an example of the charbagh (a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented), with pools joined by channels. It is also called the ‘dormitory of the Mughals’ as in the cells are buried over 150 Mughal family members. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cultural Significance:

It represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens, but never seen before in India, it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture. It is seen as a clear departure from the fairly modest mausoleum of his father, the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, called Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur) in Kabul (Afghanistan).


Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper  : 2


Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

How to treat a child witness?

What to study?

For Prelims: Indian laws and International Conventions in this regard.

For Mains: Need for and significance of these laws, challenges in protection and ways to address them.

Context: In the Bidar school sedition case, spotlight has fallen on reports that police questioned children. What are the international conventions for questioning children? What do Indian laws say on this, and on child witnesses?

What’s the issue?

  1. The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has pulled up the district police for violations, including repeated questioning of the children.
  2. Additionally, a public interest petition has been filed in the Karnataka High Court seeking a departmental inquiry against the policemen who allegedly questioned the children of Shaheen School, aged between 9 and 12, without the consent of their parents or guardians, and also video-recorded them without consent.
  3. The PIL referred to a statement by the Shaheen Alumni Association to say that the children were questioned by policemen carrying guns, which created an “intimidating and fearful environment”.

The PIL has asked for guidelines to be issued to police regarding interrogation of minors in criminal proceedings in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act and United Nations resolutions. 

What are the international conventions on children in these situations?

  1. Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1992 was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989. As per the Convention, in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
  2. In 2009, the ‘United Nations: Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses in Crime: Model Law’ provided a more specific set of guidelines in the context of child witnesses.  These guidelines recommend that authorities treat children in a caring and sensitive manner, with interview techniques that “minimise distress or trauma to children”.

How do Indian laws address the issue of child witnesses?

Under Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, there is no minimum age for a witness.

Usually during a trial, the court, before recording the testimony of a child witness, determines his or her competency on the basis of their ability to give rational answers.

  • A child is usually asked questions like their name, the school they study in, and the names of their parents to determine their competency.
  • If the child is very young and does not understand the significance of taking an oath to speak the truth, the judge or the staff explain to the child that he or she should speak the truth, thinking of whichever God they believe in.

Cases involving children:

Trials involving children as witnesses have primarily been in cases of child sexual abuse. Other criminal cases where children are examined as witnesses have included those where a parent is the victim of violence at home, in the sole presence of the child.

What are the laws pertaining to the questioning of children?

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:

  • The Act’s very preamble says that a “child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children” must be adhered to.
  • It also requires that interviews of children be done by specialised units of police who are trained to sensitively deal with them.
  • The Act prescribes that a Special Juvenile Police Unit is to be constituted by the state government in each district and city, headed by a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and including two social workers, at least one of whom must be a woman, and both of whom should be experienced in the field of child welfare.
  • Their work includes coordinating with the police towards sensitive treatment of children.
  • The Act also provides for a Child Welfare Committee in every district to take cognisance of any violations by the authorities in their handling of children.

 The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:

  • It has specific guidelines regarding interviewing children as witnesses.
  • It states that interviews should be conducted in a safe, neutral, child-friendly environment, including allowing for them to be done at homes.
  • It says a child should not be made to recount the incident in question multiple times.
  • The Act also allows for a support person, who could be trained in counselling, to be present with the child to reduce stress and trauma.

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

What is the National Security Act?

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of the act.

For Mains: Criticisms and concerns over it’s misuse, need for review.

Context: The NSA has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it is used by the police.

As per a Law Commission report from 2001, more than 14 lakh people (14,57,779) were held under preventive laws in India.

About National Security Act:

It is a stringent law that allows preventive detention for months, if authorities are satisfied that a person is a threat to national security or law and order. The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention. The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime. It was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.

As per the National Security Act, the grounds for preventive detention of a person include:

  1. acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
  2. regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
  3. preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.


Under the National Security Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA. A person detained under the National Security Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them. Appeal: The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper  : 3


Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

Very Large Telescope

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About VLT and it’s features, what is Betelgeuse? Significance of the findings, about Orion.

Context: Using the European Space Organisation’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have noticed the unprecedented dimming of Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star (over 20 times bigger than the Sun) in the constellation OrionAlong with the dimming, the star’s shape has been changing as well, as per recent photographs of the star taken using the VISIR instrument on the VLT.


What is happening to Betelgeuse and why is it significant?

Betelgeuse was born as a supermassive star millions of years ago and has been “dramatically” and “mysteriously” dimming for the last six months. According to a report in Sky and Telescope, among the brightest night time stars, Betelgeuse ranks 10th, but by the last week of December 2019, its brightness had dimmed so low, that the star was ranked as the 21st brightest, “a remarkable decline — and a historic low.”

  • Astronomers do not think that Betelgeuse is dimming because it is going to explode. They have other hypotheses that may explain the reasons for Betelgeuse’s change in shape and dimming. The two scenarios they are working on are a cooling of the surface due to exceptional stellar activity or dust ejection towards earth.

