Daily Current Affairs 11-03-2024

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    Syllabus: GS2/International Bodies

    • India has presented a detailed model on behalf of the G4 nations for Security Council reform.
    • India presented the ‘G4 model’ on behalf of Brazil, Germany, Japan and India for debate, dialogue and finally negotiations.
      • The proposals elicited strong support from wider UN members.
    • New Members: It proposes that the Security Council’s membership increase from the current 15 to 25-26, by adding six permanent and four or five non-permanent members.
    • Regional Representation: Among the six new permanent members, two each are proposed to be from African states and Asia Pacific states, one from Latin American and Caribbean states; and one from Western European and Other states.
    • Flexibility in Veto: The G4 model offered flexibility on the veto, while the new permanent members would, as a principle, have the same responsibilities and obligations as current permanent members, they shall not exercise the veto until a decision on the matter has been taken during a review.
    • Permanent Members are not Specified: G4 model does not specify which member states will occupy the new permanent seats.
      • This decision will be made by the General Assembly in a democratic and inclusive election.
    • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for maintaining international peace and security. 
    • It was established in 1945 as part of the UN Charter and is composed of 15 member states, including five permanent members with veto power—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
    • It is headquartered in New York City.
    • Current Composition: The current composition of the Security Council has under-representation and un-representation of key regions.
    • Inability to Adress Conflicts: The current composition of the council has an inability to address critical conflicts and maintain international peace and security.
    • Changes in World Order: The world has undergone a sea change since 1945 and the new realities need to be reflected in the permanent membership.
      • Any proposal that does not address the issue of representation of the Global South, including Africa, Asia and Latin America, in the permanent category does a grave injustice to the aspirations of developing countries for equality.
    • Veto Power: Currently, only the five permanent members hold veto powers and through its use have stalled action in the Council to address global challenges and conflicts such as in Ukraine and Gaza.
      • The remaining 10 nations in the Council are elected to sit as non-permanent members for two-year terms and do not have veto powers.
    • Legitimacy: The disproportionate power held by the five permanent members, particularly their veto power, can lead to a perception of unfairness and lack of legitimacy.
    • Veto Power of Permanent Members: Any reforms to the composition or working methods of the UNSC require the approval of the five permanent members.
      • These countries have divergent interests and are reluctant to support changes that could diminish their influence within the Council.
    • Regional Dynamics: Regional rivalries and geopolitical tensions complicate efforts to reform the Council.
    • Complexity of the Reform Process: Amending the UN Charter to enact reforms requires a lengthy and complex process involving ratification by a significant number of member states, making it difficult to enact substantive reforms.
    • Chinese Opposition: China being a permanent member blocks the growth of India becoming a Permanent Member.
    • It is important that both the permanent and non-permanent membership be representative of the world as it is today, not the world as it existed in the wake of the Second World War.
    • Reforms in the UNSC are essential for maintaining its relevance, legitimacy, and effectiveness in addressing the complex security challenges facing the international community in the 21st century. 
    • However, achieving consensus on such reforms among the UN’s member states remains a challenging and ongoing process.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/ Economy

    • A study conducted by the People’s Association in Grassroots Action and Movements recently highlighted the plight of more than 10,000 Indian cab drivers, gig and platform workers.
    • Long working hours: Almost a third of app-based cab drivers work for over 14 hours a day, while more than 83% work more than 10 hours and 60% work over 12 hours.

