Daily Current Affairs – 16-05-2023

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    Permafrost

    Syllabus: GS1/ Physical Geography, GS 3/Environment 

    In News 

    • According to a new study, with rising global temperatures, thawing permafrost is likely to destabilise thousands of industrial sites and linked contaminated areas in the Arctic.

    What is Permafrost?

    • Permafrost is essentially any ground that stays frozen — 0 degree Celsius or lower — for at least two years straight. 
      • These permanently frozen grounds are often found in Arctic regions such as Greenland, Alaska (the United States), Canada, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
    • It is composed of “a combination of soil, rocks, and sand that are held together by ice. The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long.”
      •  However, although the ground remains perennially frozen, permafrost regions aren’t always covered with snow.

    Developments 

    • Countries and corporations began building infrastructure on the Arctic’s permafrost. 
    • The region witnessed a further expansion of industrial and economic development during the Cold War — it became a center for resource extraction and military activities.
      • This led to the accumulation of industrial and toxic waste on or in permafrost which was never removed.
    • The toxic waste from these industrial facilities has been buried in the permafrost, on the assumption that it would stay locked away permanently. 
      • But danger looms as the planet continues to heat up.
    • As Earth’s climate warms, the permafrost is thawing
      • That means the ice inside the permafrost melts, leaving behind water and soil.

    Consequences 

    • The Arctic is getting warmer nearly four times as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change.
    • Toxic substances would be unleashed across the region, threatening numerous species living there and the health of people who depend on them.
    • Thawing permafrost can severely impact the planet. One of its most dangerous consequences is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 
    • Moreover, “Plant matter frozen in permafrost doesn’t decay, but when permafrost thaws, microbes within the dead plant material start to break the matter down, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
    • Thawing permafrost would unleash thousands of dormant viruses and bacteria.

    Measures 

    • Because of dangers, scientists are closely monitoring Earth’s permafrost.
    • Scientists use satellite observations from space to look at large regions of permafrost that would be difficult to study from the ground.
    • NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive( SMAP)mission orbits Earth collecting information about moisture in the soil. 
      • SMAP’s measurements will help scientists understand where and how quickly the permafrost is thawing.

    Source: IE

    Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) & Mission DefSpace

    Syllabus: GS 3 / Security

    In News

    • Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) reached a milestone with the signing of its 250th contract – the first one under Mission DefSpace – and 100th SPRINT (Navy) contract in New Delhi in May 2023.

    Mission DefSpace

    • Background: Mission DefSpace was launched by the Prime Minister during DefExpo at Gandhinagar in October, 2022.
    • Objectives: It aims to nurture the Indian Private Space industry through challenges addressing every stage of a space mission – from mission planning to satellite data analytics.
    • Challenges: It was launched with 75 Defence Space Challenges relevant to the end users. The challenges are classified into five buckets viz. Launch System, Satellite System, Communication & Payload System, Ground System and Software System, provide a holistic 3600 overview of space.
    • Eligibility: Private Industries, including Start-ups, MSMEs and Individual Innovators, are eligible to apply. 

     

    CubeSats

    • The first iDEX contract of Mission DefSpace was exchanged for development of cubesats.
    • CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites, which are modular; low-cost; easy to manufacture, integrate, and launch; and form a critical component for launch-on-demand capabilities. 
    • CubeSats are built to standard dimensions (Units or “U”) of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. They can be 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in size, and typically weigh less than 1.33 kg (3 lbs) per U.

     

    SPRINT

    • The 100th SPRINT (Navy) contract was exchanged for the development of a lightweight ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) based communication system for satellite communication. 
    • Background: Under the ‘SPRINT’ initiative, a total of 75 Challenge statements for the Indian industry were unveiled by PM Modi during the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) seminar ‘Swavlamban’ In July 2022. 
    • Target: The initiative aims at inducting at least 75 technologies/products into the Indian Navy by August 2023 as part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

    Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)

    • Background: iDEX is the flagship initiative of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2018.
    • Objective: It aims to engage start-ups to contribute to the defence sector and develop defence and aerospace setup in the country.
    • Implementing agency: iDEX is being implemented by Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), established under the Department of Defence Production, MoD.

    Source: TH

    Forest Rights Act, 2006

    Syllabus: GS2/ Indian Polity & Constitution, GS3/Environment

    In News

    • Recently a two-day convention on forest rights was held in Delhi, where State governments and the Centre were condemned over the failure to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

    What is the Forest Rights Act, 2006?

