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[Mission 2023] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 6 June 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 3:

  1. Groundwater conservation in India
  2. Higgs boson decay
  3. Low-cost finance for the energy transition report
  4. Cybersecurity Challenges in India

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

  1. Creating Art from invasive plant Lantana
  2. ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ campaign

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. ‘Indian Opinion’ newspaper
  2. Shanan hydropower project
  3. Nyaya Vikas Portal
  4. Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON)
  5. UNRWA
  6. Govt bans 14 fixed-dose combination drugs
  7. Pet coke
  8. Dealing with deepfakes
  9. NHAI: ‘Sustainability Report for FY 2021-22’

 

Mapping

  1. Jhelum River (J&K)
  2. Dal Lake (J&K)

 


 

Groundwater conservation in India

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

 

Source: TH

 

Context: Since groundwater consumption and the variability of monsoon rainfall are the two main factors influencing groundwater storage, climate change might pose new challenges for groundwater sustainability in India.

 

Groundwater:

  • Groundwater is the water that seeps through rocks and soil and is stored beneath the ground. Aquifers are the rocks in which groundwater is stored.
  • The role of groundwater in human development becomes bigger in the face of water scarcity affecting about 2.7 billion people around the world.
  • Groundwater management is imperative to meet the UN-mandated SDG 6 of providing clean water and sanitation for all.

 

Groundwater situation in India:

  • Groundwater is India’s most used water resource, accounting for a quarter of total global groundwater extraction.
  • According to the 2021 CAG report, groundwater extraction in India has exceeded the recharge rate, threatening 80% of potable water over the next two decades.
  • About 95% of India’s groundwater was depleted between 2002 and 2022, mostly in north India due to increased groundwater pumping to meet crop irrigation needs.

 

Legal/constitutional/policy framework in India:

  • The Indian Easement Act, 1882: Does not establish groundwater ownership and rights clearly.
  • Article 21: The fundamental right to clean water is recognised under the right to life.
  • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA): It is established by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, to frame groundwater policies and programs.
  • Supreme Court:Public trust doctrine’ – Making groundwater a matter of private ownership would be unfair.
  • Govt schemes: Atal Bhujal Yojana, Jal Shakti Abhiyan, Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme, etc., are some of the initiatives for groundwater management.

 

Challenges:

  • Climate change (global warming will increase the frequency of hydroclimate extremes – floods and droughts) and unsustainable groundwater extraction.
    • The amount of rain (during the summer monsoon) will rise as the climate warms.
    • However, groundwater recovery may not be possible due to the expected rise in groundwater extraction for irrigation.
  • A warming climate will increase evapotranspiration – the process by which water moves from the land surface to the atmosphere via evaporation and transpiration.
  • The above factors will limit water availability for groundwater recovery.

 

Way ahead:

  • Restrict unsustainable groundwater use for irrigation, cracking down on illegal borewells.
  • Make irrigation more efficient to promote groundwater conservation.
  • Groundwater storage variations can be understood by satellite data [say, from NASA’s GRACE satellites] that help conservation efforts be planned appropriately.

 

Insta Links:

Groundwater exploitation and sinking land

Higgs boson decay

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology

 

Source: TH

 Context: Physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle-smasher at CERN, reported that they had detected a Higgs boson decaying into a Z boson particle and a photon which is a very rare decay process.

  

About Higgs Boson:

  • The Higgs boson is a subatomic particle that gives other particles mass. The strength of a particle’s interaction with the Higgs boson determines its mass.
  • For Example, Electrons have a certain mass, protons have more, and neutrons have slightly more than protons because of their interactions with the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson can also interact with other Higgs bosons, indicating its greater mass.

  

Need for understanding Higgs Boson:

  • The properties of the Higgs boson and how particles interact with it can provide insights into the universe.

 

Z boson and a photon:

  • Virtual particles are particles that briefly exist and cannot be directly detected but have lingering effects according to quantum field theory.
  • The creation of a Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) involves interactions with virtual particles, resulting in the production of a Z boson and a photon. Photons, which are particles of light, have no mass because they do not interact with the Higgs boson.

 

About the Standard Model of Particle Physics:

  • The Standard Model is a theory in physics that describes how the smallest particles in the universe behave and interact with each other.
  • According to the Standard Model, there are several types of particles. There are particles called quarks, which are the building blocks of protons and neutrons, and there are particles called leptons, which include electrons. These particles have different properties like mass and electric charge.
  • The theory explains how these particles interact with each other through different forces.
  • The Standard Model predicts the probabilities of different decay paths. The recent measurement confirms the decay of a Higgs boson into a Z boson and a photon, which was previously observed but now with increased statistical precision.