    • Reflects caste equations: It noted that social disparities make the situation worse, with over 60% of the drivers from Scheduled Castes and Tribes working for over 14 hours a day, while only 16% from the unreserved category work such long hours.
    • Low pay: The study report says that over 43% of participants in the study earn less than ₹500 a day or ₹15,000 a month, after deducting all their costs.
      • The study found that 34% of app-based delivery persons earn less than ₹10,000 a month, while 78% of them are spending over 10 hours each day at work. 
    • Demographic trends: Out of 5302 cab drivers and 5028 delivery persons across eight cities participated in a 50-question survey, 78% of the respondents were in the age group of 21 to 40 years.
    • Risky business: Due to the demanding work hours, the study found that drivers are physically exhausted, and exposed to an increased risk of road traffic accidents, especially due to the ‘10-minute delivery at the doorstep’ policy of certain e-commerce platforms.
      • The report said that 86% of delivery persons found such policies “completely unacceptable”. The lack of social and job security creates additional stress and leads to potential health issues.
    • Expenses exceed earnings: While 72% of the cab drivers said that they face difficulty in managing expenses, 76% of the delivery persons are struggling to make their ends meet.
      • 68% of cab drivers’ responses even show that their overall expenses exceed their earnings, which indicate how a vast number of app-based workers could be in debt-like situations.
    • Huge deductions: 35% of the respondents reported the companies are deducting between 31-40% of commission rate per ride, while the officially claimed figure by the companies themselves is 20%. 
    • Customer misbehavior: Customer behaviour affects a significant majority (72%) of drivers in a negative way, while 68% of delivery persons are reportedly affected by it negatively,” the report said.
    • Inability to take leaves: It added that 41% of the drivers said they are unable to take even a single day off in a week; 48% of delivery persons too reported their inability to take a weekly off.
    • Issue of ID deactivation: A glaring 83% of the drivers reported that the issue of ID blocking affects them negatively, 47% stated that this issue extremely affects them. In the case of delivery persons, this percentage is even higher at 87%.
    • The gig economy is about individual workers carrying out tasks for clients through the intermediation of a platform attributing those tasks and taking care of the transfer of payment on a task-by-task basis.
    • Gig workers: NITI Aayog defines ‘gig workers’ as those engaged in work outside of the traditional employer-employee arrangement.
      • NITI Aayog’s report titled ‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy’ defines a gig worker as 
        • “someone who engages in income-earning activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship, as well as in the informal sector”
        • Additionally, it defines those working with platforms such as Ola, Uber, Dunzo, Swiggy, Zomato and Urban Company as platform workers.
    • The gig economy is based on temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform
    • The gig economy can benefit workers, businesses, and consumers by making work more adaptable to the needs of the moment and the demand for flexible lifestyles.
    • Time flexibility: Workers operating in the gig economy are allowed to work any of the hours they desire.
    • Income flexibility: It is an increasingly attractive market due to the sheer flexibility that allows individuals to earn extra income.
    • Size of the sector: As per the report, 47 percent of gig work currently is in medium-skilled jobs, 22 percent in high-skilled, and about 31 percent in low-skilled jobs.
      • Drivers and sales persons accounted for more than 52 percent of the gig workers in 2019-20.
      • When workers are classified by industries, the report said that 26.6 lakh gig workers were involved in retail trade and sales in FY20, and about 13 lakh were in the transportation sector
      • Roughly 6.2 lakh persons were in manufacturing and another 6.3 lakh in the finance and insurance activities.
    • Social security measures: Authors of the study recommended stronger social security for app-based workers.
      • Social security measures are required like paid sick leave, health access and insurance, retirement/pension plans and other contingency benefits.
    • Oversight mechanism: They called on the government to exercise oversight on the fairness of algorithms and mechanisms used by platforms to monitor such workers.
    • Skilling: It is recommended that skill gaps be bridged by carrying out assessments periodically and partnering with platform businesses for onboarding skilled women and persons with disabilities.
      • It is also suggested to make aggregate data public to enable decision-making.
    • Women in the gig economy: Companies should carry out gender sensitization and accessibility awareness programmes for workers and their families, particularly to promote the rights of women and persons with disabilities
    • The gig economy is a growing trend, with many people attracted to the flexibility and freedom it offers. But an adequate regulatory mechanism in place is the need of hour.
    • The gig economy is here to stay, and for many, it offers a desirable work style with flexibility and autonomy. But it also comes with challenges like income insecurity and lack of benefits, which needs to be dealt with collectively by the government, private sector and civil society. 

