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[Mission 2023] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 6 February 2023

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  1. Supreme Court income tax order on Sikkim, and the protests it has triggered

 

GS Paper2:

  1. The Supreme Court celebrates the 73rd anniversary of its establishment

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Is Govt. on track with fiscal deficit targets?
  2. Why have mangroves got a Budget push?
  3. Generative AI: What are the potential applications and ethical concerns?

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

  1. Andhra’s Guaranteed Pension Scheme model
  2. Quotes: On Sports
  3. Data point: Electorates in India

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. UNESCO to soon declare Visva-Bharati the world’s first living heritage university
  2. What is the North Star?
  3. Pradhan Mantri PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) Development Mission
  4. Large Exposure Framework (LEF) guidelines of RBI
  5. Sebi tweaks operational framework on credit rating agencies
  6. Set up a Russian financial firm in India
  7. Zero-draft of the pandemic treaty
  8. Scientists use outer space particles to examine the fortress wall of Xi’an city
  9. European Union unveils its ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’

 

Supreme Court income tax order on Sikkim, and the protests it has triggered

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Post-independence Consolidation and Reorganisation within the country

 

Source: IE

 

Direction: The article highlights Section 10(26AAA) of the IT Act 1961 and how it discriminates against women and outside Indians in Sikkim.

  

Context:

  • According to the CM of Sikkim, a review petition has been filed in the Supreme Court for rectification of the court’s observation on Sikkimese Nepalis.
  • Political parties in Sikkim have voiced opposition to the court’s finding that Sikkimese Nepalis are immigrants while granting income tax exemption (under Section 10(26AAA) of the IT Act 1961) to all long-term settlers regardless of ethnicity.

 

Section 10 (26AAA)

  • The objective behind the section is to reduce the taxpayer’s burden by providing exemptions.
  • This section describes the income that does not form a part of the total income while calculating the tax for an individual/ exempted income.
  • It was inserted into the IT Act 1961 by the Finance Act 2008 with retrospective effect from April 1, 1990, the date on which the IT Act was made applicable in Sikkim.
  • Before 1990, the Sikkim Income Tax Manual (SITM), promulgated by the Ruler of Sikkim or Chogya in 1948, was applicable.

 

Why was it challenged?

  • The petitioners challenged the –
    • Proviso (a condition) excluding Sikkimese women married to non-Sikkimese men from the benefit of tax exemption.
    • Explanation, which elaborated on the type of income falling under the category, along with a definition of ‘Sikkimese’
  • Under the Explanation to Section 10 (26AAA), the definition of ‘Sikkimese’ is confined to
    • Individuals whose name is recorded in the register maintained under the Sikkim Subjects Regulation 1961, immediately before the 26th day of April 1975;
    • Individuals whose names were included in the Register of Sikkim Subjects by virtue of Government of India Orders 1990 and 1991; and
    • Any individual whose name does not appear in the Register, but the name of such individual’s father/husband, etc., has been in the register.
  • The Association of the Old Settlers of Sikkim challenged the constitutional validity of the definition, as it excluded Indians (from tax exemption benefits) who settled in Sikkim before April 26, 1975 – the day Parliament approved the merger of Sikkim with India.

  

What is the SC’s ruling?

  • The benefit of tax exemption provided in Section 10 (26AAA) shall be extended to all Indian citizens domiciled in Sikkim on or before April 26, 1975.
  • The court struck down the provision excluding Sikkimese women as violative of Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • A woman is not a commodity and has an identity of her own that cannot be taken away by marriage.
    • This is in line with what the SC had earlier ruled in Sekar vs. Geetha & Ors (2009).

  

The court’s observations:

  • Under the Sikkim Income Tax Manual 1948, all persons engaged in business were subjected to tax irrespective of their origin.
  • Therefore, there was no difference made out between the original inhabitants of Sikkim (the Bhutia-Lepchas) and the persons of foreign origin who settled in Sikkim (Nepalis) or persons of Indian origin who had settled down in Sikkim generations back.
  • The judgement also recorded that the “Nepalese migrants”, were benefiting from Section 10(26AAA) of the IT Act 1961, while arbitrarily excluding settlers of Indian origin.

 

Insta Links:

How did Sikkim become a part of India?

The Supreme Court celebrates the 73rd anniversary of its establishment

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Indian Judiciary

 Source: IE 

Context: This year, the court is hosting the first-ever celebration of its anniversary with Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon as chief guest. The Supreme Court was established on January 28, 1950, two days after the Constitution.

 

A brief overview of India’s Supreme court:

The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial body in the country and was established in 1950 after India gained independence from British rule. It evolved from the Federal Court of India, which was established in 1937.

  

Most important judgements of SC:

Source: Live Mint 

 

How has the Supreme Court changed over the years?

  • The number of judges: The original Constitution envisaged a Supreme Courtwith a Chief Justice and 7 puisne judges – leaving it to Parliament to increase this number.
    • Currently, there are 32 judges(including the Chief Justice) (maximum possible strength is 34)
  • Sittings: In the early years, all the judges of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them.
    • As the number of cases has increased, the SC sit in smaller benches of two and three– coming together in larger benches of 5 and more only when required to do so.
  • Expansion of its jurisdiction: Over the years, the Supreme Court has expanded its jurisdiction, taking on an increasingly active role in public interest litigation and providing judicial remedies for a wide range of social and economic issues.

 

Significance of SC: 

  • Final appellate court
  • Defender of the Constitution: The Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Indian Constitution
  • Leader in the development of public interest litigation in India, allowing citizens to bring cases to the court to address issues of public concern.
  • Political Stability: It serves as a check on the power of the government and other institutions, helping to ensure political stability and the rule of law in the country
  • Defender of rights: It has also established itself as a defender of the rights of marginalized groups, including women, children, and religious and ethnic minorities.

 

Limitations of SC: Case backlog, shortage of judges, staff, and funding, Political pressure, and Difficulty in enforcing judgments.

Top of Form

  

Conclusion:

Today, the Supreme Court of India continues to play a vital role in the development of Indian law and the protection of human rights. It remains one of the most respected and influential courts in the world.

 

Insta Links

 

Mains Links

Q. Supreme Court of India has been at the centre of the evolution of environmental jurisprudence in India. Discuss with the help of important case laws. (10M)

 

Prelims Links

With reference to Indian Judiciary, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2021)

  1. Any retired judge of the Supreme Court of India can be called back to sit and act as a Supreme Court judge by the Chief Justice of India with the prior permission of the President of India.
  2. A High Court in India has the power to review its own judgement as the Supreme Court does.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a)    1 Only

(b)    2 Only

(c)    Both 1 and 2

(d)    Neither 1 nor 2

 

Answer: C

Is Govt. on track with fiscal deficit targets?

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Government Budgeting

 

Source: TH 

Direction: The article highlights how the Union Budget 2023-24 has tried to achieve fiscal consolidation on one hand and economic recovery on another.

  

Context:

  • In the Union Budget for 2023-24, the Finance Minister chose the path of relative fiscal prudence and projected a decline in fiscal deficit to 5.9% of GDP in FY24, compared with 6.4% in FY23.
  • The government is planning to continue on the path of fiscal consolidation (reducing deficits) and reach a fiscal deficit below 4.5% by 2025-26.

 

The Union Budget 2023-24:

 Different deficits:

  • The fiscal deficit (FD) is pegged at 5.9% of GDP in FY24, down from 6.4% in 2022-23 (Revised Estimates – RE) and 6.7% in 2021-22 (actual).
    • To finance the FD in 2023-24, the net market borrowings from dated securities are estimated at ₹11.8 lakh crore.
    • The balance financing is expected to come from small savings and other sources and gross market borrowings are estimated at ₹15.4 lakh crore.
    • It is also stated that the states will have to maintain a fiscal deficit of 3.5% of GSDP of which 0.5% will be tied to power sector reforms.
  • The revenue deficit is pegged at 2.9% of GDP, down from 4.1% of GDP in 2022-23 (RE).
  • The primary deficit is pegged at 2.3% of GDP, down from 3% of GDP in 2022-23 (RE).

 

External debt: India’s external debt is pegged at ₹22,118 crore of the total fiscal deficit of ₹17,86,816 crore in 2023-24 (Budget estimate – BE), which is approximately about 1%.

 

Fiscal consolidation – Lowering food, fertiliser and petroleum subsidies:

  • The food subsidy has been reduced to ₹1,97,350 crore (BE) (from ₹2,87,194 crore in 2022-23 (RE)).
  • The fertiliser subsidy has been reduced to ₹1,75,100 crore for FY24 (from ₹2,25,220 crore (RE)).
  • The petroleum subsidy has declined to ₹2,257 crore in 2023-24 (from ₹9,171 crore (RE)).
  • The rationalisation of subsidies is important so that the government can move towards reaching a fiscal deficit target of 4.5% by 2025-26.

 

What needs to be done for reviving growth?

  • Inflation targeting alone is not sufficient: Given the supply-side shocks, the RBI’s interest rate management through inflation targeting is insufficient to successfully control inflation.
    • Also, a high-interest rate regime can hurt the economic growth process.
    • Therefore, fiscal policy measures are crucial to tackling mounting inflation.
  • Fiscal policy needs to remain “accommodative”:
    • This will go along with a focus on gross capital formation in the economy with enhanced capital spending, especially infrastructure investment.
    • In Budget 23-24, capital spending is expected to rise to 3.3% of GDP.
    • Infrastructure investment has a larger multiplier effect on economic growth and employment.
    • The interest-free loan of ₹1.3 lakh crore for 50 years provided to States should help them spend and boost growth.
  • Policy coordination: Between RBI and the govt. is crucial for a sustained growth recovery process.

 

Can the govt. stick to fiscal consolidation?

  • According to Moody, the ambitious goal to reduce the deficit to 4.5% of GDP by FY26 is unlikely to be met, even when ongoing-gradual fiscal consolidation helps to stabilise the government’s debt burden and protects credit quality.
  • According to Fitch Ratings, the slow fiscal consolidation process in the wake of the pandemic could leave public finances exposed in the event of further major economic shocks – geopolitical risks, mounting inflation, energy price volatility, etc.

 

What lies ahead?

  • The Finance Minister is focusing on economic growth recovery through capex, as the infrastructure investment will boost private investment.
  • In the fiscal deficit-GDP ratio, if the denominator GDP expands, it will reduce the overall fiscal deficit-GDP ratio.
  • So the government is trying to maintain a Goldilocks balance (whereby the economy is not expanding/contracting by too much) between fiscal consolidation (reducing deficits) and economic growth recovery.

  

Insta Links:

  

Mains Links:

Q. What were the reasons for the introduction of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, 2013? Discuss critically its salient features and their effectiveness. (UPSC 2013)

  

Prelims Links: (UPSC 2021)

With reference to the Indian economy, demand-pull inflation can be caused/increased by which of the following?

  1. Expansionary policies
  2. Fiscal stimulus
  3. Inflation-indexing wages
  4. Higher purchasing power
  5. Rising interest rates

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

    1. 1, 2 and 4 only
    2. 3, 4 and 5 only
    3. 1, 2, 3 and 5 only
    4. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

 

Ans: 1

Generative AI: What are the potential applications and ethical concerns?

GS Paper 3

 

Source: The Hindu, PIB

 Direction: We had already covered Generative AI previously; the points given here are only the unique points that we didn’t cover previously.

  

What is Generative AI:

  • Generative Artificial Intelligence refers to the capability of artificial intelligence-enabled machines to use existing text, audio files, or images to create new content.
  • The software uses complex machine learning models to predict the next word based on previous word sequences, or the next image based on words describing previous images. “Large language model” – LLMs began at Google Brain in 2017, where they were initially used for the translation of words while preserving context.
  • Since then, large language and text-to-image models have proliferated at leading tech firms including Google (BERT and LaMDA), Facebook (OPT-175B, BlenderBot), and OpenAI, a nonprofit in which Microsoft is the dominant investor (GPT-3 for text, DALL-E2 for images, and Whisper for speech).

  

Benefits of Generative AI:

  • Automated content generation
  • Improved content quality
  • Increased content variety
  • Personalized content

  

Generative Adversarial Network:

A generative adversarial network (GAN) is a machine learning (ML) model in which two neural networks compete with each other to become more accurate in their predictions. GANs typically run unsupervised and use a cooperative zero-sum game framework to learn.

 

 

Ethical concerns associated with Generative AI:

  • Bias and Discrimination: AI models can perpetuate and amplify biases in their training data, leading to discriminatory outcomes and unjust decisions.
  • Responsibility and accountability
  • Privacy: Generative AI models have the potential to collect and generate vast amounts of personal data, which can raise privacy concerns.
  • Ownership and control
  • Fairness and transparency: AI models can make decisions that lack transparency and fairness.
  • Job displacement
  • Misuse: AI models can be used for malicious purposes, such as creating fake news or deep fakes, or spreading hate speech.
  • Top of Form

 

Indian Initiatives for Generative AI:

 

Insta Links:

Generative AI

A New Global Standard for AI Ethics

Why have mangroves got a Budget push?

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Environment – Unique Ecosystem, Geography

 

Source: The Hindu

 Context: The Union Budget for 2023-24 announced an initiative for mangrove plantation along the coastline and on saltpan lands, under MISHTI (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes).

  

About Mangroves:

  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant plant communities found in tropical and subtropical intertidal regions. They are important refuges of coastal biodiversity and act as bio-shields against extreme climatic events. 
  • They are located in the intermediate zone between the land and the sea and represent one of the best examples of ecotone.

 

Threats to mangroves:

  • Deforestation: Agriculture and aquaculture, urban development, and harvestinghave caused the loss of more than a quarter of mangrove forests.
  • Land reclamation for agriculture and industrial activities has occurred in areas, which are under the Coastal Regulation Zone.
  • Increasing population in coastal areas

 

Mangroves in India

  • The ‘State of World Mangroves 2022’ report by the Global Mangrove Alliance puts the total mangrove cover of the world at 1,47,000 sq km (14.7 million hectares).
  • India has about 4,992 sq km (0.49 million hectares) of mangroves, according to the Indian State of Forest Report (IFSR) 2021.
  • Mangroves in India are distributed across nine States and three Union Territories with West Bengal having the highest mangrove cover of 2,114 sq km.
  • The IFSR report also points out that there has been an increase in the mangrove cover from 4,046 sq km in 1987 to 4,992 sq km in 2021.

 

About MISHTI Scheme:

  • MISHTI will be implemented through convergence between the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) Fund, and other sources.
  • Organizations that have been involved in mangrove plantations say that the initiative requires extensive work with local communities.

 

Insta Links:

 

 

Prelims Link: UPSC 2011

The 2004 Tsunami made people realize that mangroves can serve as a reliable safety hedge against coastal calamities. How do mangroves function as a safety hedge?

 

(a) The mangrove swamps separate the human settlements from the sea by a wide zone in which people neither live nor venture out.

(b) The mangroves provide both food and medicines which people are in need of after any natural disaster.

(c) The mangrove trees are tall with dense canopies and serve as an excellent shelter during a cyclone or Tsunami.

(d) The mangrove trees do not get uprooted by storms and tides because of their extensive roots.

 

Solution : D

 

Mains Link: UPSC 2019

Discuss the causes of the depletion of mangroves and explain their importance in maintaining coastal ecology.

 

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)


Andhra’s Guaranteed Pension Scheme model

 

Direction: For details about the Old and New Pension scheme: Click here

 

The issue with the New Pension Scheme: Employees who joined service post January 2004, and are part of the New Pension System have their contributions defined, but benefits depend on the market.

  • On the other hand, the old pension scheme is fiscally unsustainable

 

In the Andhra Pradesh model: This model is it combines the elements of both the OPS (defined benefit) and the NPS (defined contribution). It gives two options to employees:

  • Option 1: Employees can get a guaranteed pension of 33 per cent of their last drawn salary if they contribute 10 per cent of their basic salary every month which is matched by a 10 per cent contribution by the state government.
  • Option 2: Employees can get a guaranteed pension of 40 per cent of their last drawn salary if they are willing to contribute a higher 14 per cent of their salary every month, which will be matched by a 14 per cent government contribution.

 

Usage: This can be used as an example in governance questions to give a solution to the Old Pension Vs New Pension debate

 

Quotes: On Sports:

  • “Sports is finally being viewed from the athletes’ perspective and not from the government’s”
  • “Sports is not just a genre, but an industry”

 

Initiatives in Sports: TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme); Sports Budget (tripled in last 7 years); Khelo India campaign; National Sports Development Fund; Mission Olympics 2024; Fit India Movement

 

Data point: Electorates in India

India has witnessed a nearly six-fold increase in the total number of voters since 1951 to over 94.50 crores this year

  • In the last Lok Sabha polls voter turnout was over 67 per cent – the highest ever, as well as the highest ever participation by women voters
  • Missing Voters (almost 33%): Mostly people from urban areas, youth and migrants
  • In 1951, India had 17.32 crore registered electors and nearly 45% had turned up to exercise their franchise.

 


Facts for Prelims (FFP)


UNESCO to soon declare Visva-Bharati the world’s first living heritage university

 Source: Indian Express 

Context: Founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921, Visva-Bharati University will soon get the ‘heritage’ tag from UNESCO to take the distinction of world’s first living heritage university.

  • Normally heritage tag is given to a dead monument. For the first time in the world, a living university, which is functioning, is going to get the heritage tag from UNESCO. 

About Visva Bharati University:

  • When founded in 1921 it was named after Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore until the Visva-Bharati Society was registered as an organization in May 1922.
  • In 1922, Visva-Bharati was inaugurated as a Centre for Culture with an exploration into the arts, language, humanities, and music and these are reflected in diverse institutes that continue in their educational programmes.
  • The structures in these institutes constitute a myriad of architectural expressions: the Kalo Bari, a mud structure with coal tar finish and sculpture panels; Mastermoshai studio, a single-storied structure built for the first principal of Kala Bhavan, Nandalal Bose; murals and paintings on Cheena and Hindi Bhavan, created by the illustrious artists like Benodebehari Mukhopadhyay, Nandalal Bose, Surendranath Kar, Somnath Hore with the active involvement of students.

 

What is the North Star?

Source: Indian Express

 Context: Recently ‘North Star’ has been in news from the political context

What is North Star? 

Polaris, also known as the North Star or the Pole Star, is a very bright star (around 2500 times more luminous than our sun) placed less than 1° away from the north celestial pole.

  • Its position and brightness have made humans use it for navigation since late antiquity. It is a part of the constellation Ursa Minor and is around 323 light-years away from Earth.
  • Since Polaris lies nearly in a direct line with the Earth’s rotational axis “above” the North Pole, it stands almost motionless in the night sky, with all the stars of the northern sky appearing to rotate around it. This makes it an excellent fixed point from which to draw measurements for celestial navigation.

  

Does the Northern Star “change”?

The northern celestial pole changes over time. “If you picture a line connecting Earth’s North and South Poles as the axis around which Earth rotates, that axis is slowly moving in its own circle”. Over a period of around 26,000 years, the Earth’s axis completes one full rotation.

  • By the end of the 21st century, the celestial pole will move away from Polaris – humans will need to identify a new ‘North Star’

Meaning of parliament is the North Star of democracy”: It is the institution that guides democratic functioning, that dictates the direction a democracy takes.

  • Since it represents the ‘will of the people’, many political thinkers have always felt that as an institution, the parliament is the most fundamental in a democracy.
  • For CJI Chandrachud, North Star is the basic structure doctrine .

 

 

Pradhan Mantri PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) Development Mission

 Source: TOI 

Context: This mission was proposed in Budget 2023-24 to improve the socio-economic conditions of the PVTGs.

  • This will saturate PVTG families and habitations with basic facilities like safe housing, clean drinking water, improved access to education, health etc.
  • The launch of the PM PVTG Development Mission is a step towards addressing the challenges faced by PVTGs and improving their standard of living. 

  

Who are the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups 

The Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are a group of tribal community people in need of greater support and development. Out of the 705 Scheduled Tribes in India, 75 have been identified as PVTGs and are spread across 17 states and one Union Territory.

The government of India follows the following criteria for the identification of PVTGs

  • Pre-agricultural level of technology
  • Low level of literacy
  • Economic backwardness
  • A declining or stagnant population.

 

Large Exposure Framework (LEF) guidelines of RBI

 Source: HT 

Context: Reserve Bank of India has dismissed concerns about the “exposure” of Indian banks to the Gautam Adani-led conglomerate.

RBI’s observations:

  • The RBI has a Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC) database system where the banks report their exposure of ₹5 crores and above which is used for monitoring purposes.
  • The banking sector remains resilient and stable: Various parameters relating to capital adequacy, asset quality, liquidity, provision coverage and profitability are healthy.
  • Banks are also in compliance with the Large Exposure Framework (LEF) guidelines issued by the RBI

What are the Large Exposure Framework (LEF) guidelines?

LEF are guidelines aimed to monitor and limit losses of a bank from a client or corporation. It is based on the 2014 Basel guidelines.

  • An exception to LEF: Banks need not report exposure if the loans are taken from RBI, is guaranteed by the Government of India or have Intra-day interbank exposures or deposits are maintained by NABARD (due to shortfall in target for Priority sector Lending)

 

Sebi tweaks operational framework on credit rating agencies

 Source: ET 

Direction: The details of the circular are technical in nature and may be skipped. 

Context: Market regulator Sebi has made changes in its operational circular on credit rating agencies (CRAs).

  • Previously, SEBI had released an operational circular on CRAs, which was to come into effect on February 1 

SEBI regulation for CRAs:

  • At the time of withdrawal of any credit rating of securities that are listed on a stock exchange, the CRA would have to assign a rating to such security and issue a press release in a prescribed format
    • A Press release should also mention the reason for withdrawal.
  • MD or CEO of a CRA and any person within a CRA who has business responsibility would not be a member of rating committees of the agency.
  • CRAs should have a detailed policy by March end in respect of the non-submission of crucial information by the issuers.

 

About SEBI:

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (founded in 1988) is a statutory regulatory body for the securities and commodity market in India under the ownership of the Ministry of Finance.

 

SEBI Related news

Dos and don’ts relating to green debt securities to avoid occurrences of greenwashing

Source: SEBI

 

Context: SEBI has notified that issuers of green bonds shall:

  • Continuously monitor the environmental sustainability of the project
  • Shall not be involved in Greenwashing
  • Shall inform direct and indirect harms to the environment

 

  

What is a Green Bond?

A green bond is a debt security issued by an organization for the purpose of financing or refinancing projects that contribute positively to the environment and/or climate. A green bond is alternatively known as a climate bond.

