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Daily Current Affairs

17-January-2024

1. Expert Committee Proposes Overhaul of Defence Decision-Making: Introduces Defence Technology Council and Revamps DRDO's Role

Topic: GS2 – Governance- Govt policies and interventions
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of restructuring of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which could have significant implications for the defense sector and national security..
Context:
  • The creation of the defensive Technology Council (DTC), a high-level organisation with the responsibility of determining the nation’s defence technology roadmap and supervising significant projects, has been suggested by a committee chaired by Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, the former principal scientific advisor.
  • The purpose of this council, which is to be led by the prime minister and comprise the vice presidents of the defence minister and national security advisor, is to expedite the decision-making process on defence initiatives.
  • ·       The Principal Scientific Advisor, military chiefs, academic institutions, and business representatives will be represented on the DTC executive committee, which will be presided over by the Chief of Defence Staff.
Vijay Raghavan Panel Review of DRDO:
  • Concerns regarding project delays at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) prompted the government-appointed Vijay Raghavan panel to submit its report.
  • Significant project delays and extensions requested by DRDO were noted in earlier reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence.
  • The Vijay Raghavan committee recommends that DRDO concentrate on its primary objective of research and development for defence, putting the private sector in charge of product management, production cycles, and productization.
Rethinking DRDO’s Role:
  • The committee suggests that talent both domestically and abroad be recruited for particular defence technologies, emphasising that DRDO should avoid pursuing pointless technological endeavours.
  • The Prime Minister’s Defence Technology Council is seen as essential to determining the appropriate parties for different defence technologies and guaranteeing effective decision-making.
Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation:
  • The committee suggests establishing the Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation as a distinct department under the Defence Ministry.
  • Under the direction of a technocrat, this department seeks to advance defence research and development among the academic and startup communities.
  • It will also house the Defence Tech Council secretariat, which brings together scientists from academia and the DRDO.
  • The department will take over the testing and certification labs, which are now handled by the DRDO, to help the DTC make decisions about the manufacturing of technologies.
Practice Question: Analyze the implications of the suggested creation of the Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation. How can these reforms contribute to strengthening India’s defense capabilities and addressing challenges in defense research and development? (200 words/12.5 m)

2. Empowering Agriculture: Every Fourth New Beneficiary Added to PM-Kisan Scheme in the Past Two Months is a Woman, Reveals Ministry Data

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture- Issues related to Direct & indirect farm subsidies 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of data on women beneficiaries
Context:
  • As part of the ongoing Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra (VBSY), the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has disclosed that women have accounted for one in four new beneficiaries enrolled to the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme in the last two months.
  • With its November 15, 2023 launch, VBSY seeks to reach beneficiary saturation through a number of government initiatives.
  • Tens of thousands of women were included in the PM-Kisan programme: 10,61,278 of the 40,50,375 beneficiaries added between November 15, 2023, and January 14, 2024 were women.
State-wise Breakdown and Notable Statistics:
  • The states that are most responsible for the rise in the number of female beneficiaries are Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Manipur.
  • With 1.69 lakh new women beneficiaries, Uttar Pradesh leads, followed by Manipur and Rajasthan.
  • Women surpassed men as new beneficiaries in Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, and Mizoram, with Meghalaya having the highest percentage at 68.96%.
Comparison with Previous Figures and Regional Disparities:
  • When comparing the current statistics to the VBSY launch date of November 15, 2023, it can be seen that the percentage of female beneficiaries is trending upward.
  • Women made up 22.64% of PM-Kisan beneficiaries at first, but that number has now increased to 26.20%.
  • There are significant geographical differences: the percentage of women beneficiaries in the North-East states (except from Assam and Tripura) is higher than the average for all of India.
PM-Kisan Scheme Overview:
  • Launched on February 24, 2019, the PM-Kisan plan gives qualified farmer households Rs 6,000 annually, paid in three equal installments via Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) every four months.
  • The number of beneficiaries under the system peaked in April–July 2022 at 47 crore, then it fell to 8.12 crore in August–November 2023.
  • An encouraging change in the direction of advancing gender parity in agricultural assistance programmes is the growing participation of female beneficiaries.
PYQ: Discuss the various economic and socio-cultural forces that are driving increasing feminization of agriculture in India. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2014)
Practice Question: Evaluate the significance of the recent data indicating that every fourth beneficiary added under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme over the past two months is a woman. Discuss the potential socio-economic impact of this gender-inclusive trend in agricultural support schemes. (250 words/15 m)