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science and Technology

    • Inflection AI launched its latest Large Language Model (LLM) Inflection 2.5, which powers its friendly chatbot Pi personal assistant.
    • A large language model (LLM) is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that uses deep learning techniques and massively large data sets to understand, summarize, generate and predict new content.
    • Deep learning involves the probabilistic analysis of unstructured data, which eventually enables the deep learning model to recognize distinctions between pieces of content without human intervention.
    • It helps to understand how characters, words, and sentences function together. 
    • Pi is an AI chatbot with which one can have deep and meaningful conversations. The name Pi stands for personal intelligence.
    • Compared to ChatGPT, Pi is more humane and has been promoted as a chatbot that has a personality. 
    • Inflection-2.5 is an “upgraded model that is competitive with all the world’s leading LLMs like GPT-4 and Gemini.
    • With the new upgrade, Pi has now been endowed with world-class real-time web search capabilities to ensure that users get access to high-quality and up-to-date information in real-time.
    • Prevent cyber attack: LLMs have the ability to process large data sets collected throughout an enterprise network and can spot patterns that indicate a malicious cyber attack and generate an alert.
    • Natural Language Understanding (NLU): LLMs excel in understanding and interpreting human language. They can process and comprehend text in various languages, allowing for applications like sentiment analysis, named entity recognition, and text classification.
    • Text Generation: LLMs can generate coherent and contextually relevant text based on prompts provided by users. This capability is useful for tasks like content creation, story generation, and poetry writing.
    • Language Translation: LLMs can be used for machine translation tasks, where they translate text from one language to another while preserving context and meaning as much as possible.
    • Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: LLMs can power chatbots and virtual assistants that engage in natural language conversations with users to provide information, answer queries, or assist with tasks.
    • Medical and Healthcare Applications: LLMs can assist healthcare professionals by analyzing medical literature, answering medical queries, or even helping with patient consultations.
    • Content Moderation: LLMs can help identify and moderate inappropriate or harmful content on online platforms by analyzing text for offensive language, hate speech, or other problematic content.

    Challenges

    • Ethical Concerns: LLMs can perpetuate biases present in the data they are trained on, leading to biased outputs. 
    • Security Vulnerabilities: LLMs are susceptible to adversarial attacks, where malicious inputs are crafted to manipulate their outputs. Developing defenses against such attacks is crucial to ensure the security and reliability of LLMs in real-world applications.
    • Interpretability and Explainability: LLMs’ decision-making processes are often opaque, making it difficult to understand why they produce a particular output. Enhancing the interpretability and explainability of LLMs is essential for building trust and understanding their limitations.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Infrastructure

    • The government is planning to implement a highway toll collection system based on the global navigation satellite system.
    • GNSS refers to a constellation of satellites providing signals from space that transmit positioning and timing data to GNSS receivers. The receivers then use this data to determine location.
    • Examples of GNSS include Europe’s Galileo, the USA’s GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and China’s BeiDou.
    • The system will use an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system through cameras installed on highways and deduct tolls based on the distance traveled by a vehicle. 
    • The device monitors the movements while driving, accurately marking the entry and exit points on tolled segments. By analyzing travel distance, it computes the charges accordingly. 
    • This eliminates the uniformity of fixed tolls at booths, ensuring fairness for drivers traversing shorter distances.
    • The current system of FASTags facilitates the process of electronic payment at the toll plaza, which has a scanner. This allows the vehicle to pass through the plaza, without needing to stop. 
    • In the case of the GNSS-based system, the toll will be deducted based on the distance measured by ANPR technology, thereby making the toll plazas redundant.
    • Non-Compliance Detection: Without physical barriers, it becomes challenging to detect non-compliant vehicles. This includes vehicles without an On-Board Unit (OBU), deliberate switch-offs to avoid payment, or fraudulent activities like installing a car’s OBU on a truck to pay less toll.
    • Infrastructure Requirements: Setting up gantry-mounted Automatic Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems across highways is crucial for capturing violations and enforcing toll payments. 
    • Quality of License Plates: The success of ANPR systems depends on the quality of license plates. If license plates do not meet the required standards for accurate recognition, it will hinder the effectiveness of enforcement efforts.
    • Data Privacy and Security: GNSS-based toll systems involve the collection and processing of sensitive location data from vehicles. 
    • The aim of the technology is to provide users the benefit of paying toll only for the actual distance traveled on a highway, or pay-as-you-use.
    • To safeguard privacy the government has decided to use the GAGAN satellite system and not GPS, which is owned by the U.S., to ensure data security within the country. 
    • Also the coordinates of the entire length of the country’s national highways will be logged by the government with the help of digital image processing.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment, Conservation

    • Kerala has declared man-animal conflict a state-specific disaster.
    • There has been repeated deaths from animal attacks and rising anger over them.
    • At present, managing man-animal conflict is the responsibility of the forest department, which acts as per the Wild Life Protection Act. 
    • Once the issue is declared a state-specific disaster, the onus to deal with it shifts to the state disaster management authority, which is powered by the Disaster Management Act.
    • At the state level, the Chief Minister is the ex officio chairman of the body. 
    • In the districts, the district disaster management authority is headed by the district collector, who is also the executive magistrate.
    • Once an issue is declared a state-specific disaster or a national disaster, the disaster management authority can take quick decisions and actions overriding all other norms. 
    • Also, district collectors can directly intervene in their capacity as the chairman of the district disaster body.
    • In 2015, Odisha had declared snakebite a state-specific disaster. 
    • In 2020, Kerala declared Covid as a state specific disaster.
      • Besides, heat waves, sunburn and sunstroke have been declared so in 2019.
    • Human-wildlife conflict is when encounters between humans and wildlife lead to negative results, such as loss of property, livelihoods, and even life. 
    • Urbanisation & Development
    • Lack of Protected areas
    • Population explosion
    • Deforestation
    • Agricultural expansion
    • Climate change 
    • Invasive species
    • Increase in eco-tourism
    • Substantial increase in the population of prolific breeders like wild boars and peacocks.
    • Decline and potential eradication of species.
    • Financial losses and threats to health and safety, livelihoods, food security, and property.
    • Displacement and Forced Migration.
    • Increase in Road and railway accidents due to infrastructure development in forested areas.
    • Project Elephant: It was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to protect Elephants.
    • Wildlife Protection Act 1972: It lays down the rules and regulations for the conservation and protection of Animals in India.
    • Protected Areas and reserves: India has a network of 1014 Protected Areas including 106 National Parks, 573 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 115 Conservation Reserves and 220 Community Reserves. 
    • Project Tiger: It was launched by the Government of India in  1973, initially, the Project started with 9 tiger reserves, at present there are 54 tiger reserves in India.
    • Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE): It was established by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the tenth Conference of the Parties in 1997.
      • It measures the levels, trends and causes of elephant mortality, providing an information base to support international decision-making related to conservation of elephants in Asia and Africa. 
    • Operation Thunderbird: Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, coordinated Operation in India to fight against wildlife crime.
    • Plan Bee: It is adopted by the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) which is a unique method to keep elephants away from railway tracks and plans are afoot to implement it all over the country to save the lives of elephants.
    • Awareness: The communication and interaction between the forest department and the locals has to be improved so that they can be sensitized about the issues and animals.
    • Wildlife corridors: Corridors allow animals to freely move from one habitat patch to another without crossing human-caused barriers which can put animals, and potentially humans, in danger. 
    • Community Participation: Effective planning and implementation of such measures requires consideration of good principles in community led-conservation, in collaboration with the communities affected.
    • Increase in Protected areas: To conserve the animals and avoid any human-animal interaction more protected areas need to be developed by the Government.
    • Other measures: Includes barriers (fences, nets, trenches), guarding and early-warning systems, deterrents and repellents (sirens, lights, beehives), translocation (moving wildlife), compensation or insurance, providing risk-reducing alternatives, as well as managing tensions between stakeholders involved in these situations.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: Miscellaneous 

    • Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd (MPVL) is increasing its manufacturing capacity indelible ink to meet the surging demand in general elections. Also, Mysore Paints also exports indelible ink to more than 30 countries across the globe.
    • It is a semi-permanent ink or dye that is applied to the forefinger (usually) of voters during elections in order to prevent electoral fraud such as double voting. 
    • It often contains silver nitrate, which reacts with the skin and on exposure to light, forms a permanent dark mark. T
    • The ink works by penetrating the skin and staining it, making it difficult to wash off or remove with solvents.

    Source: TOI

    • The Union Home Minister & Minister of Cooperation recently inaugurated the National Cooperative Database.
    • The database is a web-based digital dashboard capturing information about over 8 lakh registered cooperative societies, involving more than 30 crore people.
      • A co-operative society is a voluntary association of individuals having common needs who join hands for the achievement of common economic interest. 
    • After the 1960s, the need was felt for coordination among the cooperative movements of every state under a national policy. 
    • The Government of India established the Agricultural Refinance Corporation in 1962 to provide long-term loans to cooperatives. In 1963, Parliament established the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC). 
    • All information pertaining to the Cooperative sector will now be available with just a click.
    • National database will identify gaps as to where we have a lesser number of Cooperatives and will help in expansion of the Cooperative sector.
    • Cooperative databases will act as an invaluable resource for policymakers, researchers and stakeholders.

    Source: PIB

    Syllabus: GS2/ Polity

    • Sudha Murty has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha by President Droupadi Murmu on International Women’s Day.
      • She is a renowned author, philanthropist, and former chairperson of Infosys Foundation and has made immense contributions to social work, education, and literature. She has also received Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
    • Currently, the Rajya Sabha has a strength of 245 members which represent States and Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry. Out of the total 245 members, 12 are directly nominated by the President who are veterans in the field of art, literature, sports, science etc. 
    • Based on population, each state is allocated a certain number of candidates in the Upper House. For instance, Uttar Pradesh has 31 Rajya Sabha seats while Goa has one. 
    • As per the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961, “Nominations to the Rajya Sabha” is allocated to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
    • Nominated members of the Rajya Sabha possess the same powers and privileges as elected MPs, allowing them to participate fully in House proceedings. However, they are unable to vote in the election of the President, though they retain the right to vote in the election of the Vice-President

    Source: TOI

    Syllabus: GS3/Defence; Science and Technology

    • Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared a project to design and develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
    • It is a fifth-generation fighter jet project, undertaken by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
    • It is envisaged as a 25-tonne twin-engine stealth aircraft with an internal weapons bay and Diverterless Supersonic Intake which has been developed in India for the first time.
    • It is intended to have an internal carriage of 1,500 kg of payload and 5,500 kg of external payload with 6,500 kg of internal fuel.
    • Currently, only a few countries like the United States, Russia, and China  have developed fifth-generation fighters.
    • Stealth that are designed to avoid detection by enemy radar.
    • Advanced Avionics that provide superior situational awareness and integrated sensor packages.
    • Superior Performance in terms of speed, range, and manoeuvrability.
    • Networked Data Fusion from a wide array of onboard and offboard sensors to create a unified picture of the battlefield.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Conservation of Environment

