Daily Current Affairs – 17-07-2023

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    PM Visit to UAE

    Syllabus: GS2/ International Relations

    In News

    • The Prime Minister recently visited the United Arab Emirates. This was the fifth visit of the Prime Minister to the UAE in the last eight years.

    Outcomes of the Visit

    • MoUs Signed: For the establishment of a framework to promote the use of local currencies (INR-AED) for cross-border transactions by Governors of the respective Central Banks.
      • on interlinking payment and messaging systems by Governors of the respective Central Banks.
      • for planning to establish Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi in Abu Dhabi.
    • Energy Sector: Both sides will take forward their cooperation in Green Hydrogen, solar energy and grid connectivity. Both sides also agreed to increase investment across the energy spectrum, including in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve Programme.
    • Climate Change: The leaders acknowledged the joint work on issues of climate change, particularly during India’s presidency of the G20 and the UAE’s presidency of COP28. They resolved to work together to make COP28 a success for all.
    • Indian Diaspora: The UAE expressed appreciation that the large Indian diaspora continues to play a significant role in the society and economy of the UAE and further reinforces bilateral relations.
    • Bilateral Trade: Two leaders lauded the economic partnership which stands at USD 85 billion currently, and hoped to achieve the target of USD 100 billion in trade before the G20 meeting in Delhi this year.
    • Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, exploring emerging areas of collaboration, and promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.

    Local currencies for cross-border transactions

    • India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed a pact to establish a framework to promote the use of the rupee and UAE Dirham (AED) for cross-border transactions.
    • The Mechanism: It will be done through the Local Currency Settlement System (LCSS).
      • The creation of the LCSS would enable exporters and importers to invoice and pay in their respective domestic currencies, which in turn would enable the development of an INR-AED foreign exchange market.
    • Significance: This arrangement would also promote investments and remittances between the two countries.
      • The use of local currencies would optimise transaction costs and settlement time for transactions, including for remittances from Indians residing in UAE.
      • India is likely to use this mechanism to pay for crude oil as well as other imports from the UAE, which is currently made in US dollars.
      • The move to ink the pact with the UAE is part of a concerted policy effort by India to internationalise the rupee to bring down the dollar demand as a means to insulate the domestic economy from global shocks. 

    Brief on India-UAE Bilateral Relations

    • India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established diplomatic relations in 1972. 

    • Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UAE in 2015 led to a slew of agreements aimed at strengthening economic, defense, security, and law enforcement cooperation.
    • Commonalities in long-term vision: The UAE’s Centennial Plan which lays the road map to augment the country’s reputation as a reliable soft power runs concurrently with India’s Vision 2047, which has set ambitious national imperatives, ensuring prosperity and development for all its people.
      • The commonalities in their long-term domestic and global vision have spurred the India-UAE bilateral trade, commerce and economic ties, further strengthened during the past year following the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement  (CEPA) —the UAE’s first-ever such partnership and India’s first CEPA in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.
    • Trade Relations: India-UAE trade rose to USD 85 billion in 2022, making the UAE India’s third-largest trading partner for the year 2022-23 and India’s second-largest export destination. 
      • India is the UAE’s second largest trading partner. In 2022, India became the first country with which the UAE signed a CEPA. Bilateral trade has increased by approximately 15% since the entry into force of the CEPA.
    • NRI Remittances: The annual remittances made by the large Indian community in UAE (estimated to be around 3.3 million) amount to over US $ 17.06 billion in 2019. 
    • Energy Security: As industrial and manufacturing capacity booms in India, the UAE has proven to be a reliable and resilient energy exporter. In 2018, the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd (ISPRL) and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) inked an agreement detailing constant pricing and oil supply.
    • Technology partnerships: India and the UAE have signed a number of digital innovation, technology partnerships, and also plans for ISRO and UAESA to cooperate on missions like the Red Moon mission. 
      • The Emirates has offered “golden visa” residency permits for doctors, engineers, PhD scholars and specialists in high-end technology fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, virology and epidemiology, and brought over the former ISRO chief K. Radhakrishnan to their space agency.
    • Common footing on the emerging international issues:  Both the countries have voiced similar opinions on strategic issues such as the US dollar’s dominance in international trade, terrorism, and ending the hostilities in Ukraine. The bilateral partners also wish for a rules-based international order that prescribes and acknowledges emerging economies’ more significant role in the global economy. 
      • These strategic convergences culminated in the formalisation of minilateral groupings, such as the India-Israel-US-UAE (I2U2) and the India-UAE-France maritime trilateral.

