In today’s daily current affairs briefing for UPSC aspirants, we explore the latest developments that hold relevance for the upcoming civil services examination. Our focus today includes a critical analysis of recent policy changes, international affairs, and national developments, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Stay informed and stay ahead in your UPSC preparations with our daily current affairs updates, as we provide you with concise, well-researched insights to help you connect the dots between contemporary events and the broader canvas of the civil services syllabus.
India-China Chips War
Tag: GS-3 Economy, Manufacturing
The expansive new US-India technology partnership forged during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington DC identifies technology as the new geopolitical frontier.
Semiconductors or chips play a crucial role in the functionality of nearly every modern device, ranging from smartphones to advanced defense systems and artificial intelligence-powered machines. However, chip production remains primarily concentrated in a handful of countries, with each specializing in specific aspects of the technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic unveiled the United States’ vulnerability and reliance on Asian supply chains, particularly in relation to semiconductor production. Notably, four of the world’s leading chip manufacturers are based in Taiwan. Simultaneously, the trade and diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing, coupled with the heightened military tensions in the Taiwan Strait, have further exacerbated the situation.
Semiconductor the ‘New Oil’
- Reliance on Technology: Semiconductors are crucial components in advanced technologies like smartphones, computers, artificial intelligence, and defense systems. Nations depend on these technologies for economic progress, national security, and global competitiveness.
- Critical Infrastructure: Semiconductors are considered critical infrastructure as they power and enable essential sectors such as telecommunications, energy, transportation, healthcare, and finance. Any disruptions in semiconductor supply chains can have far-reaching consequences.
- Limited Manufacturing Capability: Only a select few countries possess the advanced manufacturing capabilities necessary for semiconductor production. The complex fabrication processes and specialized equipment involved make it challenging for new players to enter the industry.
- Global Supply Chain: The semiconductor industry relies on a global supply chain, with different countries specializing in various stages of production, including fabrication, assembly, and testing. Taiwan, South Korea, and the United States hold dominant roles in these areas.
- National Security Concerns: The control and security of semiconductor supply chains have become national security priorities for many countries. Dependence on foreign sources for critical technologies raises concerns about vulnerabilities, potential disruptions, and the compromise of sensitive information.
- Economic Competitiveness: Semiconductors significantly contribute to a nation’s economic competitiveness. Advanced semiconductor industries attract high-value investments, drive innovation, and create skilled job opportunities, fostering economic growth and technological leadership.
- Technological Sovereignty: Countries perceive the development of domestic semiconductor capabilities as essential for technological sovereignty and reducing reliance on external sources. Achieving self-sufficiency in semiconductor manufacturing provides greater control over technological advancements and helps mitigate potential risks.
India USA iCET Initiative
The India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) was unveiled during the Quad summit in Tokyo in 2022, demonstrating the joint commitment of India and the United States to strengthening cooperation in critical and emerging technologies.
- Areas of Collaboration: The iCET initiative aims to foster collaboration between India and the United States across various domains, including semiconductor technology, resilient supply chains, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other critical and emerging technologies.
- Bilateral Engagement: The iCET initiative involves regular bilateral engagements between high-level officials from India and the United States, such as National Security Advisers and counterparts from relevant ministries. These discussions serve to facilitate and advance cooperation in the identified areas.
- Semiconductor Partnership: Under the iCET framework, India and the United States have affirmed their dedication to collaborating in the development of a semiconductor design, manufacturing, and fabrication ecosystem in India. The objective is to enhance India’s capabilities in the semiconductor sector and foster the growth of a skilled workforce.
- Skill Development and Workforce: The iCET initiative places significant emphasis on skill development and workforce training in critical and emerging technologies. India and the United States aim to promote the cultivation of a skilled talent pool capable of driving innovation and contributing to the growth of these sectors.
Rivalry between the United States and China in the semiconductor chip industry
- US and China acknowledge the importance of semiconductor chips for innovation and economic growth.
- The US has been a longstanding leader in semiconductor design and manufacturing, while China has made efforts to catch up.
- Intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer are concerns in the US-China rivalry, with the US accusing China of unfair practices.
- US-China trade tensions have impacted the semiconductor industry, with restrictions on Chinese technology companies.
- The US has tightened export controls on semiconductor-related technologies to prevent their transfer to China.
- Both the US and China have set goals to enhance self-sufficiency in semiconductor chips.
- The semiconductor industry has significant geopolitical implications, providing economic advantages and potential leverage in trade disputes or conflicts
Source: Indian Express
National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)
Tags: GS – 2: Government policies and Intervention, Issues related to education.
Why in News:
Recently, National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) released ‘the India Rankings for 2023’, evaluating country’s higher education institutions based on various parameters.