    • There are an estimated 7,396 golden langurs in India, the latest survey of the primate has revealed. 
    • Scientific Name: Trachypithecus geei
    • Native to: India and Bhutan.
    • Geographic Range: The geographic range of golden langurs is limited to Assam, India and neighboring Bhutan where they live year-round.
      • The area they inhabit is restricted to the region surrounded by four geographical landmarks: the foothills of Bhutan (north), Manas river (east), Sankosh river (west), and Brahmaputra river (south).
    • Habitat: Golden langurs occupy moist evergreen and tropical deciduous forests as well as some riverine areas and savannas in Assam and Bhutan.
      • They are very much dependent on trees, living in the upper canopy of sub-tropical forests in the south and in more temperate forests in the north.
    • Food Habits: Golden langurs are both folivores and frugivores. 
    • Unique features:
      • Golden langurs can be most easily recognized by the color of their fur, after which they are named. 
      • It has been noted that their fur changes colors according to the seasons. 
      • Males also tend to be slightly larger than females.
    • Conservation Status: 
      • IUCN Red List: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I 
    • Threats: The survey report underlined an unstable situation in the fragmented habitats of the golden langurs, particularly due to the absence of non-breeding all-male bands.
      • The primatologists highlighted the need for corridor linkage among the fragmented habitats through plantations and canopy bridges to offset potential threats the primates face from anthropogenic interactions.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: Miscellaneous

    • Recently, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the 96th Academy Awards.
    • These are the annual awards ceremony honouring outstanding creative and technical achievements in the film industry.
    • These have been recognizing excellence in cinematic achievements since 1929, covering various categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and many others.
    • The winners are awarded a golden statuette, officially called the ‘Academy Award of Merit’.
    • Oppenheimer: Best Picture; Best Actor (Cillian Murphy, in a leading role; Robert Downey Jr, in a supporting role); Best Directing (Christopher Nolan); Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; and the Best Original Score.
    • Poor Things: Best Actress (Emma Stone, in a leading role); Best costume design; Best makeup and hairstyling; and the Best production design.
    – Best Visual Effects: Godzilla Minus One– Best Actress in a supporting role: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers)
    – Best Sound: The Zone of Interest– Best Animated Feature Film: The Boy and the Heron
    – Best Live Action Short Film: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar– Best Adapted Screenplay: American Fiction
    – Best Animated Short Film: WAR IS OVER! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko– Best Original Screenplay: Anatomy of a Fall
    – Best Original Song: What Was I Made For? (Barbie)– Best Documentary Feature Film: 20 Days in Mariupol
    – Best International Feature Film: The Zone of Interest– Best Documentary Short Film: The Last Repair Shop

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    • The Centre has tweaked the new PM-Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojna (Prime Minister’s Rooftop Solar: Free Electricity Scheme).
    • From an initial plan to fully subsidise the installation of 1-3 KW solar systems in one crore households, the scheme will now only contribute up to 60% of the costs.
    • The major difference from previous versions of the scheme is a doubling of the subsidy on rooftop solar.
    • Aim: To provide free electricity to one crore households in India, who opt to install roof top solar electricity units.
      • The households will be able to get 300 units of electricity free every month. 
    • Subsidy: The scheme provides for a subsidy of 60% of the solar unit cost for systems up to 2 kW capacity and 40 percent of additional system cost for systems between 2 to 3 kW capacity. The subsidy has been capped at 3 kW capacity.
    • Eligibility: The applicant must be an Indian citizen.
      • Must own a house with a roof that is suitable for installing solar panels.  
      • The household must have a valid electricity connection.
      • The household must not have availed of any other subsidy for solar 

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/Infrastructure

    • Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the strategically-important Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • The Sela Tunnel, situated at an elevation of 13,000 feet, will be the world’s longest bi-lane tunnel at an elevation.
    • Executed by the Border Road Organisation (BRO), the project features two tunnels and a link road.
    • The tunnel has been made on the road connecting Assam’s Tezpur to Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang. 
    • The Sela Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass located on the border between the Tawang and West Kameng districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • The Pass is a sacred site in Tibetan Buddhism. 

    Source: Mint