    Way Ahead

    • The recent developments in India-UAE relations stem from shared economic visions and compatible regional geopolitical outlooks.
    • The fundamentals of economic engagement, diaspora relations, and strategic convergences have deepened the India-UAE ties over the past 10 years. 
    • The bilateral is set to become stronger as CEPA finds deeper roots and steers each partner’s policy apparatuses and businesses towards more prosperous, mutually-beneficial, and meaningful engagement.

    Source: IE

    Defamation

    Syllabus: GS2/ Indian Polity

    In News

    • The Gujarat High Court verdict on Rahul Gandhi’s criminal revision petition raises questions on defamation, disqualification and electoral representation law. 

    About: 

    • The High Court was deciding on an application challenging the refusal of the Sessions Court to suspend the order of conviction against Mr. Gandhi under Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). 
    • The Court ultimately denied relief to the petitioner relying on the principle that a stay of conviction is not a rule but an exception to be resorted to in rare cases.

    Freedom of Speech and Reputation

    • The Constitution of India under Article 19(2) had declared “defamation” as one among the exceptions to free speech which was thereby validated under Sections 499 and 500 (the definition and punishment of defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 
    • The comment by Mr. Gandhi, “why all thieves have Modi surname” is found penal under Section 499 that makes defamatory an imputation concerning “a company or an association or collection of persons as such.” 
    • The Magistrate Court was of the opinion that people with the surname Modi or belonging to the Modi community constitute an identifiable class and pronounced the accused guilty with maximum possible sentence.

    Related Constitutional Provisions:

    • Article 19:  
      • All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peaceably and without arms; to form associations or unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. 
      • Reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right can be imposed in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
    • Article 102: A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament
      • if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State;
      • if he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
      • if he is an undischarged insolvent;
      • if he is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State;
      • if he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.
    • Article 136: Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court
      • The Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.
      • It shall not apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.

    Earlier judgments on Defamation

    • The Supreme Court in Sahib Singh Mehra versus State of Uttar Pradesh (1965) relied on the criteria of identifiability and definitiveness as determinants to fall in the category of a “collection of persons”.
    • Allahabad High Court in Tek Chand Gupta versus R. K. Karanjia and Ors. (1967) stated that the Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh (RSS) having a constitution for itself establishes it as an association or collection of persons. 
    • Also in G. Narasimhan versus T. V. Chokkappa (1972), Supreme Court quashed complaints against office bearers of certain newspapers including The Hindu, as the conference organised by the  newspaper was not a determinate and identifiable body to be considered a “collection of persons”.
    • A three Judge bench in Rama Narang versus Ramesh Narang & Ors. (1995) held that “in certain situations the order of conviction can be executable, in the sense, it may incur a disqualification as in the instant case. 
    • Relying on this judgment, the Supreme Court in Navjot Singh Sidhu versus State Of Punjab & Anr (2007), suspended the order of conviction to enable the cricketer turned politician to contest the election. 
    • Even in Lily Thomas versus Union of India (2013), through which Section 8 (4) of the Representation of People Act (1951) was struck down, the Supreme Court rebutted in explicit terms the concern that the disqualified legislator would become helpless.