 

Insta Links:

W Boson

Low-cost finance for the energy transition report

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Infrastructure (Energy), Environment, Indigenisation of Technology and Developing New Technology

 

Source: IRENA

 

Context: The IRENA released the ‘Low-cost finance for the energy transition’ report.

 

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA):

  • It is an intergovernmental organization (an official UN observer, founded in 2009, HQ – Masdar City, Abu Dhabi) mandated to facilitate cooperation, advance knowledge, and promote the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy.
  • It is the first international organization to focus exclusively on renewable energy, addressing needs in both industrialized and developing countries.

Need for low-cost finance for the energy transition:

  • The energy transition is essential to achieve the 5°C climate target under the Paris Agreement.
  • Hence, for a sustained energy transition, it is essential to ensure that low-cost finance is available to both emerging markets and advanced economies.

 

Highlights of the report:

  • Success story: Renewable power generation technologies, notably solar photovoltaic and onshore wind power, have become mature and competitive.
  • Other technologies: Such as offshore wind, hydrogen electrolysers, energy storage and heat pumps, need to be deployed at faster speeds, and greater scales.

 

Recommendations:

  • policies to support industry innovation: Particularly during the early R&D (in enabling technologies, business models, market design and system operation) to foster commercially mature solutions with reduced costs.
  • Green hydrogen: To enable end-use technologies utilising hydrogen, as well as the expansion of infrastructure to harness this potential.
  • Investment in energy transition technologies: With a focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, electrification and enabling infrastructure – end-use electrification – to fully capture the benefit of renewable power.

 

Case of India:

  • The renewable energy sector:
    • It has seen unprecedented growth driven by national targets of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030.
    • India ranked third on the Renewable Energy Attractive Index in 2021, and its solar and wind power base is the fourth largest in the world.
  • IREDA’s role in India’s Energy Transition: The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) was established by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy as a renewable-energy-focussed non-bank finance corporation in 1987.
  • India Sovereign Green Bond Issuance: To mobilize private sector capital for sustainable development and lower the cost of capital for green projects by tapping into new investors.

 

Way ahead to ensure low-cost finance for the energy transition:

  • Blended capital needs to be urgently mobilised: From the domestic and international capital resources of the private and public sectors.
  • Domestic financial markets are critical: Since they provide diversified funding sources (corporate bond markets) to avoid currency risk and help mitigate macroeconomic shocks.
  • G20 members have a wealth of experience: In facilitating access to low-cost finance and can share valuable knowledge on innovative financing solutions to reduce the cost of capital.

 

Conclusion: Low-cost capital for financing energy transition projects could be possible through a deeper public-private collaboration on the journey to a net-zero future.

 

Insta Links:

India’s just energy transition is more than a coal story

 

Mains Links:

“Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is the sine qua non to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. Comment on the progress made in India in this regard. (UPSC 2018)

Cybersecurity Challenges in India

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Challenges to Internal Security, Basics of Cyber Security

 

Source: DSCI

 Context: The DSCI released a study called ‘Bridging the Gap: Identifying Challenges in Cybersecurity Skilling and Bridging the Divide.’

 

Data Security Council of India (DSCI):

  • It is a not-for-profit, industry body on data protection setup by NASSCOM in 2008.
  • It is committed to making cyberspace safe, secure and trusted by establishing best practices, standards and initiatives in cyber security and privacy.

 

The cybersecurity landscape in India:

  • Cybersecurity refers to every aspect of protecting an organisation and its employees and assets against cyber threats.
  • India, as a nation undergoing rapid digitisation across various sectors, is not immune to the increasing number and severity of cyber threats.
  • To address these challenges, stakeholders in the ecosystem have implemented several initiatives to promote Cybersecurity in the country.
  • These include –
    • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), set up by the Government of India, to provide guidance and support in the event of cyber incidents;
    • Programs like Cyber Shikshaa, implemented by Microsoft and DSCI, to skilled professionals in the Cybersecurity domain and to generate awareness among people.
  • Though the cybersecurity industry has gained significant importance and is expected to grow rapidly in India, there is still a deficit of skilled workforce to cater to the demands of the sector.

About the study: It aims to

  • Analyse the demand and supply of skilled cybersecurity professionals in India,
  • Identify technical and social factors contributing to the shortage of skilled professionals, and
  • Explore solutions to address these gaps through CSR and a multi-stakeholder approach.