- NIRF is a methodology developed by the Ministry of Education (earlier Ministry of Human Resource Development) to rank higher education institution in the country.
- It was launched in September 2015 and aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of institutions based on various parameters.
- Ranking Parameters:
- Teaching, Learning and Resources (30% weightage)
- Research and Professional Practice (30% weightage)
- Graduation Outcomes (20% weightage)
- Outreach and Inclusivity (10% weightage)
- Perception (10% weightage)
- It ranks higher education institutions in 5 categories and 8 subject domains:
- Categories: Overall, Universities, Colleges, Research Institutions, Innovation.
- Subject Domains: Engineering, Management, Pharmacy, Medical, Dental, Law, Architecture and planning, Agriculture and allied sectors.
Key highlights of NIRF Ranking 2023:
Three Additions in 2023 Edition of India Ranking:
- This year’s ranking provided integration of the “Innovation” ranking previously executed by the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) into the India Rankings to reduce the burden on institutions of providing similar data to two different agencies.
- Expansion of scope of “Architecture” to “Architecture and Planning” to include institutions imparting courses in Urban and Town Planning.
- Introduction of a new subject – “Agriculture & Allied Sectors”.
- Participants: Increased participants from 3565 institutions in 2016 to 8686 in 2023.
- Top Engineering Institutions: IIT-Madras (1st), IIT-Delhi (2nd), IIT-Bombay (3rd).
- Top Management Institutions: IIM-Ahmedabad (1st), IIM-Bangalore (2nd), IIM-Kozhikode (3rd).
- Top Law Institutions: National Law School of India University, Bengaluru (1st), National Law University, Delhi (2nd), NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad (3rd).
- Top Pharmacy Institutions: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Hyderabad (1st), Jamia Hamdard (2nd), BITS Pilani (3rd).
- Top Colleges: Delhi University (DU) colleges secured 5 positions in top 10 (Miranda House – 1st and Hindu College – 2nd).
Key issues pointed out by NIRF ranking:
- Incongruence between Quantity and Quality: The concentration of high-quality institutions in a few states shows the need for a mission to improve quality across the country.
- Private institutions have lower rankings compared to government institutions.
- There are vast differences in faculty strength between top-ranked and other institutions.
- A small percentage of institutions contribute to a significant portion of scholarly output.
Source: The Hindu
Guidelines for Resource Adequacy Planning Framework for India
Tags: GS – 3: Infrastructure (Energy)
Why in News:
Recently, the Ministry of Power, in consultation with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), has released Draft Guidelines for Resource Adequacy Planning Framework for India.
About the Draft Guidelines:
- The guidelines have been formulated under the Electricity (Amendment) Rules 2022.
- Procurement Framework: Advance Procurement of Resources
- Establishment of an advance procurement framework by DISCOMs.
- By procuring resources in advance, potential challenges related to resource scarcity and demand fluctuations can be addressed more efficiently.
Long-Term Contracts and Resource Adequacy
- At least 75% of the total capacity required by DISCOMs should be covered by long-term contracts.
- This approach brings stability to the power sector and promotes long-term sustainability by ensuring a consistent supply of electricity.
National Load Dispatch Centre’s (NLDC) Role
- The NLDC conducts bids to procure the necessary capacity required to meet short-term resource adequacy plans.
- This mechanism ensures a reliable and balanced power supply even during periods of increased demand or unforeseen circumstances.
Time-Bound Procurement Processes
- The guidelines specify a time frame for procurement processes by DISCOMs.
- This ensures that the capacity procured by DISCOMs becomes available when required to serve the projected load.
Objectives of the Guidelines:
- To reliably fulfil the peak demand with the help of adequate supply of generation and demand response.
- To optimise the generation of electricity by minimising Operational and maintenance expenses, Fuel costs, costs associated with starting up and shutting down power-generating units, etc.
- Catering to the peak demand reliably is one of the major challenges.
- Increasing share of variable renewable energy and higher frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change.
- Infrastructural and management challenges while sharing inter-state and inter-region power.
Tags: GS-3; Economic Deals
Paris-based industrial supplier acquires 80% of British Lithium extraction company
About Lithium Deal:
- A lithium deal between a French minerals company and a British startup is set to have significant implications for the electric vehicle (EV) sector.
- The companies plan to develop nearly 20,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year which will be enough to power approximately 500,000 EVs annually.
- India has been actively promoting indigenous EV battery manufacturing and aims to achieve 30% electrification of its national fleet by 2030.
- The global race for critical materials in electric mobility has made lithium a highly sought-after resource.
- India recently became a member of the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), which is headed by the United States and includes France and the UK.
- With its position in the MSP, India can pursue a trilateral strategic partnership with France and the UK to establish a secure and reliable lithium supply chain.
- Such a partnership would bolster India’s domestic EV manufacturing sector and support its goals for electric mobility.
- Overall, the lithium deal presents a unique opportunity for India’s EV sector and has the potential to propel the country’s EV growth to new heights.
- Lithium or “Li” with an atomic number 3 is the lightest metal in the periodic table and has lowest density of all metals.
- It is a highly conductive silvery-white and soft element having a higher energy density compared to traditional battery technologies, enabling longer-lasting and more efficient devices.
- The extraction of lithium primarily occurs through mining processes, with major reserves found in countries like Australia, Chile, China, and Argentina.
- In India, lithium reserves have recently been discovered in Jammu and Kashmir while another reserve of the crucial mineral has been found in Rajasthan’s Degana (Nagaur).
Source: Down to Earth
National Indicator Framework for SDGs
Tags: GS-2: Government Policies
Government organises national workshop on monitoring framework for SDGs
About National Indicator Framework for SDGs:
- The NIF for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a key tool developed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) in India.
- It serves as a comprehensive framework for monitoring and evaluating progress towards achieving the SDGs at the national level.
- It provides a set of indicators that capture the various dimensions of sustainable development, including economic, social, and environmental aspects.
- It has been developed through an extensive consultation process involving government departments, experts, and civil society organizations.
- It identifies the specific data sources and periodicity for each indicator, ensuring the availability of reliable and timely data for monitoring purposes.
- It is a dynamic framework that can be revised and updated periodically to reflect emerging priorities and challenges in the pursuit of the SDGs.
- It enables tracking progress on individual SDGs as well as cross-cutting themes and targets, promoting an integrated approach to sustainable development.
- It will play a crucial role in aligning national development plans, policies, and budgets with the SDGs for a coordinated approach to sustainable development.
- It fosters transparency and accountability by providing a common framework for tracking progress and facilitating public access to information on SDG indicators.
- It requires collaboration and coordination among stakeholders including centre, state, data collection agencies, and statistical institutions.
- Overall, NIF will provide a robust framework for evidence-based policymaking, effective resource allocation, and sustainable development planning.
- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
- The goals aim to address various social, economic, and environmental challenges and promote sustainable development worldwide.
- SDGs are built upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and encompass issues including poverty eradication, gender equality, climate action, and sustainable consumption.
- The goals cover a wide range of interconnected areas, such as education, health, clean energy, biodiversity, and peace and justice.
- It provides a roadmap for transformative change, aiming to create a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world by 2030.
Source: PIB Gov.
The Headquarters Agreement (HQA)
Tag: GS paper-3: Disaster Management
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for ratification of the Headquarters Agreement (HQA) between Government of India (Gol) and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) signed on 22nd August, 2022.
About the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI):
- The CDRI was launched by India during the United Nations Climate Action Summit in 2019 at New York.
- It is a major global initiative launched by the Government of India and is seen as India’s attempts to obtain a global leadership role in climate change and disaster resilience matters.
- CDRI is a global partnership of National Governments, UN agencies and programmes, multilateral development banks and financing mechanisms, the private sector, academic and knowledge institutions that aims to promote the resilience of infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks, thereby ensuring sustainable development.
- Since its launch, thirty-one (31) Countries, six (06) International Organisations and two (02) private sector organisations have become members of CDRI.
About the Headquarters Agreement (HQA):
- In June of 2022, the Cabinet had approved recognition of CDRI as an International Organization and for signing of Headquarters Agreement (HQA) for granting CDRI exemptions, immunities and privileges as contemplated under Section-3 of the UN (P&I) Act, 1947.
- This will provide CDRI an independent and international legal persona so that it can carry out its functions internationally, more efficiently.
Source: PIB Gov.
Energy Transition Index
Tags: General Studies –3 Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Infrastructure
Why in news?
Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked India at the 67th place globally on its Energy Transition Index (ETI).
- The report highlighted India’s achievements in reducing energy and carbon intensity, achieving universal energy access, and managing electricity affordability.
- India also fared relatively well during the recent energy crisis due to a low share of natural gas in power generation and increased use of existing capacities.
- Key Highlights
- Sweden topped the list and was followed by Denmark, Norway, Finland and Switzerland in the top five on the list of 120 countries.
- France (7) was the only G20 Country in the top 10, followed closely by Germany (11), the U.S. (12), and the U.K. (13).
- Global average ETI scores increased by 10% since 2014 but showed only marginal growth in the past three years.
- Only 41 countries have made steady progress in the past decade.