    Way Ahead

    • In the light of these precedents, it would be seen whether the apex court would view people bearing the surname Modi as an identifiable or definite class in order to be called a “group of persons”.
    • Amalgamating the principles of law as declared by the Supreme Court in various cases, it is left to the top Court to grant indulgence to stay the conviction in this particular case by employing its sweeping power to do substantive justice under Article 136.  

    Source: TH

     Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership 

    Syllabus:GS2/ International Relation

    News

    • Britain has signed a treaty to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as the 12th member.

    About

    • What is it? The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is also known as TPP11 or TPP-11.
    • Present Members: It is a free trade agreement between 11 countries – Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile.  
    • Probable Members: Costa Rica and Ecuador have also applied to join its Pacific rim counterparts, while Uruguay, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea have also expressed an interest. China launched a bid to join in 2021.
    • Background: The CPTPP started as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with the US negotiating to join under President Obama. But in 2017, Trump withdrew from the deal and the remaining countries continued talks, eventually signing the CPTPP in 2018 in Santiago, Chile.
    • Objective:The pact requires countries to eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs and make strong commitments to opening services and investment markets.It also has rules addressing competition, intellectual property rights and protections for foreign companies. 
    • Comparison with EU: It does not have a single market for goods or services, and so regulatory harmonization is not required, unlike the European Union, whose trading orbit Britain left at the end of 2020.
    • Significance: The eleven signatories have combined economies representing 13.4 percent of global gross domestic product, at approximately US$13.5 trillion, making the CPTPP one of the world’s largest free-trade areas by GDP, along with the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, the European single market, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic partnership.

    Significance of UK joining CPTPP

    • The UK applied to join the group in 2021 as part of its drive to strengthen trading links around the world after Brexit.
    • It is one of the biggest trading blocs in the world, worth 15% of global GDP once the UK joins. The UK is the first European country to join the agreement, and the largest economy after Japan. 
    • A government analysis said the pact would boost UK exports by 1.7 billion pounds (€1.9 billion, $2.23 billion), imports to the UK by 1.6 billion pounds and gross domestic product (GDP) by £1.8 billion pounds in the long term. The pact is expected to take effect in the second half of 2024.
    • While the long-term benefit for Britain’s economy is set to be modest, Britain has geostrategic reasons for joining the bloc. Britain’s decision to join the CPTPP gives it a strengthened presence and influence in the Asia-Pacific region which is rapidly growing both economically and politically.

    Can it compensate for Brexit? 

    • The UK already has trade deals with 10 of the 11 other CPTPP members and the eventual economic boost is likely to increase GDP by just 0.08% annually.
    • In contrast, the costs of leaving the EU is credibly estimated to have reduced the UK’s GDP by 5.5% • There are concerns that the UK will come under pressure to reduce standards on food and the environment to compete with CPTPP countries.

    Source:IE

    The Path That Ends AIDS – Report

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health, Science & Technology

    News: 

    • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) claimed a life every minute in 2022, according to a new report by UNAIDS.

    Findings of the Report

    • About 9.2 million people living with HIV could not access HIV treatment worldwide in 2022. Even some 2.1 million people who received treatment were not virally suppressed.
    • Of the 39 million people living with HIV globally, 29.8 million are receiving life-saving treatment presently, the data revealed. 
    • From 2020-2022, an additional 1.6 million people received HIV treatment in each consecutive year. If this annual success can be maintained for the long term, the global target of 35 million people receiving HIV treatment by 2025 will be within reach.
    • Gender discrimination was another barrier. Men living with HIV were still significantly less likely than women living with HIV to be on treatment.
    • While the number of AIDS-related deaths among children was reduced by 64 percent in 2010-2022, the HIV pandemic still claimed the lives of approximately 84,000 children in 2022.

    Suggestions by the Report

    • Ridding healthcare facilities of stigma and discrimination is crucial, along with removing laws and practices that make people distrustful or fearful of health services.
    • Making it easier for sexually active girls and women to access female-friendly biomedical prevention tools, such as oral PrEP and the dapivirine vaginal ring, would greatly reduce their risks of acquiring HIV.
    • Some of these challenges can be closed by filling the gaps in funding. HIV incidence has declined in regions with increased prevention funding.
    • Data from UNAIDS showed that gains had been made, particularly in the absence of a vaccine. However, a lot remains to be achieved due to inequalities.

    About UNAIDS

    •  The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • The Joint Programme was established in 1996 and is coordinated by the UNAIDS Secretariat, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
    • UNAIDS’ mission is to lead and inspire the world in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. 
    • UNAIDS is a model for United Nations reform and is the only cosponsored Joint Programme in the United Nations system. It draws on the experience and expertise of 11 United Nations system Cosponsors and is the only United Nations entity with civil society represented on its governing body.

    What Is HIV?

    • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. 

    • It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment.
    • If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

    What Is AIDS?

    • AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus.
    • People taking HIV medicine as prescribed, do not develop AIDS because it stops the progression of the disease.
    • Without HIV medicine, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic illness(infections that occur more in people with weakened immune systems), life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year.

    Treatment 

    • The human body can’t get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists. So, once you have HIV, you have it for life.
    • However, effective treatment with HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) is available. If taken as prescribed, HIV medicine can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood (also called the viral load) to a very low level. This is called viral suppression. 
    • In addition, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), HIV medicine taken within 72 hours after a possible exposure can prevent the virus from taking hold. 
    • People who start HIV medicine soon after they get HIV experience more benefits—that’s why HIV testing is so important.

    Efforts to Control AIDS:

    • In 1986, following the detection of the first AIDS case in the country, the National AIDS Committee was constituted in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • In 1992 India’s first National AIDS Control Programme (1992-1999) was launched, and National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) was constituted to implement the programme. NACO is a division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programmes in India.
    • The 2017 National Health Policy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to end AIDS by 2030.
    • 95-95-95 Strategy: The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS aims for HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression rates to be 95%–95%–95% by 2025.
      • Earlier, it was 90-90-90 Strategy. It calls for 90% of HIV-infected individuals to be diagnosed by 2020, 90% of whom will be on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90% of whom will achieve sustained virologic suppression by 2020.

    Source: DTE

    Existing gaps in cloud system configuration

    Syllabus :GS 3/Science and Technology  

    In News

    • According to a 2023 survey by Thales Cloud Security, 35% of organisations in India note that their data was breached in a cloud environment last year.

    What is Cloud storage ?

    • It is a method through which digital data, including files, business data, videos, or images, are stored on servers in off-site locations.
    • These servers may be maintained by the companies themselves or by third-party providers responsible for hosting, managing, and securing stored data. 
    • These servers can be accessed either by the public or through private internet connections, depending on the nature of the data. 
    • Liability : The onus of ensuring data security lies with the companies even though they grant access to data to vendors and partners. 
      • If the data is sensitive in nature, it is the company’s responsibility to make sure that a selected vendor has all the right checks in place and has conducted due diligence.

    Utility and Advantages 

    • Cloud storage delivers a cost-effective, scalable alternative to storing files on on-premise hard drives or storage networks. 
    • Companies use cloud storage to store, access and maintain data so that they do not need to invest in operating and maintaining data centres.
    • An added advantage of cloud storage is its scalability — organisations can expand or reduce their data footprint depending on its needs.
    • Most cloud providers offer security features like physical security at data centres, in addition to zero-trust architecture, identity and access management, and encryption to ensure the security of data on their servers.

    Risk and Challenges 

    • The risks arise from the deployment of incompatible legacy IT systems and third-party data storage architecture. 
    • Additionally, the use of weak authentication practices and easily guessable passwords can allow unauthorised individuals to access sensitive data.
    •  Data stored in the cloud also faces the risk of exposure due to insecure APIs, poorly designed or inadequate security controls, internal threats due to human error and inadequate encryption during transfer or storage
    • System misconfigurations: A system misconfiguration arises when there is a lack of thorough security configurations on the devices accessing the cloud data and the servers, or a weakness in the software used. 
      • Misconfigurations can expose user data, making it accessible to unauthorised individuals, and compromising security. 
    • Even momentary exposure of personal user data can have far-reaching consequences. 
      • In particular, personally identifiable information can be used by threat actors to target individuals’ financial assets and online accounts.

    Suggestions 

    • When users get to know of possible data breaches, they are recommended to change passwords and the two-factor authentication setup, push security question answers, and monitor accounts for unauthorized transactions and SMSs for suspicious activity. 
    • Data encryption is seen as one of the most effective approaches for securing sensitive information in the cloud. 
      • However, it comes with its own set of challenges which include encryption before data is stored, ensuring the security of encryption keys, and changing the encryption keys periodically to ensure continued safety.
    • Therefore, updating and auditing legacy systems when used in tandem with cloud infrastructure is important.
    • Data breaches and data exposure incidents in the cloud should be treated identically. 
    • Both data breaches and data exposure incidents require close monitoring to ensure the confidentiality and availability of sensitive information housed in the cloud.

    Source:TH

    Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS)

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government policies and interventions, GS3/Inclusive Growth and related issues

    In News

    • The government has recently formed a new panel to review all NSO data.

    More about the news

    • About:
      • The Statistics Ministry recently stated that the  Standing Committee on Economic Statistics (SCES) — which was tasked with examining economic indicators only — will now be replaced by a Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS).
      • SCoS has a broader mandate to review the framework and results of all surveys conducted under the aegis of the National Statistical Office (NSO).
    • Chairman & members:
      • Pronab Sen, India’s first chief statistician and the former chairman of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), has been named the chair of the new committee.
      • The SCoS — with “enhanced terms of reference” vis-à-vis the SCES, “to ensure more coverage” — has 10 official members, and four non-official members who are eminent academics. 
      • The panel can have up to 16 members, as per the order issued by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

    Standing Committee on Economic Statistics (SCES) 

    • The SCES, which had 28 members, including 10 non-official members, was also chaired by Mr. Pronab Sen. 
    • SCES was set up in late 2019.
    • The panel was mandated to review the framework for economic indicators pertaining to the industrial sector, the services sector and the labour force statistics. 
      • This meant that their purview was limited to datasets like the Periodic Labour Force Survey, the Annual Survey of Industries, the Index of Industrial Production and the Economic Census.

    Significance

    • The development assumes significance amid sharp critiques of India’s statistical machinery by members of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister.
    • Apart from addressing issues raised from time to time on the subject, results and methodology for all surveys, the SCoS’ terms of reference include
      • the identification of data gaps that need to be filled by official statistics, 
      • along with an appropriate strategy to plug those gaps. 
    • It has also been mandated to explore the use of administrative statistics to improve data outcomes.
    • While the panel will help finalise survey results, the NSC will have the ultimate authority to approve the publication of those results. 

    About Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation 

    • It came into existence as an Independent Ministry in 1999 after the merger of the Department of Statistics and the Department of Programme Implementation
    • The Ministry has two wings, one relating to Statistics and the other Programme Implementation. 
      • Statistics Wing: It is called the National Statistical Office(NSO) and consists of the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the Computer center and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO)
      • The Programme Implementation Wing: It has three Divisions,
        • Twenty Point Programme
        • Infrastructure Monitoring and Project Monitoring and
        • Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme. 
      • Besides these two wings, there is National Statistical Commission created through a Resolution of Government of India (MOSPI) and one autonomous Institute, viz., Indian Statistical Institute declared as an institute of National importance by an Act of Parliament.
    • The ministry attaches considerable importance to coverage and quality aspects of statistics released in the country which are based on administrative sources, surveys and censuses conducted by the center and State Governments and non-official sources and studies.

    Source: TH

    Synthetic Biology

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science and Technology, Biotechnology

    In News

    • A new field of science has been emerging called synthetic biology.

