Daily Current Affairs -19-06-2023

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    India- U.S. Initiative on Future Tech

    Syllabus: GS2/ India & Foreign Relations, International Organisations & Groupings

    In News

    • India and the United States recently unveiled a roadmap for enhanced collaboration in high-technology areas.

    More about the news

    • The initiative focuses on addressing regulatory barriers and aligning export controls for smoother trade and “deeper cooperation” in critical areas. 
    • This was part of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) announced last year.

    About iCET

    • About:
      • The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies is a framework agreed upon by India and the U.S. for cooperation on critical and emerging technologies in areas including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors and wireless telecommunication. 
        • The framework was first announced on the sidelines of the Quad meeting in Tokyo in May 2022. 
    • Significance:
      • India US partnership:
        • The iCET seeks to position New Delhi and Washington D.C. as “trusted technology partners” to build supply chains and support the co-production and co-development of items.
        • It was launched to strengthen their strategic partnership and drive technology and defence cooperation. 
      • Reducing dependence on Russia:
        • India is also looking to reduce its over dependence on Russian weapons and military technology and to produce more weapons at home in partnership with western countries.
    • Focus areas:
      • A broad outline of areas the two countries intend to explore to expand the depth of tech partnership and cooperation between their governments, businesses, and academic institutions.
      • It includes: 
        • Setting up a research agency partnership to drive collaboration in areas like AI; 
        • Developing a new defence industrial cooperation roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation for joint development and production; 
        • Developing common standards in AI; 
        • Developing a roadmap to accelerate defence technological cooperation and ‘innovation bridge’ to connect defence startups; 
        • Supporting the development of a semiconductor ecosystem; strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight; 
        • Advancing cooperation on development in 5G and 6G; and 
        • Adopting OpenRAN network technology in India.

    Recent progress & developments under iCET

    • India and the U.S. have made “significant progress” in several key areas identified for collaboration since the launch of iCET.
    • Telecommunication:
      • The two countries have put in place the Quantum Coordination Mechanism, launched a public-private dialogue (PDD) on telecommunication to drive collaboration in OpenRAN, 5G and 6G, and held “important exchanges” on AI and space
    •  Semiconductors: 
      • India and the U.S. signed an MoU on establishing a semiconductor supply chain that paved the way for creating a semiconductor sub-committee to review recommendations from an industry-led task force launched in connection with the iCET.
    • Defence:
      • On the defence front, the two countries are close to concluding a mega jet engine deal.
      • In addition, a new initiative to advance cutting-edge technology cooperation, known as the India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), is set to be launched during the visit. 
      • India and the U.S. have also concluded a roadmap for ‘Defence Industrial Cooperation’ to guide the policy direction for the next few years. 
      • The two countries have also established a Strategic Trade Dialogue to remove regulatory “barriers” and review existing export control norms to take forward strategic technology and trade collaborations envisaged under iCET.

    India-US Relations

    • About:
      • India and the US share values of democracy, rule of law, human rights, religious freedom that bind the countries together.
    • Bilateral engagement:
      • India and the United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic  partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavour, driven by  shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues,  and vibrant people-to-people contacts.
      • Regular exchanges at the leadership-level have been an integral  element of the expanding bilateral engagement.
      • Despite COVID-19 pandemic, India-U.S. cooperation witnessed  intense engagement under various bilateral dialogue mechanisms in a wide  range of areas including defence, security, health, trade, economic, science  & technology, energy and people-to-people ties.
    • Defence and Security: 
      • India-US defence cooperation is based on “New Framework for IndiaUS Defence Cooperation”, which was renewed for a period of ten years in  2015. 
      • In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major  Defence Partnership (MDP). 
      • Bilateral military exercises and defence exchanges are important  aspects of deepening military-to-military cooperation.
    • Quad: 
      • The four Quad partners (India, Japan, United States & Australia) first formed a “Core Group” in 2004, to swiftly mobilise aid during the joint response to the 2004 Tsunami. Since 2017, Quad engagements have increased and intensified.
    • Counter Terrorism Cooperation:
      • Cooperation in counter-terrorism has seen considerable progress with information exchange, operational cooperation and sharing of counterterrorism technology and equipment. 
      • India-U.S. Joint Working Group on  Counter-Terrorism oversees the expanding CT cooperation.
    • Trade & Economic Relations: 
      • The rapidly expanding trade and commercial linkages form an important component of the multi-faceted partnership between India and the United States. 
      • The U.S. is India’s second largest trading partner and a major destination for our exports of goods and services. 
      • Bilateral trade in goods and services stood at US$ 146 billion in 2019.
      • During the financial year 2020-21, India received the highest ever foreign direct investment amounting to USD 81.72 billion, as per data published by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. 
      • The US replaced Mauritius as the second largest source of foreign direct investment into India during 2020-21 with inflows of USD 13.82 billion. 
      • The US is one of the top 5 investment destinations for Indian FDI.
    • Education partnership: 
      • It is an important pillar of India-US ties and both the countries share strong linkages and history of higher education collaborations.
      • The United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) was set up after a bilateral agreement on education exchange was signed between India and the US on February 2, 1950
    • Indian Diaspora: 
      • About 4.2 million Indian Americans/Indian origin people reside in the US. The Indian Americans [3.18 million] constitute the third largest Asian ethnic group in the US.