  

Findings of the study:

 

 

The top three attacks:

  • That are expected to see substantial rise in the near future are phishing, smishing, and vishing attacks, followed by ransomware attacks and zero-day exploits.
  • Phishing scams trick users into divulging sensitive data, downloading malware, and exposing themselves or their organisations to cybercrime.
  • Smishing often involves sending bogus text messages – have a sense of urgency and request the recipient click on a link or reply with personal information.
  • Vishing (voice or VoIP phishing) uses voice and telephony technologies to trick targeted individuals into revealing sensitive data to unauthorised entities.
  • Zero-day attacks take place when hackers exploit the flaw before developers have a chance to address it.

 

Three major trends: That will catalyse the demand for Cybersecurity are –

  • Use of AI, ML and IoT by hackers resulting in increasing Cybersecurity attacks,
  • Growing regulatory liabilities and
  • Excessive usage of digital platforms resulting in exchange of large amounts of data.

 

Cybersecurity professionals:

  • Cybersecurity Risk Analyst, Cybersecurity Analyst, and Penetration Tester are the most prevalent job roles at present.
  • They constitute less than 5% of their company’s overall workforce.
  • 43% of corporations have women participation between 21%-40% of the overall Cybersecurity workforce.

 

Recommendations:

  • Need for organisations to perform risk assessments at regular intervals and have robust security measures.
  • There is a need for –
    • Multi-stakeholder collaboration to map industry-relevant skills, and design and deliver skilling programs as per industry standards.
    • Training providers/NGOs to promote the inclusion of diverse groups and formulate strong inclusive programs that can specifically cater for the needs of PwDs.
  • Corporates can play a pivotal role [through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)] by incorporating and sponsoring Cybersecurity certification (addressing the certification gaps) as a part of their skilling initiatives.

 

Insta Links:

Cybersecurity in India

 

Mains Links:

Keeping in view India’s internal security, analyse the impact of cross-border cyber-attacks. Also, discuss defensive measures against these sophisticated attacks. (UPSC 2021)

Creating Art from invasive plant Lantana

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

Source: DTE

In Tamil Nadu, Adivasi craftsmen create life-sized elephants from lantana, an invasive plant species in India’s forests. This initiative provides employment opportunities for the Adivasis, reduces the presence of lantana in the forest, and raises awareness about the coexistence of humans and wildlife.

 

The project involves making elephant replicas, exhibiting them globally, and auctioning them to generate funds for conservation efforts focused on human-wildlife coexistence.

 

The initiative also benefits from a peer-to-peer lending model provided by Rang De, an online micro-lending platform, to support the artisans financially.

 

 

 

Usage: Such innovative examples can be used in Indian Society/ Environment/ Sociology/ Anthropology (on Tribal) Questions to highlight a project combining art, conservation, and Tribal empowerment.

‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ campaign  

 

Source: TH

 Context: The Tourism department in Kerala has launched the ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ campaign to maintain the cleanliness and environmental integrity of the state’s beaches.

 

The initiative was introduced on World Environment Day as a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders from the tourism sector and local communities.

As part of the campaign, the local community is being trained to make paper bags and cloth bags as alternatives to plastics, which will not only contribute to environmental conservation but also generate income for the residents.

 

Usage: Such campaigns illustrate the need for local community participation in combating pollution. The example can be used in Environment/ Governance questions.

‘Indian Opinion’ newspaper

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

 Context: An exhibition was launched at the Phoenix Settlement to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Indian Opinion’ newspaper.

  

About the Newspaper:

The ‘Indian Opinion’ newspaper was started by Mahatma Gandhi (in 1903) during his time in South Africa as a young lawyer. It served as a mass communication mechanism for the Natal Indian Congress, fighting against oppressive laws of the government at the time. The newspaper was published in Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and English. The ‘Indian Opinion’ continued to be published by Gandhi’s son and wife after his return to India until its final edition in 1962 (banned due to censorship laws and the banning of political organizations by the apartheid government in South Africa)

  

About Phoenix Settlement

It was established by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa (in 1904). It served as a communal living experiment and a centre for his Satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) movement. The settlement aimed to promote self-sufficiency, equality, and education among the residents.