 

Set up a Russian financial firm in India

Source: IE 

Context: Russia has flagged concerns over the lack of “progress” on the setting of a system to transact in local currencies and has proposed radical new initiatives to deepen financial co-operation

  • Previously, RBI allowed the opening of nine “Vostro” accountsin two Indian banks to facilitate overseas trade in the rupee with sanctions-hit Russia

 

Proposals:

  • An “India-based financial institution with Russian ownership” that would not be subject to third-party sanctions
  • An India-based specialised financial technology company that would enable Indian credit institutions to use Bank of Russia’s Financial Messaging System (SPFS) — the Russian financial messaging system which replaced the sanctioned SWIFT.

 

What is Russia’s Financial Messaging System (SPFS)?

SPFS is a Russian equivalent of the SWIFT financial transfer system, developed by the Central Bank of Russia. The system has been in development since 2014.

 

What is SWIFT? Read HERE

 

Zero-draft of the pandemic treaty

Source: DTE

 Context: WHO’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) published a ‘zero-draft’ of the pandemic treaty on February 1.

 

Significance: With this draft, negotiations will officially begin on what the final document, due to be presented at the World Health Assembly in 2024, will entail for global- and national-level pandemic preparedness.

 

What is Pandemic Treaty?

The International Treaty on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response or Pandemic Treaty is a proposed international agreement to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

  • Aim: To ensure better preparedness and equitable response for future pandemics, and to advance the principles of equity, solidarity and health for all

 

Scientists use outer space particles to examine the fortress wall of Xi’an city

 Source: Indian Express

 Context: Researchers are using muons to study the fortress wall of Xi’an, an ancient city in China. Muons have revealed small density anomalies, which may pose safety risks, within the wall.

  • Researchers deployed a technique called muon tomography or muography, which uses muons to generate three-dimensional images of such large structures.

 

What are muons?

Muons are subatomic particles raining from space. They are created when the particles in Earth’s atmosphere collide with cosmic rays — clusters of high-energy particles that move through space at just below the speed of light. According to Scientific American magazine, “about 10,000 muons reach every square meter of the Earth’s surface a minute”.

  

What is muon tomography or muography?

Muography is conceptually similar to X-ray but capable of scanning much larger and wider structures, owing to the penetration power of muons.

 

Applications of Muography:

  • Muons and archaeology: In 2017, modern archaeologists repeated the experiment with more sophisticated and advanced muon detectors and stumbled upon a major finding.
  • CORMIS (Cosmic Ray Muon Imaging System), to examine the wall of Xi’an city
  • It is used in customs security, internal imaging of volcanoes, and others

 

Related News:

Bengaluru outskirts have high levels of radioactive radon in groundwater’ according to the IISc study.

  • This radon emanates from radioactive granites. Radon when ingested over an extended period can increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Radon is found to be 50 to 100 times the permissible limit of 1 Bq per litre.

 

European Union unveils its ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’

Source: Indian Express

 Context: To support and expand its green industry, the European Union revealed the “Green Deal Industrial Plan” that aims to cut red tape and provide massive subsidies.

  

What is the ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’?

The proposal involves building a simpler regulatory framework, providing faster access to funds, enhancing skills, and improving the EU’s trade network. 

  • Simpler regulatory framework: The plan seeks to formulate a “Net-Zero Industry Act”, which will not only simplify rules but also speed up the issuance of permits for green projects, such as renewable energy generation arrays, carbon capture, and renewable hydrogen production facilities.
    • It also includes a “Critical Raw Materials Act”, which will provide access to materials like rare earth that are crucial for developing net-zero
  • Providing faster access to funds: According to the proposal, state aid rules will be loosened in order to help the EU’s 27 governments with investing in clean energy projects.
    • There is also a provision for setting up a “European Sovereignty Fund” in the future to “give a structural answer to the investment needs”.
  • Enhancing skills: The plan aims to establish “Net-Zero Industry Academies” that will provide up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries.
  • Improving the trade network: The plan underlines the importance of open trade and seeks to further “develop the EU’s network of Free Trade Agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners to support the green transition.”

 

Optional:

 

Agriculture:

 

Geography:

 

PSIR:


Sociology:

 

Economy:

State PSC:

 

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