3. Declining Snowfall in Kashmir: Tourist Attractions Suffer, Agriculture at Risk, and Long-Term Environmental Impact Looms

Topic: GS1 – Geography- Climate Change 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of declining snowfall in Kashmir highlighting the environmental, economic, and agricultural consequences of this phenomenon 
Context:
  • The absence of snow in Gulmarg, one of Kashmir’s most popular winter tourist destinations, has caused a sharp decline in visitor numbers, which has had a detrimental effect on ski resorts.
  • 95,989 tourists, including 547 foreign visitors, visited Gulmarg in January 2023. However, preliminary data for January 2024 indicates a significant drop in tourist arrivals of at least 60%.
  • The local climate, winter crops, horticulture, and the surrounding economy are all impacted by this decline in addition to the tourism sector.
Overall Dry Winter in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh:
  • Although there is no doubt about Gulmarg’s lack of snow, the whole Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh region has had an exceptionally dry winter.
  • According to data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), there has been an 80% rainfall shortfall in December and a 100% deficit in January, indicating a notable lack of winter precipitation—typically in the form of snow.
  • This dry spell covers the entire region, not just the tourist spots.
Role of Western Disturbances and Climate Change:
  • Large rain-bearing wind systems that originate outside of Afghanistan and Iran are the main source of winter precipitation in the Himalayan region.
  • Nonetheless, less snowfall has been caused by the decreasing tendency in the frequency of Western Disturbance occurrences and rising temperatures, which are linked to climate change.
  • This year’s El Niño event, which is still going strong in the eastern Pacific Ocean, may also have some influence.
Impact on Agriculture and Water Supply
  • It is anticipated that the decrease in snowfall would have both immediate and long-term effects.
  • Possible short-term repercussions include early flowering and lower yields due to crop output reduction, agricultural dryness, and the possibility of forest fires.
  • Less snowfall could eventually have a severe effect on the production of hydroelectricity, hasten the melting of glaciers, and negatively impact the availability of drinking water due to insufficient groundwater recharge.
  • The lack of consistent moisture from winter snow poses problems for winter crops, particularly horticulture, which is important to the local economy.
Climate Change’s Direct Fallout
  • Experts attribute Kashmir’s decreasing snowfall directly to climate change.
  • Experts point out that this trend is influenced by rising temperatures, especially in higher elevation places.
  • The dry winters of 2022, 2018, and 2015 are mentioned as examples.
  • El Niño may make things worse this year by altering the global air circulation and causing precipitation shortfalls in the area.
Conclusion:
  • The consequences of decreased snowfall in Kashmir go beyond the travel and tourism industry; they also affect the local economy, agriculture, and water supplies.
  • Therefore, it is critical to address the intricate interactions between climate change and natural phenomena in the area. 
PYQ: Most of the unusual climatic happenings are explained as an outcome of the El-Nino effect. Do you agree? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2014)
Practice Question: Discuss the multifaceted repercussions of the declining snowfall in Kashmir, with a focus on its impact on tourism, agriculture, and the environment. (150 words/10 m)