  

Other notable publications by Gandhi: 

Harijan (a weekly newspaper); Young India (a weekly journal); Navajivan (a Gujarati weekly newspaper); The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Gandhi’s autobiography); Satyagraha in South Africa (a book that chronicles Gandhi’s experiences and experiments with nonviolent resistance); Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (a book that explores Gandhi’s vision for India’s independence and self-governance)

Shanan hydropower project

Source: TH

 Context: Himachal Pradesh and Punjab are facing a potential conflict over the Shanan hydropower project.

What is Shanan hydropower project?

The Shanan hydropower project (on the Uhl River, a tributary of the Beas River ) is a 110 MW power project located in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh, India. It was commissioned in 1932 and is currently under the control of the Punjab Government.

 

What is the controversy?

The 99-year lease on the project is set to expire in March 2024, leading to a dispute between Himachal Pradesh and Punjab over its ownership and control. Himachal Pradesh has made it clear that it will not renew or extend the lease and wants the project to be handed over to the state. Punjab, on the other hand, is unwilling to part with the project and is prepared to pursue legal action to retain it.

Nyaya Vikas Portal

 

Source: PIB

 Context: The Nyaya Vikas Portal has been established to monitor the implementation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes, Nyay Vikas.

Features: The portal offers stakeholders seamless access to information related to funding, documentation, project monitoring, and approval.

 

About Nyaya Vikas Scheme:

The Department of Justice (under the Ministry of Law & Justice ) has been implementing the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for the Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Districts and Subordinate Judiciary since 1993-94. Under the Scheme,  central assistance is provided to the State Government / UT Administrations for the construction of court halls and residential units for Judicial Officers / Judges of District and Subordinate Courts.

Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON)

 

Source: TH 

Context: The Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) is completing its 1st phase.

 

About Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON):

DimensionDescription
Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) is a project initiated by the Kerala government to provide free Internet connections to 20 lakh below-poverty-line families and connect 30,000 government institutions in Kerala.
ObjectiveBridge the digital divide and ensure universal Internet access
Implementation KFON network is being set up by the Kerala government in collaboration with the Kerala State Electricity Board and the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd.
PlanEach household will receive 1.5 GB of data per day at 15 Mbps speed.
MonetizationWhile the Internet connections for BPL families and government institutions are provided for free, the rest of the network will be monetized, by leasing out a portion of the network for commercial purposes.
ControversiesAllegations of corruption and mismanagement, including inflated tender amounts and project delays
SignificanceKFON project has the potential to bring about positive changes in access, bridge the digital divide, and transform Kerala into Gigabit Economy and opportunities at the grassroots level in Kerala.
Kerala’s milestonesKerala has been declared India’s first fully e-governed state, implementing the e-office system and digital literacy campaigns; In 2019, Kerala announced that Internet connection would be a basic right in the State, becoming the first State in the country to do so
United NationIn 2016, United Nation passed a resolution recognising Internet access as a basic human right.

UNRWA

 

Source: UN

 Context:  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is facing a severe financial crisis and is on the verge of collapse.

 

Reason for underfunding:

Chronic underfunding over the past decade has left UNRWA with a $75 million shortfall, jeopardizing its essential programs in the Middle East. It has faced chronic underfunding due to a lack of sustained financial support from the international community.

About  UNRWA 

Established in 1949 (HQ:  Amman, Jordan and Gaza, Palestinian Authority), UNRWA provides aid and services to nearly six million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The agency relies heavily on voluntary contributions. The agency plays a vital role in providing education and hopes for the future to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugee children.

Govt bans 14 fixed-dose combination drugs

Facts For Prelims:

 Source: Firstpost

 

Context: The government has banned 14 fixed-dose combination drugs citing there is “no therapeutic justification” for these medicines and that they may involve “risk” to people.

  • The decision was taken on the basis of the recommendations of an expert committee and the Drugs Technical Advisory Board.
  • Prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of this FDC was done under section 26 A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, of 1940.

  

About Fixed Dose Combination drugs:

Fixed-Dose Combination (FDC) drugs are medications that contain two or more active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in a single formulation, to enhance therapeutic outcomes or simplify treatment regimens.

 

Example: Augmentin: contains amoxicillin (anti-bacterial drug) and clavulanic acid (enhances absorption of amoxicillin)

 

In 2016, the government announced the ban on the manufacture, sale and distribution of 344 drug combinations after an expert panel, set up at the behest of the Supreme Court had stated they were being sold to patients without scientific data and the order was challenged by the manufacturers in court.

  • The currently banned 14 FDCs are part of those 344 drug combinations.

 

Just read their names once as UPSC may ask these as terms used for – 

The combination drugs that have been banned include nimesulide and paracetamol dispersible tablets; chlorpheniramine maleate and codeine syrup; pholcodine, promethazine, amoxicillin and bromhexine and bromhexine dextromethorphan, ammonium chloride, menthol; paracetamol with bromhexine and phenylephrine, chlorpheniramine, guaiphenesin; and salbutamol and bromhexine.

Pet coke

 Source: Economic Times

  

Context: The government permitted the import of Needle pet coke for making graphite anode material for lithium-ion batteries as a feedstock and not for any other purposes.

  • Import of pet coke for fuel purposes is completely banned.

 

However, the sulphur content in the NPC should be less than 0.8 per cent, which would be monitored by state pollution control boards.

 

About Pet Coke:

Petroleum coke (pet coke) is a carbon-rich solid material derived from the final cracking process, a thermo-based chemical engineering process that splits long-chain hydrocarbons of petroleum into shorter chains. As the world’s largest consumer of pet coke, India imports over half its annual petcoke consumption, mainly from the USA.

 

About Needle Pet Coke:

Needle pet Coke differs from regular petroleum Coke in its unique physical and chemical properties. It is called “needle” coke because of its needle-like structure, which is formed during the refining process. This structure gives it certain advantageous properties that make it suitable for specific applications.

  • One of the primary uses of needle pet coke is in the production of graphite electrodes used in electric arc furnaces for steelmaking. The needle-like structure of NPC provides excellent electrical conductivity and high strength, making it ideal for manufacturing high-quality electrodes. These electrodes are crucial for the efficient melting and refining of steel.
  • Needle pet coke is also used in other applications that require high-performance carbon materials, such as in the production of lithium-ion batteries, aerospace components, and certain carbon products used in the chemical industry.

 

The harmful effect of Pet Coke:

Pet coke combustion emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. Pet Coke has a high carbon content and a low energy value compared to other fossil fuels.

NHAI: ‘Sustainability Report for FY 2021-22’

 

Source: PIB

 Context: National Highways Authority of India, has released its first ‘Sustainability Report for FY 2021-22’, showcasing its commitment to environmental sustainability.

NHAI initiatives for sustainability include: Using recycled materials in highway construction, including fly-ash and plastic waste; Creating over 100 wildlife crossings to protect wildlife and reduce human-animal conflicts; Undertaken extensive plantation drives, planting millions of saplings to offset vehicle emissions; Increasing employment of women and marginalized communities.

 

The Sustainability Report follows the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines and has been externally assured by a third party. NHAI’s sustainable practices aim to attract ‘Green Finance’ for infrastructure financing and ensure socially and environmentally responsible projects.

 

About NHAI

NHAI (est. 1988; HQ: New Delhi) is a statutory body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. It has been set up as a Central Authority to develop, maintain and manage the National Highways entrusted to it by the Government of India.

 

About the GRI initiative:

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an international US-based not-for-profit organisation, to enable all companies and organisations to report their economic, environmental, social and governance performance. GRI produces free Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

Jhelum River (J&K)

Mapping

Source: DTE

 Context: A recent study by researchers from the National Institute of Technology Srinagar has revealed an alarming level of microplastics in the Jhelum River in Kashmir, mainly attributed to unscientific municipal solid waste disposal sites.

 

Microplastics, measuring less than 5 millimetres, are particularly problematic as they can be ingested by riverine fauna and marine species, causing bioaccumulation.

 

About Jhelum River:

The river originates from a spring at Verinag. It initially flows northwards into Wular Lake, and then changes its course southwards. At Muzaffarabad, the river takes a sharp hairpin bend, turning southward. It serves as the boundary between India and Pakistan for a distance of 170 km and emerges at the Potwar Plateau near Mirpur. Finally, the river joins the Chenab River at Trimmu.

Dal Lake (J&K)

 

Source: TH

 Context: A study conducted by the Central Institute of Fisheries Education highlighted the detrimental impact of pollution on native fish species and breeding grounds in Dal Lake since 2007-08.

The study attributes the pollution to factors such as increased alkalinity, elevated pH levels, rising chloride content, reduced inflow of water and human activities such as sewage discharge and organic runoff.

 

About

Dal Lake is an urban lake located in Srinagar. Spanning 18 square km, it is part of a natural wetland that includes floating gardens known as “Raad” in Kashmiri. These gardens bloom with lotus flowers in July and August.

 

Read the CA in PDF format here: 

 


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