About VLT:

It is the world’s most advanced optical instrument, consisting of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter and four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes.

  • The telescopes can work together, to form a giant ‘interferometer’, the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer, allowing astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes.
  • Location: Atacama Desert, Northern Chile.
  • The VLT consists of four individual telescopes. They are generally used separately but can be used together to achieve very high angular resolution.
  • The four separate optical telescopes are known as Antu, Kueyen, Melipal, and Yepun, which are all words for astronomical objects in the Mapuche language. 

How it works? Significance:

The light beams are combined in the VLTI using a complex system of mirrors in underground tunnels where the light paths must be kept equal to distances less than 1/1000 mm over a hundred metres.

  • With this kind of precision the VLTI can reconstruct images with an angular resolution of milliarcseconds, equivalent to distinguishing the two headlights of a car at the distance of the Moon.
  • Individual telescope help see objects that are four billion (four thousand million) times fainter than what can be seen with the unaided eye.

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

GISAT-1 — Geo Imaging Satellite

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance.

Context: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to launch GISAT-1, a new earth observation satellite, in the first week of March.

  • It will be the first of two planned Indian EO spacecraft to be placed in a geostationary orbit of around 36,000 km.
  • It will apparently be in a fixed spot looking over the Indian continent at all times.
  • It will have high-resolution cameraswhich will help to monitor any changes in borders and the overall geographical condition of the country, etc.


Earth Observation Satellites of ISRO has been successfully able to establish many operational applications in the country. Both at Central and State level, there are large number of users who utilise space based inputs for various purposes. Some of the important missions of ISRO, in terms of IRS series of satellites, that has enabled unique applications of space based imaging are, Cartosat-1 & 2, Resourcesat-1 & 2, Oceansat-1 & 2, Risat-1, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL, Scatsat, INSAT series, and host of other satellites.


Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered: Investment models.

 Railways’ corporate train model

What to study?

For Prelims: Features.

For Mains: Need for and significance of the model.

Context: The Kashi Mahakal Express is the country’s third ‘corporate’ train after the two Tejas Express trains between Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Ahmedabad started over the past few months.

What is Corporate train model?

This is a new model being actively pushed by Indian Railways- to ‘outsource’ the running of regular passengers trains to its PSU, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

How does the model work?

In this model, the corporation takes all the decisions of running the service– fare, food, onboard facilities, housekeeping, complaints etc. Indian Railways is free from these encumbrances and gets to earn from IRCTC a pre-decided amount, being the owner of the network.

This amount has three components- haulage, lease and custody.

  1. Haulage charge includes use of the fixed infrastructure like tracks, signalling, driver, station staff, traction and pretty much everything needed to physically move the rake.
  2. Lease charges on the rake have to be paid as Indian Railways coaches are leased to its financing arm, the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC).
  3. Custody charge has to be paid for keeping the rake safe and sound while it is in the custody of the PSU.

IRCTC has to pay Indian Railways a sum total of these three charges, roughly Rs 14 lakh for the Lucknow Tejas runs in a day (up and down) and then factor in a profit over and above this. This money is payable even if the occupancy is below expectation and the train is not doing good business.

Benefits and significance for customers and managers:

  1. Being a corporate entity with a Board of Directors and investors, IRCTC insists that the coaches it gets from Railways are new and not in a run-down condition, as is seen in many trains. The quality of the coaches has a direct bearing on its business.
  2. In this model, IRCTC also has full flexibility to decide the service parameters and even alter them without having to go to Railway ministry or its policies.
  3. To that end, the business of running trains can be run with the independence needed to run a business with profit motive. This creates the environment for enhanced service quality and user experience for the passengers.
  4. IRCTC gets the freedom to decide even the number of stoppages it wants to afford on a route, depending on the needs of its business model.

What is Indian Railways’ benefit from this model?

Indian Railways doesn’t have to suffer the losses associated with running these trains thanks to under-recovery of cost due to low fares and its own hefty overheads. The lease on its coaches is also taken care of.

Sources: Indian Express.


Facts for Prelims


Madhav National Park

Located in Madhya Pradesh.

It was named after Madho Rao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior belonging to the Scindia dynasty of the Marathas.

It is a combination of dry deciduous & dry thorn forests.

It make home for different variety of antelopes like Nilgai, Chinkara, and Deer, and carnivours such as leopard, wolf, jackal, fox, wild pig, etc.


Urban bent-toed gecko:

  • It is a new species of lizard discovered in Guwahati, Assam.
  • Scientific name: Cyrtodactylus urbanus).
  • Urbanization is a major threat to the survival of geckos.



Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS)

Why in News?

The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS), though home to more than half the number of tigers present in Kerala, may not be notified as a tiger reserve as the proposal lacks public support.

About Wayanad wildlife sanctuary:

  • Located in Kerala.
  • It is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala.
  • The ‘Status of Tigers in India’ report released last year had estimated the tiger population of Wayanad as between 75 and 80 individuals.
  • The sanctuary is now an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
  • It is bounded by protected area network of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast, and on the southeast by Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu.