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.
Towards Decarbonising Transport 2023
Tag: GS-3 Environment
Recently, NITI Aayog released the “Towards Decarbonising Transport 2023″ report to support global discussions on sustainable transport during India’s G20 presidency.
About Decarbonizing Transport
- Decarbonizing transport refers to the process of reducing or eliminating the carbon emissions associated with various modes of transportation, such as cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships, and airplanes.
- The transportation sector is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the combustion of fossil fuels like petrol and diesel. These emissions contribute to climate change and its associated environmental impacts.
- Decarbonizing transport involves transitioning from fossil fuel-based propulsion systems to cleaner and more sustainable alternatives.
- According to the report of NITI Aayog India still has no overall emissions or energy targets for the transport sector. India’s transport-sector emissions could increase by 65% by 2030 and 197% by 2050 (from 2020 levels).
Key strategies and technologies involved in decarbonization include:
- Electric Vehicles (EVs): EVs use electricity stored in batteries to power an electric motor, producing zero tailpipe emissions. As the electricity grid becomes cleaner (with more renewable energy sources), EVs can significantly reduce carbon emissions from transportation.
- Hybrid Vehicles: Hybrid vehicles combine internal combustion engines (typically gasoline) with electric propulsion systems. They use regenerative braking to charge the batteries and improve fuel efficiency, reducing emissions compared to traditional vehicles.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles: These vehicles use hydrogen gas to produce electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen, emitting only water vapor as a byproduct. Hydrogen can be produced from renewable sources, making fuel cell vehicles a potentially low-emission option.
- Biofuels: Biofuels are derived from renewable sources like crops, algae, or waste materials. They can replace or blend with traditional fossil fuels, reducing overall carbon emissions.
- Public Transportation and Active Modes: Expanding public transportation networks and encouraging walking and cycling can help reduce the reliance on private vehicles, which emit more carbon per passenger mile than mass transit options.
- Efficiency Improvements: Enhancing the efficiency of vehicles through lightweight materials, aerodynamic designs, and improved engine technologies can reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
- Policy Measures: Governments can implement policies such as emissions regulations, fuel efficiency standards, incentives for clean vehicle adoption, and carbon pricing to encourage the transition to low-carbon transportation.
- Infrastructure Development: Building charging stations for EVs, hydrogen refueling stations, and improving public transportation infrastructure supports the adoption of low-carbon transportation options.
- Autonomous and Shared Mobility: Self-driving and shared mobility services have the potential to optimize transportation systems, reducing the overall number of vehicles on the road and improving efficiency.
Recommendation of the NITI Aaayog Report
- Increase Reliance on Zero-Carbon Electricity: The transition towards using renewable energy sources for powering transport. For example: Installing more charging stations for electric vehicles and promoting the use of renewable energy in public transportation systems.
- Market Ramp-Up of Power-to-X Fuels: Develop and invest in the production of carbon-neutral alternatives for energy-dense fuels used in long-haul aviation and maritime shipping. For example: G20 countries collaborating to fund research and development of power-to-X fuel production techniques and facilities.
- Eliminate Fossil-Fuel Subsidies: Phase out subsidies that favour carbon-intensive transport modes, redirecting resources towards sustainable alternatives. For example: Ending subsidies on gasoline prices and reallocating the saved funds to improve public transportation infrastructure and support EV adoption.
- “Avoid, Shift, Improve” strategy: It focuses on three main actions: avoiding unnecessary trips, shifting to more sustainable modes of transport, and improving the energy efficiency of vehicles and transportation systems. For example: Many companies are adopting remote work options for their employee.
Paharis and Paddaris
Tag: GS-2 Welfare, Protection and Betterment of vulnerable sections
The government has brought a Bill to include four communities, namely, “Gadda Brahmin”, “Koli”, “Paddari Tribe”, and “Pahari Ethnic Group” in the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Jammu and Kashmir.
About the Paharis and Paddaris:
- Pahari Ethnic Group:
- The Pahari Ethnic Group includes Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, with some Kashmiri-origin settlers in Rajouri and Poonch districts.
- The Advisory Board for Development of Pahari Speaking People defined Paharis as all people living in Rajouri and Poonch except those who were STs.
- Paddari Tribes:
- They live in the remote Paddar area of the hilly Kishtwar district. The Paddari homeland borders Zanskar (Ladakh) in the north and the east, Pangi in Himachal Pradesh in the south, and the rest of J&K in the west.
- The 2011 census recorded the Paddari population at 21,548, comprising 83.6% Hindus, 9.5% Buddhists, and 6.8% Muslims. The people of the area speak the Paddari language.
Issue with proposed bill:
- The proposed bill has been opposed by Gujjars and Bakerwals, the dominant ST communities in J&K, who apprehend that inclusion of Paharis and Paddaris would lead to shrinking of their share of the quota benefits pie.
- The Gujjar-Bakerwal are the third largest group after Kashmiris and Dogras in J&K, with a population of almost 18 lakh. They were given ST status in 1991, along with the two smaller groups of Gaddis and Sippis.
- This entitled these four communities to 10% reservation in government jobs and admission to educational institutions. In 2019, they were empowered politically after the Centre announced a 10% quota for them in Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in J&K.
- The Gujjar-Bakerwal oppose their inclusion in the ST list on the argument that they do not constitute a single ethnic group and are a mix of individuals from different castes and religions who speak a particular language.
Schemes for Farmers’ Welfare
Tag: GS-2 Government Policies & Interventions; GS-3 Agriculture
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, informed the Lok Sabha about the five major schemes launched by the Government during the last four years, to address various aspects of agriculture and benefit farmers including small and marginal farmers.
About the Schemes:
- Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)
- The scheme is being implemented to provide income support to all landholding Farmers’ families to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs.
- The Scheme aims to provide a payment of Rs.6000/- per year, released in three 4-quarterly instalments of Rs.2000/ for the farmers’ families with cultivable land holding, subject to certain exclusions. Payment is done through DBT.
- Formation and Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)
- Government has launched the Central Sector Scheme (CSS) in 2020.
- Formation & promotion of FPOs are to be done through Implementing Agencies (IAs), which further engage Cluster Based Business Organizations (CBBOs) to form & provide professional handholding support to FPOs for a period of 5 years.
- It includes preparation and execution of business plans for the concerned FPOs for better marketing opportunities & market linkages on a sustainable basis.
- Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF)
- To address the existing infrastructure gaps and mobilise investment in agriculture infrastructure, Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infra Fund was launched under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
- The AIF is a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and credit guarantee support.
- National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP)
- A Centrally Sponsored Scheme namely, NMEO-OP was launched by GOI to promote oil palm cultivation for making the country AtmaNirbhar in edible oils with special focus on North-Eastern States and A&N Islands.
- The Mission will bring additional area of 6.5 lakh ha under Oil Palm plantation in next 5 years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
- National Beekeeping & Honey Mission (NBHM)
- A new Central Sector Scheme entitled NBHM was launched in 2020 under AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan for overall promotion and development of scientific beekeeping & to achieve the goal of “Sweet Revolution”.
China’s Stapled Visas
Tags: GS – 2: International Relations (India – China Relations)
Why in News:
Recently, India has withdrawn its eight-athlete wushu contingent from the Summer World University Games beginning in China after China issued stapled visas to three athletes from the team who belongs to Arunachal Pradesh.
- A stapled visa is an unstamped piece of paper attached to a passport with staples or a pin.
- This is different from a regular visa that is affixed to the passport by the issuing authority and stamped.
- The Chinese government began issuing ‘stapled visas’ to Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh in 2009.
- The stapled visas are considered valid by China, but India refuses to accept them as legitimate travel documents.
Why China issues Stapled Visas:
- Passports and visas reinforce the concept of a nation-state’s sovereignty. It ensures that its citizens can travel with legal protection across borders. China disputes India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh and challenges the legitimacy of the McMahon Line, the boundary between Tibet and British India, agreed upon in the Simla Convention of 1914.
- China claims approximately 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory, referring to it as “Zangnan” or “South Tibet” in Chinese maps.
- Issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir is part of China’s efforts to undermine India’s sovereignty over these regions.
Tags: GS – 3: Science & Technology (Biotechnology)
Why in News:
Scientists have been aware of such degraded fragments of nucleic acids in body fluids since 1948. But only in the last two decades or so, since genome sequencing technologies started to become more accessible, have they really figured out what to do with that knowledge.
Cell-free DNA (cfDNA):
- cfDNA refers to fragments of DNA that exist outside of cells, specifically in various body fluids.
- Scientists have been aware of cfDNA since 1948, but only in the last two decades have they figured out what to do with it.
- It is not enclosed within the cell like majority of DNA.
- These cfDNA fragments contain genetic information and can offer insights into a person’s health status, potential diseases, and genetic variations.
How cfDNA is produced:
- cfDNA is released into the extracellular environment under different circumstances, including cell death or other cellular processes.
- The degradation is influenced by multiple processes causing variations in the amount, size, and origin of cfDNA.
- The release of cfDNA could occur together with a variety of processes, including those required for normal development, those related to the development of certain cancers and those associated with several other diseases.
Applications of cfDNA:
- There are a number of emerging applications of cfDNA, including in understanding why a body is rejecting a transplanted organ. cfDNA obtained from the donor who is donating the organ – called donor-derived cfDNA (dd-cfDNA) – could provide an early yet accurate estimate of how well the organ is being taken up.
- In screening foetuses for specific chromosomal abnormalities, an application known as Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT). Analysis of cfDNA in maternal blood provides crucial information about the foetus’s genetic health.
- In the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancers. The ‘GEMINI‘ test uses cfDNA sequencing to detect lung cancer with high accuracy.
- Aiding in the diagnosis and monitoring of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, neuronal tumours, and stroke.
- Detection and management of conditions such as type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Tags: GS-II: International Relations
Australian Space Agency confirms space debris from ISRO Rocket on Australian Shore
About Space debris:
- The Australian Space Agency has recently confirmed that a space junk on its shore is most likely debris from an expended third-stage of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) operated by ISRO.
- Space debris consists of non-functional, abandoned, or defunct objects in Earth’s orbit including old satellites, spent rocket stages, fragments from collisions, and discarded spacecraft components.
- There are thousands of trackable space debris objects and millions of smaller, untraceable pieces which poses a significant threat to operational satellites and future space missions
- Collisions between space debris and operational satellites can create more debris in a cascading effect known as the Kessler syndrome.
- The Kessler syndrome could lead to a dense cloud of debris that could make certain orbits unusable for decades or even centuries.
- Falling space debris poses a threat to life and property being a threat to marine life and cause pollution.
- Space agencies and organizations track space debris to predict potential collisions and manoeuvre satellites to avoid them.
- Efforts are being made to mitigate space debris, including satellite deorbiting, designing satellites with less debris-generating components, and implementing guidelines for space activities.
- In this regard, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) plays a role in promoting space debris mitigation and cooperation among space-faring nations.
- Overall, International cooperation is essential to address the growing problem of space debris and ensure the sustainability of space activities.
Historical Compensation Case
- Most space-faring countries are signatories to the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.
- It makes launching countries “absolutely liable” for compensation in case of damage caused by their space objects on Earth or to a flight in air.
- The country where the debris falls can claim compensation if it has been damaged by the falling object which is determined based on international law and principles of justice and equity.
- The Convention resulted in compensation being paid once when Canada sought damages from the Soviet Union in 1978.
- The Soviet Union reportedly paid 3 million Canadian dollars in compensation for a satellite with radioactive substance falling into an uninhabited region in Canada.
Source: The Indian Express
Tags: GS-III: Science and Tech
Computer Emergency Response Team of India issues an alert for ransomware “Akira”
About Akira ransomware
- Akira ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts data on infected both Windows and Linux devices.