- Singapore was the only other major economy showing momentum in sustainability, energy security, and equity.
Source: Indian Express
Tags: General Studies – 3 Scientific Innovations & Discoveries
Why in news?
Recently, an international team of astronomers announced scientific evidence confirming the presence of gravitational waves using pulsar observations.
- Gravitational waves are ripples, or disturbances, produced in the fabric of spacetime by large moving objects, something similar to the ripples produced on the surface of water by a moving boat.
- The existence of gravitational waves was predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1916, but its experimental confirmation came only in 2015.
- This new research indicates that multiple gravitational waves constantly deform and reshape spacetime, influencing the motion of celestial bodies.
- Scientists have discovered a ‘background hum’ rumbling throughout the universe. It confirms the presence of low-frequency (long-wavelengths) gravitational waves, thought to be constantly rolling through space noise.
- They also set new limits on the strength and frequency of these waves, which are consistent with theoretical predictions.
- They are also tantalisingly close to the discovery of nanohertz gravitational waves, which would open up new possibilities for studying galaxy evolution, cosmology, and fundamental physics.
- India’s Giant Metre wave Radio Telescope (GMRT, Pune) was among the world’s six large telescopes that played a vital role in providing evidence. The other 5 are located in Germany, the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
Source: Indian Express
National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission
Tags: General Studies –2 Health, General Studies –3 Biotechnology
Why in news?
Recently, the Prime Minister of India launched ‘National Sickle Cell Elimination Mission’ with the target to eradicate the disease by 2047.
- Mission: To improve the care of all Sickle Cell Disease patients for their better future and to lower the prevalence of the disease through a multi-faced coordinated approach towards screening and awareness strategies.
- Vision: Eliminate sickle cell disease as a public health problem in India by 2047.
- The mission has four main components: Screening, Prevention, Treatment, Research.
- The mission announced in the Union Budget 2023, will be launched from a public programme in Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh.
- MP is a state with the highest tribal population in terms of absolute numbers as per Census 2011 and also has the highest burden of sickle cell anaemia.
Sickle cell anaemia (SCA)
- It is a genetic disorder that affects the shape and function of red blood cells (RBCs), which carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
- Normally, RBCs are round and flexible, but in SCA, some of them are shaped like sickles or crescent moons.
- These sickle cells are rigid, sticky and prone to getting trapped in small blood vessels, blocking blood flow and causing pain, tissue damage and organ failure.
- It not only causes anaemia but also pain crises, reduced growth, and affects many organs like lungs, heart, kidneys, eyes, bones and the brain.
- It is more common in the tribal population of India but occurs in non-tribals too.
Source: Times of India
Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (Arunachal Pradesh)
Tags: General Studies –3 Economy, Infrastructure
Why in news?
Recently, The Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project, a 2,000 Mega Watt project located in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, has achieved the construction of the dam to the top level of Elevation Level 210 M.
- Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (gravity dam) the biggest hydroelectric project undertaken in India so far and is a run of river scheme on river Subansiri.
- A run-of-river dam is one in which the flow of water in the river downstream of the dam is the same as the flow of water upstream of the dam.
- The construction of SLHEP is being undertaken by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) Limited.
- The Subansiri River or “Gold River” is a trans-Himalayan River and a largest tributary of the Brahmaputra River that flows through Tibet’s Lhuntse County in the Shannan Prefecture, and the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
Source: PIB Gov.
National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) (Lothal, Gujarat)
Tags: General Studies –1 Ancient Indian History
Why in news?
Recently, the government has announced the development of a National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) in Lothal, Gujarat under the Sagarmala program.
- The NMHC is being constructed at the historic Indus Valley civilization region of Lothal, Gujarat, under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW).
- Its primary objective is to showcase the maritime heritage of India from ancient to modern times, utilizing an edutainment approach and incorporating the latest technology.
- It will include world’s highest light house museum, world’s largest open aquatic gallery, India’s largest naval museum.
- It is funded by MoPSW and Ministry of Culture through National Culture Fund by way of grant.
- Unique Features of NMHC: Includes Lothal Mini Recreation; Four theme parks: Memorial, Maritime and Navy, Climate, and Adventure and Amusement; Coastal States Pavilion.
Oman’s Duqm port
Tags: General Studies –1 Geography
Why in news?
Recently, National Security Advisor visited the strategic Port of Duqm where Muscat has given access to the Indian Navy to facilitate its presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Duqm port is located in southern Oman on the Arabian Sea and around 500 kilometres from the Strait of Hormuz.
- The port sits on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean and is strategically important for India’s maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean.
- It offers India access to the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea.
- This location is significant as it allows India to counter China’s expanding presence in the region.
Source: Economic Times
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