    What is Synthetic Biology

    • Synthetic biology is a field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities. 
    • Synthetic biology researchers and companies around the world are harnessing the power of nature to solve problems in medicine, manufacturing and agriculture.

    Background

    • An early attempt in this direction was led by researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in U.S.. In 2008, they attempted to synthesise a small bacterial genome, but at the time were unable to put it back into the cell and give it a spark of life.
    • Finally, in 2010, researchers at JCVI were able to synthesise a complete genome of around 1 million base-pairs of a modified genome of a free-living organism called Mycoplasma mycoides. They named it JCVI-syn1.0. 
      • This genome could be introduced into a cell and could replicate, thus becoming one of the first synthetic life-forms. 
    •  JCVI-syn3.0: Attempts to modify genomes continued. They succeeded in creating a minimal cell deleting with around 45% of the genes in the genome of the organism. This newer modified synthetic version was named JCVI-syn3.0.

    Latest Study on Synthetic Biology

    • Researchers attempted to understand how a synthetic life-form would adapt or evolve over time, especially in situations where the raw materials required to do so could be limited, forcing the genome to die or adapt through evolution.
      • The researchers found that the synthetic bacteria that had evolved through 300 days could significantly out-compete the non-evolved minimal version of the organism.
    • The study suggested that synthetic life-forms could evolve through natural processes of evolution and adapt themselves to the environment. 
    • Additionally, using genome-sequencing, the researchers were able to identify specific genes and regions on the genome that had accumulated genetic variants associated with the adaptation. 

    Significance of the Study

    • The findings have enormous implications – not just for our ability to understand the natural evolutionary processes of synthetic life but also for the practical applications of synthetic genomes for the industrial-scale production of chemicals and biologicals.
    • Insights into the evolutionary processes of organisms also open big windows into understanding how antimicrobial resistance emerges, how pathogens evade immune systems, and, possibly, new opportunities to prevent them or be prepared for them.

    Applications

    • Microorganisms harnessed for bioremediation to clean pollutants from our water, soil and air.
    • Rice modified to produce beta-carotene, a nutrient usually associated with carrots, that prevents vitamin A deficiency. 
    • Yeast engineered to produce rose oil as an eco-friendly and sustainable substitute for real roses that perfumers use to make luxury scents.

    Source: TH

     

    Facts In News

    Global Gibbon Network (GGN)

    Syllabus: GS3/Conservation, Species in News

    In News

    • Recently, the first meeting of the Global Gibbon Network (GGN) to save Hoolock gibbon was held in the Hainan province of China.

    Gibbons

    • About: 
      • Gibbons are the smallest and fastest of all apes. The hoolock gibbon, unique to India’s northeast, is one of 20 species of gibbons found in tropical and subtropical forests in Southeast Asia.
      • Gibbons are highly intelligent creatures with distinct personalities and strong family bonds, similar to other apes. Since 1900, gibbon distribution and populations have drastically decreased, leaving only small populations in tropical rainforests.
      • Gibbons are known for their energetic vocal displays and were initially found in Assam. They are diurnal and arboreal. They are omnivorous. 
    • Types in India: 
      • Initially, zoologists believed that there were two species of hoolock gibbons in the northeast region of India — the eastern and western hoolock gibbons.
      • In 2021, a study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad provided evidence through genetic analysis that there is actually only one species of gibbon in India.
    • Threats: 
      • The primary threat to the hoolock gibbon is the deforestation caused by infrastructure projects.
    • Conservation Status: 
      • IUCN Status: Western hoolock gibbon is classified as endangered and the eastern hoolock gibbon as vulnerable.
      • Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 

    Global Gibbon Network (GGN)

    • GGN was founded with a vision to safeguard and conserve a key element of Asia’s unique natural heritage – the singing gibbon and their habitats, by promoting participatory conservation policies, legislations, and actions.
    • It was first initiated in 2020  and was organized by two institutions in China through Ecofoundation Global and the Hainan Institute of National Park.