- It is named “Akira” due to its ability to modify filenames by appending them with the “.akira” extension.
- It uses VPN services to trick users into downloading malicious files and once data is encrypted, victims are forced to pay a ransom to get the decryption key.
- They operate an active leak site where they publish information about their victims and their recent data leaks.
- It is designed to delete Windows Shadow Volume copies on affected devices, making data recovery difficult.
- The ransomware terminates active Windows services to prevent interference during the encryption process.
- Victims are given a unique negotiation password to communicate with the ransomware gang through their Tor site.
- The ransomware spreads through spear-phishing emails with malicious attachments, drive-by-download attacks, and insecure Remote Desktop connections.
- It targets corporate networks in various domains, including education, finance, real estate, manufacturing, and consulting.
- To protect against Akira ransomware, users should maintain up-to-date offline backups, update OS and networks, enforce strong password policies, and use multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- Besides, implementing Domain-based Message Authentication, Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Sender policy for email validation can also help prevent email spoofing and spam.
- Overall, users should avoid clicking on suspicious links and conduct regular security audits of critical systems to avoid unforeseen ransomware incidences in their systems.
Source: The Hindu
Tags: General Studies –3 Science & Technology
Why in news?
Recently, Korean researchers claimed to have developed a superconductor named LK-99 that can operate at room temperature and ambient pressure.
- Superconductor LK-99 is a mix of powdered compounds of lead, oxygen, sulphur and phosphorus. When heated at very high temperatures, it forms a dark grey solid.
- A superconductor is a material that exhibits zero electrical resistance to the flow of electric current.
- Superconductors transmit electricity with almost 100% efficiency.
- The temperature of a superconductor, known as the critical temperature, is typically below 10 Kelvin (-263 degrees Celsius).
- Room temperature is 20-22°C. Superconductors at room temperature can cut the cost of electricity grids, computer chips, magnets for maglev trains, energy-storage devices and fusion reactors by saving electricity and money on coolants.
- Superconductors are essential for quantum computing, where quantum bits (qubits) process information simultaneously, providing immense computational power.
- Currently, physical qubits require super-cooling to avoid errors, but room-temperature superconductors could eliminate the need for elaborate cooling systems, making quantum computing more practical and accessible.
- Note: Conductors like copper, gold, silver and aluminium heat up because they resist electricity flow when it passes through them.
UNESCO heritage danger list
Tags: General Studies –1 Art & Culture, General Studies –3 Environment, Climate Change
Why in news?
Recently, experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have stated in a new report that the Italian city of Venice should be added to a list of world heritage sites in danger.
- Venice has been grappling for years with too many tourists and the effects of climate change.
- The city has been grappling with these issues for years, leading to deterioration and damage to its cultural and environmental attributes.
- Kyiv and Lviv in Ukraine are also recommended to be put on the danger list this year.
List of World Heritage in Danger:
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) compiles the list of World Heritage in Danger.
- The list highlights a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are threatened due to factors like armed conflict and war, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pollution, poaching, uncontrolled urbanisation and unchecked tourist development.
- UNESCO also sets certain guidelines and criteria under the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which decide, whether or not, a property is faced with specific and proven imminent danger or threat.
|It is specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). The constitution, which entered into force in 1946, called for the promotion of international collaboration in education, science, and culture. Parent Organisation – United Nations Economic and Social Council The primary goals of UNESCO are to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, and culture, and to promote sustainable development and intercultural dialogue. Permanent headquarters: Paris, France.|
Source: Down To Earth
Tags: General Studies –3 Conservation
Why in news?
Recently, India has successfully extracted lithium from the mineral concentrate on a laboratory scale.
- India has recently identified a comprehensive list of 30 critical minerals, including lithium, as part of its mineral security strategy.
- The country has demonstrated its capability to develop technologies for the beneficiation of lithium ore to lithium mineral concentrate.
- Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3.