4. Maharashtra police opens its first outpost in Maoist stronghold

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security – Role of external state and non-state actors.
UPSC relevance: Maharashtra police establish a vital outpost in Naxal-hit Gardewada, addressing security concerns and enhancing connectivity, crucial for aspirants’ understanding of regional challenges. 
Context:
  • Overcoming challenges, Maharashtra’s police set up a strategic outpost in Naxal-hit Gardewada, enhancing surveillance and connectivity in a historically isolated region with a Maoist presence since 1947.
What is this news about:
  • Over 600 police personnel in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli overcame landmines and dense jungles to establish a police outpost in the Naxal-hit Gardewada
  • The action aims to enhance surveillance and connectivity in a historically isolated region known for Maoist activities since 1947.
Red corridor in India
Geographical Location: The “Red Corridor” in India refers to a naxal-hit region that spans across several states in central and eastern India, including parts of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, and Maharashtra. This area is characterized by dense forests, tribal populations, and socio-economic disparities. Reasons for Naxalite Movement:
  • Social Injustice: The Naxalite movement originated in response to perceived socio-economic injustices, particularly the exploitation of tribal communities by landlords and industrial interests.
  • Land Alienation: Displacement of tribal communities due to development projects and land alienation has fueled discontent and resistance.
  • Government Neglect: Lack of effective governance, inadequate development, and poor infrastructure in these regions have contributed to the growth of discontent.
Way Forward:
  • Inclusive Development: Prioritize inclusive and sustainable development policies to address socio-economic disparities and reduce grievances.
  • Community Engagement: Involve local communities in decision-making processes and ensure their participation in development initiatives.
  • Security Measures: Strengthen intelligence and security operations to curb the activities of Naxalite groups and maintain law and order.
  • Dialogue and Conflict Resolution: Encourage peaceful dialogue between the government and Naxalite groups to address underlying issues and find lasting solutions.
  • Educational Initiatives: Promote education and skill development to empower local communities, reducing susceptibility to extremist ideologies.
PYQ: Naxalism is a social, economic and developmental issue manifesting as a violent internal security threat. In this context, discuss the emerging issues and suggest a multilayered strategy to tackle the menace of Naxalism. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Discuss the socio-economic factors contributing to the Naxalite movement in the ‘Red Corridor’ of India. Propose effective strategies for the government to address these issues and promote sustainable development in the affected regions. (250 words/15 m)

5. These PM-JANMAN beneficiaries make sure no one is left out

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable Sections – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections
UPSC relevance: PM-JANMAN addresses development and empowerment of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, crucial for inclusive governance and social justice.
Context:
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi releases funds for pucca houses under PM-JANMAN to uplift Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
Additional information on this news:
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the first instalment of funds for pucca houses under the Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM-JANMAN).
  • The PM-JANMAN campaign aims to provide basic facilities such as pucca houses, power, and water connections to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • The campaign, launched on November 15, focuses on 22,000 habitations where approximately 36 lakh people from PVTG communities reside.
  • The PVTGs are considered the most backward among the Scheduled Tribes.
  • The campaign also includes an information and education campaign to register inhabitants for basic documents such as Aadhaar, PM Jan Dhan cards, caste certificates, Kisan Samman Nidhi cards, etc.
  • The objective is to address the needs of the PVTGs and uplift their living conditions by providing essential facilities and promoting education and awareness.
Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM-JANMAN)
Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM-JANMAN) is a flagship program of the Government of India launched to improve the socio-economic conditions of tribal communities in India. The program focuses on 11 critical interventions, including:
  • Housing: Providing safe and secure housing to all tribal households.
  • Water and sanitation: Providing access to clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.
  • Education: Improving access to quality education for tribal children.
  • Healthcare: Providing access to affordable and quality healthcare for tribal communities.
  • Livelihood: Creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for tribal people.
  • Connectivity: Improving road and telecom connectivity in tribal areas.
  • Women empowerment: Promoting women empowerment and gender equality in tribal communities.
  • Protection of rights: Protecting the rights of tribal communities, including land rights, forest rights, and cultural rights.
The program is being implemented by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in collaboration with other ministries and departments of the government. The total outlay of the program is Rs. 24,104 crore (approximately $3.1 billion) for the period 2023-2026. The following are some of the key objectives of the PM-JANMAN program:
  • To reduce poverty and improve the living standards of tribal communities.
  • To promote education and healthcare among tribal people.
  • To create sustainable livelihood opportunities for tribal communities.
  • To protect the rights of tribal communities.
PYQ: Why are the tribals in India referred to as the Scheduled Tribes? Indicate the major provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India for their upliftment. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2016)

6. Tamil Nadu Governor revives ‘saffron’ controversy on Thiruvalluvar Day

Topic: GS1 – Indian History – Indian Art and Culture UPSC relevance: Thiruvalluvar controversy reflects cultural and political dimensions, testing understanding of regional dynamics and historical symbols.
Context:
  • Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi sparks controversy by paying tributes to Thiruvalluvar in saffron robes on Thiruvalluvar Day, describing him as a saint of the ‘Bharatiya Sanatan’ tradition.
More on this news:
  • Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi pays floral tributes to Thiruvalluvar in saffron robes on Thiruvalluvar Day.
  • Describes Thiruvalluvar as a saint of the ‘Bharatiya Sanatan’ tradition, sparking controversy.
  • Reactions include opposition to “saffronisation” and support for the Governor.
  • Chief Minister M.K. Stalin shares the official portrait of Thiruvalluvar in white robes, emphasizing social justice ideals.
  • Previous controversies in 2019 also saw attempts to associate Thiruvalluvar with saffron.
More about Thiruvalluvar
  • Thiruvalluvar was a Tamil poet and philosopher believed to have lived between 3rd and 1st century BCE in Tamil Nadu, India.
  • He is best known for his monumental work, “Thirukkural,” a classic Tamil literary work consisting of 1330 couplets divided into three sections: Aram (virtue), Porul (wealth), and Inbam (love).
  • Thirukkural covers a wide range of topics including ethics, governance, love, and everyday life, providing timeless wisdom and guidance.
  • His teachings emphasize virtues like righteousness, morality, and justice.
  • Thiruvalluvar is revered as a cultural icon in Tamil literature, and his contributions continue to influence Tamil culture and philosophy.
  • His teachings emphasize virtues like righteousness, morality, and justice.

7. What it will take to make science communication work for India

Topic: GS3 – Science and technology – Achievements of Indian S&T.
Crucial for UPSC as it assesses India’s scientific communication, societal awareness, and policy strategies in a global context.
Context:
  • The article discusses the effectiveness of science communication in India, contrasting the successful public engagement of the Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission with challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It emphasizes the need for improved education, integration with scientific processes, and a national strategy for effective communication.
Chandrayaan-3 Mission and COVID-19 Science Communication in India: A Comparative Analysis Chandrayaan-3 Mission Coverage: A Model of Effective Science Communication
  • Live Telecast Impact: Chandrayaan-3, ISRO’s lunar exploration mission, garnered widespread public interest with live telecasts of the soft-landing contributing to enhanced scientific understanding.
  • National Sentiment and Aspirational Intent: The space mission, characterized by a one-way relay of information, benefited from its inherent visual appeal, aspirational intent, and strong national sentiment.
COVID-19 Science Communication Challenges and Initiatives
  • Interdisciplinary Effort: Communication during the pandemic focused on a grim, evolving situation, necessitating interdisciplinary efforts to promote public compliance with pandemic habits like physical distancing, masking, and vaccination.
  • Lacunae Exposed: Despite initiatives, the pandemic revealed gaps in reliable communication, particularly concerning accurate data reporting, vaccine hesitancy, and predicting resurgence of infections.
Historical Development of State-Backed Science Communication in India
  • Post-Independence Initiatives: Policies and government-led programs since 1951, including the establishment of Publications & Information Directorate (PID) and Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, aimed at promoting scientific education and heritage.
  • Constitutional Mandate: The 42nd amendment in 1976 emphasized the duty of citizens to develop scientific temper, humanism, and a spirit of inquiry.
  • Establishment of NCSTC and Vigyan Prasar: The sixth Five Year Plan (1980-1985) led to the creation of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), and in 1989, Vigyan Prasar was set up for popularizing science.
Contemporary Landscape of Science Communication in India
  • CSIR-NIScPR Establishment: In 2021, the CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Policy Research (CSIR-NIScPR) was established, consolidating previous institutions.
  • Government Initiatives: National science funding agencies, research organizations, and universities actively engage in science communication through various mediums.
  • Closure of Vigyan Prasar: Despite achievements, Vigyan Prasar was closed in early 2023, revealing challenges and lacunae in sustaining science communication efforts.
Opportunities and Challenges in Contemporary Science Communication
  • Education and Training Gaps: Lack of formal education and training in science communication; opportunities for expanding degree programs at masters’ and doctoral levels to create a trained cadre of science communicators.
  • Integration with Scientific Process: Advocacy for making science communication an integral part of the scientific process, encouraging scientists to communicate effectively, with rewards for engagement and institutional outreach.
  • National Science Communication Strategy: Urgent need for a large-scale science communication strategy addressing national challenges, involving professionals from various fields, collaborating with government departments, and spanning diverse communication networks and demographic groups.
Conclusion and Future Directions
  • Reflective Evaluation: Emphasizes the need for a larger conversation on science communication training, practice, and strategy in India, with reflective and reflexive evaluation incorporated into initiatives.
  • Holistic Approach: Calls for a holistic approach that cuts across disciplines, ensuring effective communication of scientific solutions to address pressing national challenges.
PYQ: Scientific research in Indian universities is declining, because a career in science is not as attractive as our business operations, engineering or administration, and the universities are becoming consumer oriented. Critically comment. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2014)