    Source:TH

    Nomadic Elephant-23

    Syllabus: GS 3/Defence 

    In News

    • An Indian Army contingent reached Ulaanbaatar   to take part in the exercise, ‘Nomadic Elephant-23’.

    About Exercise NOMADIC ELEPHANT

    • It is an annual training event with Mongolia which is conducted alternatively in Mongolia and India.
    • The last edition was held at Special Forces Training School, Bakloh in October 2019.
    • Focus and Aims :  The aim of this exercise is to build positive military relations, exchange best practices, develop interoperability, bonhomie, camaraderie and friendship between the two armies. 
      • The primary theme of the exercise will focus on counter-terrorism operations in mountainous terrain under United Nations mandate.
    • Activities 
      • The scope of this exercise involves Platoon level Field Training Exercise (FTX). 
      • During the exercise, Indian and Mongolian troops will engage in various training activities designed to enhance their skills and capabilities. 
        • These activities include endurance training, reflex firing, room intervention, small team tactics and rock craft training.. 

    Source:TH

    Artificial Sweetener Aspartame 

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    In Context

    • The WHO classified Aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. However, experts believe that anything in moderation is not harmful. 

    What is Aspartame?

    • Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than normal sugar. It is available in powder form and is used in  tea,coffee, colas, chewing gums and packaged desserts because it does not increase the calorie level.
    • In 1965, a chemist named James M. Schlatter discovered it, and it was first used to replace sucrose.

    Can Aspartame cause cancer?

    • The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) came to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that aspartame causes human cancer. To reduce potential health hazards, they also suggested limiting aspartame consumption.
    • The JECFA established the daily intake of 0–40 mg/kg body weight for aspartame.

    ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

    What are Artificial Sweeteners?

    • Artificial sweeteners are man-made sugar substitutes that impart sweetness to food and beverages without significantly boosting blood sugar levels or adding a lot of calories. For example: Saccharin, Sucralose, Advantame etc
    • It often has the labels “diet” or “sugar-free”. Some are suitable for use as all-purpose sweeteners.

    Pros of Artificial sweeteners

    • Alternatives to sugar: These are synthetic alternatives to sugar, they are made from natural ingredients. They are considered to be a better replacement for sugar.This is because of the nearly Zero calories they offer.
    • Simple and convenient to use: You can find them in a range of candies, baked goods, jams, jellies, dairy products, fizzy drinks,etc. due to their similar properties like sugar in baking, canning, and packaging.
    • Enhanced oral health:  Artificial sweeteners have no connection with the microorganisms in your mouth like sugars do. This implies that they don’t produce acids or lead to tooth decay.

    Cons of Artificial sweeteners

    • Health problems: Artificial sweeteners use is associated with higher cancer risk. Saccharin and other artificial sweeteners are thought to be possibly dangerous. It may also increase cholesterol levels, cause neurological issues, metabolic syndrome, and have negative effects on liver metabolism.
    • Gastric issues: The most prevalent negative effects of artificial sweetener use include loose stools, bloating, or frequent gas.

    WHO Recommendations

    • Long Term Impact:
      • There could be some weight-loss and reduction in Body Mass Index in the short term as the artificial sweeteners bring down the calories consumed, but in the long run they have been linked to weight gain.
      • The sweeteners have also been linked to an increased risk of Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality.
      • The use of such artificial sweeteners to bladder cancer and preterm birth when consumed by pregnant women.
      • As per the French study, the artificial sweetener erythritol increased the risk of clotting and can lead to heart attacks or strokes
    • Not a substitute for Patient with Diabetes:
      • The report emphasized that patients with diabetes need to cut off from sugar and it should not be replaced by such type of Artificial sweeteners.
      • They may prevent the body from controlling calorie intake, which can lead to overeating and increased desires.
      • They cause people to feel lethargic and exhausted and decrease the body’s metabolic efficiency.

     

    Source: IE