    • Background
      • In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth from the nation to meet their economic needs. While procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed. 
      • As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity, a situation which continued even after independence as they were marginalized. 
      • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988. The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests. 
      • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.
    • Objective:
      • To undo the historical injustice occurred to the forest dwelling communities.
      • To ensure land tenure, livelihood and food security of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.
      • To strengthen the conservation regime of the forests by including the responsibilities and authority of Forest Rights holders for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance.
      • To empower and strengthen the local self governance.
    • Highlights of the Act:
      • Recognition of Rights: It recognizes the rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural needs.
        • The Act encompasses Rights of Self-cultivation and Habitation which are usually regarded as Individual rights; and Community Rights as Grazing, Fishing and access to Water bodies in forests, Habitat Rights for PVTGs, Traditional Seasonal Resource access of Nomadic and Pastoral community, access to biodiversity, community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge, recognition of traditional customary rights and right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use. 
      • Allocation of Forest Land: It also provides rights to allocation of forest land for developmental purposes to fulfil basic infrastructural needs of the community. In conjunction with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Settlement Act, 2013 FRA protects the tribal population from eviction without rehabilitation and settlement.
      • Role of Gram Sabha: The Act further enjoins upon the Gram Sabha and rights holders the responsibility of conservation and protection of biodiversity, wildlife, forests, adjoining catchment areas, water sources and other ecologically sensitive areas as well as to stop any destructive practices affecting these resources or cultural and natural heritage of the tribals. 
        • The Gram Sabha is also a highly empowered body under the Act, enabling the tribal population to have a decisive say in the determination of local policies and schemes impacting them.

    Significance

    • The Act empowers the forest dwellers to access and use the forest resources in the manner that they were traditionally accustomed, to protect, conserve and manage forests.
    • It protects forest dwellers from unlawful evictions and also provides for basic development facilities to access facilities of education, health, nutrition, infrastructure etc.
    • For the first time Forest Rights Act recognises and secures Community Rights or rights over common property resources of the communities in addition to their individual rights.
    • Right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity.
    • Rights of displaced communities.
    • Rights over developmental activities.

    Challenges in Implementation

    • Systemic issues: There is lack of coordination between the tribal, revenue and forest department on implementation of the Act. 
      • There are multiple laws that are in conflict with FRA and to operationalise FRA on the ground, changes in rules and other laws are important such as in case of ownership of minor forest produce. It requires change in the number of state laws, excise laws, Panchayat laws etc. 
    • Increased role of Gram Sabha: The other important issue with FRA is the lack of recognition of Community Forest Resource rights. There is a huge resistance from the forest department to recognize CFR Rights and sharing of power with Gram Sabha for conservation and management of forest resources. 
    • Rejection of claims: A large number of claims are being rejected; pending or limited rights are recognised. The area recognized has been drastically reduced from the area, which has been claimed without any proper reasons. 
      • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has written to State Governments that in case of rejection, reasons have to be communicated and chances of appeal to be given to claimants, which is hardly happening.

    Way Ahead

    • Process of Recognition of Rights: The State Governments should ensure that on receipt of intimation from the Forest Rights Committee, the officials of the Forest and Revenue Departments remain present during the verification of the claims and the evidence on the site.
      • Use of any technology, such as satellite imagery, should be used to supplement evidence tendered by a claimant for consideration of the claim and not to replace other evidence submitted by him in support of his claim as the only form of evidence.  
    • Minor Forest Produce(MFP): The monopoly of the Forest Corporations in the trade of MFP in many States, especially in case of high value MFP, such as, tendu patta, is against the spirit of the Act and should henceforth be done away with. 
    • Community Rights: The District Level Committee should ensure that the records of prior recorded other traditional community rights are provided to Gram Sabhas, and if claims are filed for recognition of such age-old rights, such claims are not rejected except for valid reasons.
    • Community Forest Resource Rights: The State Government should ensure that the forest rights relating to protection, regeneration or conservation or management of any community forest resource, which forest dwellers might have traditionally been protecting and conserving for sustainable use, are recognized in all villages and the titles are issued.
    • Awareness-Raising: Each State should prepare suitable communication and training material in local language for effective implementation of the Act.

    Source: TH

    What is a transformer, the ML model that powers ChatGPT?

    Syllabus: GS3/ Indian Economy & Related Issues, Science & Technology

    In Context

    • A new artificial intelligence technology, called Chat GPT, is sparking discussions in recent days.

    About the Chat GPT

    • About:
      • ChatGPT is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022.
      • Chat-GPT is a variant of the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) language model
      • OpenAI, in a revolutionary move, also created a user interface that is letting the general public experiment with it directly.
    • Core functions:
      • Like other language models, Chat-GPT is designed to generate human-like text based on the input it receives. 
      • It is trained on a large text dataset and can generate a wide range of responses to various prompts and questions.
      • This helps them mimic speech patterns while dispatching encyclopedic knowledge.
        • Basically, that means that it’s a computer program that can understand and “talk” to us in a way that’s very close to conversing with an actual human. 
        • A very clever and knowledgeable human at that, who knows around 175 billion pieces of information and is able to recall any of them almost instantly.
    • Other functions:
      • Although the core function of a chatbot is to mimic a human conversationalist, ChatGPT is versatile. 
      • For example, it can write and debug computer programs, to compose music, teleplays, fairy tales, and student essays; to answer test questions (sometimes, depending on the test, at a level above the average human test-taker).

    About ‘transformer’

    • The capital ‘T’ in ChatGPT, for example, stands for ‘transformer’.
    • A transformer is a two-part neural network. 
      • The first part is an ‘encoder’ that ingests the input sentence in the source language (e.g. English); 
      • The second part is a ‘decoder’ that generates the translated sentence in the target language (Hindi).
    • Functions:
      • Encoding:
        • The encoder converts each word in the source sentence to an abstract numerical form that captures the meaning of the word within the context of the sentence, and stores it in a memory bank. 
      • Decoding:
        • Just like a person would write or speak, the decoder generates one word at a time referring to what has been generated so far and by looking back at the memory bank to find the appropriate word. 
        • Both these processes use a mechanism called ‘attention’.
      • Computer vision:
        • Transformers have also become popular in computer vision. 
        • They simply cut an image into small square patches and line them up, just like words in a sentence. 
        • By doing so, and after training on large amounts of data, a transformer can provide better performance than convolutional neural networks (CNNs)
        • Today, transformer models constitute the best approach for image classification, object detection and segmentation, action recognition, and a host of other tasks.
    • Significance:
      • Transformers’ ability to ingest anything has been exploited to create joint vision-and-language models that allow users to search for an image (e.g. Google Image Search), describe one, and even answer questions regarding the image. 
      • In the last year, transformer models have become larger and train on more data than before. When these colossuses train on written text, they are called large language models (LLMs). 
        • ChatGPT uses hundreds of billions of parameters whereas GPT-4 uses hundreds of trillions.
      • While these models are trained on simple tasks, such as filling in the blanks or predicting the next word, they are very good at answering questions, creating stories, summarising documents, writing code, and even solving mathematical word problems in steps. Transformers are also the bedrock of generative models that create realistic images and audio. Their utility in diverse domains makes transformers a very powerful and universal model.
    • Concerns
      • The scientific community is yet to figure out how to evaluate these models rigorously. 
      • There are also instances of “hallucination”, whereby models make confident but wrong claims. 

    What is ‘attention’?

    • Attention in ML allows a model to learn how much importance should be given to different inputs. 
    • In the translation example, attention allows the model to select or weigh words from the memory bank when deciding which word to generate next. 
    • While describing an image, attention allows models to look at the relevant parts of the image when generating the next word.

    Machine learning

    • Machine learning (ML) is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows software applications to become more accurate at predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed to do so.
    • Machine learning algorithms use historical data as input to predict new output values.
    • Applications:
      • Recommendation engines are a common use case for machine learning.
      • Other popular uses include fraud detection, spam filtering, malware threat detection, business process automation (BPA) and Predictive maintenance.

    Way ahead

    • We must urgently address societal concerns, such as data privacy and attribution to creative work, that arise as a result of their use.
    • At the same time, given the tremendous progress, ongoing efforts to create guardrails guiding their use, and work on leveraging these models for positive outcomes (e.g. in healthcare, education, and agriculture), optimism wouldn’t be misplaced.
    • Anticipating possible futures requires engagement with the opportunities and challenges flagged by ChatGPT. 
      • Current requirement is mapping out and planning for the changes that will be required in the education system, labour codes and new commodities that are bound to emerge as a result.

    Source: IE

    Meri LiFE, Mera Swachh Shehar

    Syllabus: GS 2/Government Policies and Interventions 

    In News

    Recently, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs launched the mega campaign ‘Meri LiFE, Mera Swachh Shehar’.

    About Meri LiFE, Mera Swachh Shehar

    • The nationwide campaign aims to highlight cities to setup ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (RRR) Centres, one-stop collection centers, for citizens to contribute clothes, shoes, old books, toys, and used plastic to be reused or recycled.
    • The RRR Centres are scheduled to be launched nationwide and will serve as a one-stop solution for citizens, institutions, commercial enterprises, etc. to deposit unused or used plastic items, clothes, shoes, footwear, books, and toys. 
      • After collection, these items will be given to different stakeholders to be refurbished for reuse or would be made into new products, thus truly taking forward the Government’s vision of circular economy.

    Significance

    • The 3Rs form the backbone of ‘Waste to Wealth’ and has empowered many craftsmen, recyclers, Self Help Groups, entrepreneurs, startups, etc. to recycle waste into a host of products. 
    • The campaign will strengthen citizens’ resolve under SBM-U 2.0 – to reduce, reuse and recycle – and will also champion Mission LiFE’s objective of taking collective action for the protection and conservation of the environment by adopting sustainable daily habits.