8. What are light-emitting diodes and why are they prized as light sources?

Topic: GS3 – Science and technology – Effects of S&T in everyday life. Br> Crucial for UPSC as it assesses knowledge on semiconductor physics, LED technology, energy efficiency, and historical breakthroughs in science.
Context:
  • The article explains the significance of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), detailing the principles of diodes, the science behind LED color production, their historical development, advantages, and current innovations, emphasizing applications in various industries.
Diodes: The Basics
  • Definition: Diodes are electronic components with two terminals, anode and cathode, facilitating one-way current flow through a p-n junction.
  • P-N Junction: Formed by adjacent p-type (electron-deficient) and n-type (electron-rich) materials, allowing electrons to flow from n to p but not vice versa.
  • Anode and Cathode: Designated terminals for diode connections; current flows from anode to cathode.
LEDs: Light-Emitting Diodes
  • Diode Emission: LEDs are diodes emitting light through electroluminescence; electrons recombine with holes, releasing energy in the visible spectrum.
  • Band Gap: Defined energy gap in materials; LEDs utilize band gap energy for light emission during electron-hole recombination.
  • Material Engineering: Tailoring p-n junction materials achieves specific band gaps, enabling emission of visible light in desired colors.
LED Color Production
  • RGB Combination: LEDs produce primary colors (red, green, blue); combining these allows creation of a diverse range of colors on display boards.
  • Historical Challenges: Red and green LEDs developed earlier; blue LED invention posed challenges due to gallium nitride properties, resolved in the late 1980s.
Advantages of LEDs
  • Haitz’s Law: Similar to Moore’s Law, Haitz’s Law predicts decade-wise improvements, with LED cost per unit dropping 10x and light output increasing 20x every decade.
  • Efficiency: LEDs surpass incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps in efficiency, producing up to 300 lumens per watt compared to 16 lumens and 70 lumens, respectively.
  • Applications: Versatile applications in consumer electronics, industry, and household appliances, including smartphones, TV screens, signboards, and greenhouse lighting.
Current Innovations and Future Prospects
  • Color Variety: LEDs capable of producing diverse colors and emitting energy at different frequencies; potential applications include embedded skin LEDs.
  • Organic LEDs: Alternative emitting mechanism with increased light emission; ongoing research explores more efficient LEDs using perovskite materials.
PYQ: Give an account of the current status and the targets to be achieved pertaining to renewable energy sources in the country. Discuss in brief the importance of National Programme on Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2016)

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