- It is a soft and silvery-white metal.
- It is sometimes also referred to as ‘White gold’ due to its high demand for rechargeable batteries.
- Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in vacuum, inert atmosphere, or inert liquid such as purified kerosene or mineral oil.
- Major Global Lithium Reserves:
- Chile > Australia > and Argentina are the top countries with Li reserves.
- Lithium Triangle: Chile, Argentina, Bolivia.
Source: Hindu Business Line
Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF)
Tags: General Studies –3 Economy
Why in news?
Recently, The Minister stated that this is indicated by Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) in the Indian economy which has increased from Rs. 32.78 lakh crore (constant 2011-12 prices) in 2014-15 to Rs. 54.35 lakh crore in 2022-23 (Provisional Estimates).
- Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) refers to the total amount of investment made in the production of physical assets, such as buildings, machinery, equipment, and infrastructure, within a country during a specific period.
- It does not account for the consumption (depreciation) of fixed capital.
- It indicates the increase in the nation’s capital stock and productive capacity.
- Generally, the higher the capital formation of an economy, the faster an economy can grow its aggregate income.
- As per RBI, Gross capital formation refers to the ‘aggregate of gross additions to fixed assets (that is fixed capital formation) plus change in stocks during the counting period.’
- It is a component of expenditure approach to calculating Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- GFCF is not a measure of total investment, because only the value of net additions to fixed assets is measured, and all kinds of financial assets, as well as stocks of inventories and other operating costs are excluded.
Source: PIB Gov.
Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality
Tags: General Studies –3 Science & technology
Why in news?
Recently, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has rolled out an in-house Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) technology-based Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality.
- The Finger Minutiae Record–Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality is an Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning technology used by UIDAI to prevent fraud in Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS).
- It verifies the authenticity of fingerprints during authentication by combining finger minutiae (distinct ridge characteristics) and finger images.
- The modality’s primary function lies in assessing the liveness of the captured fingerprint.
- It can differentiate between a genuine, “live” finger and a cloned or fake fingerprint, thereby preventing spoofing attempts.
- FMR-FIR operates in real-time, providing instant verification results during the authentication process.
- This technology, specifically designed to enhance Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) transactions, aims to tackle fraudulent activities, including the misuse of cloned fingerprints.
- Need of FMR-FIR modality
- In FY2023, the total number of fraud cases in the banking system was 13,530. Of this, almost 49 per cent or 6,659 cases were in the digital payment – card/internet – category.
|The AePS is a bank-led model that allows online interoperable financial transactions at Point of Sale (PoS) or micro-ATMs through the Business Correspondent (BC) of any bank using the Aadhaar authentication. It was taken up by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) – a joint initiative of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). The AePS is meant to provide easy and secure access to banking services for the poor and marginalized sections of society, especially in rural and remote areas. It eliminates the need for OTPs, bank account details, and other financial information. Transactions can be carried out with only the bank name, Aadhaar number, and captured fingerprint during Aadhaar enrollment.|
Source: The Indian Express
Tags: General Studies –1 Geography
Why in news?
The Kuril Islands dispute between Russia and Japan has gained attention amid the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
- The Kuril Islands dispute, known as the Northern Territories dispute in Japan, is a territorial dispute between Japan and Russia over the ownership of the four southernmost Kuril Islands.
- The islands stretch approximately 1,300 km northeast from Hokkaido in Japan to Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean.
- Japan refers to them as Northern territories, Russia calls them the Kuril Islands and South Korea named them as Dokdo islands.
- The Kuril Islands are a volcanic archipelago (part of the Pacific Ring of Fire belt and have over 100 volcanoes) administered as part of the Sakhalin Oblast in the Russian Far East.
- Both Russia and Japan claim sovereignty over them though the islands have been under Russian control since the end of World War II.
- The Soviet Union had seized the islands at the end of World War II and by 1949 had expelled its Japanese residents.
- Tokyo claims that the disputed islands have been part of Japan since the early 19th century.
Source: The Indian Express
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