    Mission LiFE

    • The concept of LiFE ((Lifestyle for Environment) was introduced by the Prime Minister at COP26 at Glasgow on 1 November 2021.
    • Mission LiFE is envisioned as an India-led global mass movement that will nudge individual and collective action to protect and preserve the environment.
    • Mission LiFE aims to protect and preserve the environment and bring about a pro-planet behavioural change that can be instilled through individual action in day-to-day life.

    Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0

    • It was launched by the Prime Minister in 2022 with the overall vision of creating ‘Garbage Free Cities.
    • It has introduced Used Water Management as a newly funded component for towns with less than 1 lakh population. 
    • This showcases the Mission’s commitment to improving the overall Used Water Management ecosystem in Urban India by ensuring that no untreated used water is discharged into water bodies (as per the Water+ Protocol). 

    Source: PIB

    Amrit Bharat Station Scheme

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government policies & intervention,

    In News

    • The Indian Railways is planning to overhaul the signage system at railway stations for better traveling comfort of passengers, on the basis of fresh design principles.
      • Up to 1,275 stations have been selected under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme.

    About

    • The uniform signages at all stations across the country, will ensure a consistent and easy-to-understand system for passengers (including elderly, women, children, divyangjan).
    • Indian Railways has the largest number of stations in the world than any other rail network. It is important that every passenger should have easy access to facilities by having standard signage.
    • The current system of signages is inconsistent and inadequate.

    Amrit Bharat Station Scheme

    • About: 
      • The Ministry of Railways has formulated a new policy for modernisation of stations named ‘Amrit Bharat Station’ scheme.
      • Three railway stations viz. Rani Kamalapati, Gandhinagar Capital, & Sir M.Visvesvaraya Terminal have been commissioned. 
      • Building upon the experience of these three stations, 1275 stations selected under Amrit Bharat Station Scheme include stations located in major cities and places of tourist and pilgrimage importance. 
    • Objective:
      • The scheme will primarily focus on providing safe, comfortable and clean railway premises.
      • The plan’s objective is to create master plans for railroad stations and implement them gradually to improve the facilities.
    • Key Features Proposed: 
      • provisions for roof top plazas, 
      • longer platforms, 
      • ballastless tracks, 
      • and 5G connectivity.

    Source: PIB

     

    Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) 

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • Scammers are reportedly using leaked biometric details, bypassing the need for OTPs, to siphon money from users’ bank accounts.

    What is an Aadhaar-enabled Payment System?

    • It is a bank-led model which allows online financial transactions at Point-of-Sale (PoS) and Micro ATMs through the business correspondent of any bank using Aadhaar authentication.
    • It is created by National Payments Corporation of India.
    • The only inputs required for a customer to do a transaction under this scenario are:-
      • Bank Name
      • Aadhaar Number
      • Fingerprint captured during enrollment.
    • Banking Services Offered by AePS:
      • Cash Deposit
      • Cash Withdrawal
      • Balance Enquiry
      • Mini Statement
      • Aadhaar to Aadhaar Fund Transfer
      • Authentication
      • BHIM Aadhaar Pay
    • The model removes the need for OTPs, bank account details, and other financial details.
    • An Aadhaar card holder who has a linked bank account can use the AePS facility to make transactions quickly and easily.
    • The transaction amount will only be deducted from the Aadhaar linked bank account.

    How is biometric information leaked?

    • Aadhaar numbers are readily available in the form of photocopies, and soft copies, and criminals are using Aadhaar-enabled payment systems to breach user information. Scammers have, in the past, made use of silicone to trick devices into initiating transactions.
    • Biometric information is part of identity. Unlike a password, it can’t be changed. When cybercriminals access biometric data — fingerprints, retina, facial, or voice — they gain information which can be linked to identity forever.

    How to secure Aadhaar biometric information?

    • Rarely share your biometric data: If anyone asks to collect biometric data, check to see if one can supply an alternate form of identification.
    • Aadhaar lock: Users are also advised to ensure that they lock their Aadhaar information by visiting the UIDAI website or using the mobile app.
      • This will ensure that the biometric information, even if compromised, cannot be used to initiate financial transactions. Aadhaar can be unlocked when the need for biometric authentication arises.

    What can be done in case of a financial scam using Aadhaar?

    • In case of any suspicious activity in their bank accounts users should lock the Aadhaar biometric information.
    • Users should inform their banks and the concerned authorities as soon as possible. Timely reporting can ensure that any money transferred using fraudulent means is returned to the victim.
    • As per the RBI a customer’s entitlement to zero liability arises where the unauthorised transaction occurs, and the customer notifies the bank within three working days of receiving a communication from the bank regarding such unauthorised transaction.

    Source: TH