    Source: TH

     

    Miyawaki Plantation Method

    Syllabus: GS 3/ Agriculture, Environment

    In News

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his latest ‘Mann ki Baat’ episode spoke about the Miyawaki plantation.

    About the Miyawaki plantation method

    • It is the Japanese method of creating dense urban forests in a small area.
    • It is named after Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki and it was developed in the 1970s, with the basic objective to densify green cover within a small parcel of land.
    • It is an ecological engineering work where native plants/ trees are planted in a scientific method to create an arrangement of fast-growing, dense, varied species of plants, 20 times faster than normal.

    Features 

    •  It involves planting two to four different types of indigenous trees within every square meter. 
      • Some of the common indigenous plants that are used for these forests include Anjan, Amala, Bel, Arjun, and Gunj.
    • In this method, the trees become self-sustaining and they grow to their full length within three years.
    • The plants used in the Miyawaki method don’t require regular maintenance like manuring and watering.

    Usefulness

    • The dense green cover of indigenous trees plays a key role in absorbing the dust particles of the area where the garden has been set up. 
    • They store earth-warming carbon dioxide, sustain wildlife, improve the health of ecosystems, and provide employment.
    • They act as a home to birds and insects and increases groundwater levels.
    • These forests encourage new biodiversity and regulate surface temperature.

    Criticism

    • Critics argue that the method is expensive, its benefits unclear, and Miyawaki’s techniques violate fundamental principles of ecological restoration.
    •  The method disregarded the structure and composition of plants, neglected native species, and the region’s natural ecology.
    • It reduces biodiversity, drives species to extinction, and hampers ecosystem resilience.

    Conclusion 

    • Despite the high success rate, many ecologists have reservations about its sustainability in Indian climes.
    • Miyawaki afforestation cannot be seen as a replacement for regular tree plantation and municipal authorities should continue to focus on regular greening activities
    • Newcomers to the idea should be aware of its high initial cost when compared to conventional plantation and also prepare to cull large trees from forest plots to allow the other plants to thrive. 

    Source: IE

     

    Direct Seeding of Rice Method

    Syllabus: GS 3/Agriculture 

    In Context 

    • Farmers in several leading rice-growing States are shifting to the direct-seeding method with rains getting delayed and the availability of labour becoming a challenge.

    About Direct seeding of rice

    • It is also called the ‘broadcasting seed technique’ and is a water-saving method of sowing paddy. 
    • Seeds are directly drilled into the fields in this method.
    • It allows the farmers to go ahead with sowing the seed without having to wait for rainfall and without the need for spending a month on growing paddy nurseries and planting them — both tasks require heavy manpower.

    How is DSR different from normal transplanting of paddy?

    • In transplanting, farmers prepare nurseries where the paddy seeds are first sown and raised into young plants. These seedlings are then uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main field. The nursery seed bed is 5-10% of the area to be transplanted.
    • In DSR, there is no nursery preparation or transplantation. The seeds are instead directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered machine.
    •  DSR saves groundwater, as opposed to the traditional water-intensive method, under which rice seedlings are transplanted from a nursery to waterlogged fields. 
    • In DSR, water is replaced by real chemical herbicides. Farmers have to only level their land and give one pre-sowing irrigation.

    Benefits and Need

    • The direct-seeding method allows farmers to save time as the initial growth would require far less water than in traditional sowing.
    • It is supposed to be cost-effective as it is less labour-intensive than the conventional method.
    • Little disturbance to the soil structure

    Challenges 

    • The biggest challenge in the direct-seeding method is the problem of weeds beginning to grow along with Paddy. 
    • The seed requirement for DSR is also higher than transplanting. 

    Initiatives 

    •  The Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana has developed a ‘Lucky Seed Drill’ that can both sow seeds and simultaneously spray herbicides to control weeds. 
      • This machine is different from the more popular ‘Happy Seeder’, used to directly sow wheat on combine-harvested paddy fields containing leftover stubble and loose straw.
    • The Agriculture Department has launched an awareness campaign to educate farmers on the multiple benefits of the DSR technology

    Way Ahead

    • The DSR method of paddy cultivation is steadily gaining ground among farmers in the traditional paddy-growing areas of the district, particularly in the aftermath of the lockdown.
    • It is the way forward for paddy crops. 

    Source: IE

    Groundwater extraction has tilted Earth’s spin 

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science & Technology, Environment, Conservation

    In News

    • According to a new study humans have caused marked tilts in the Earth’s axis by pumping water out of the ground and moving it elsewhere.

    Findings of the study

    • Groundwater pumping has tilted the planet nearly 80 centimetres east between 1993 and 2010 alone. 
    • The water circulated across the planet determines how mass is distributed. Scientists had predicted that between 1993 and 2010, people pumped 2,150 gigatons of groundwater, or more than 6 millimetres (0.24 inches) of sea level increase. 
    • The planet’s geographic north and south poles are where its axis intersects the surface; however, they are not fixed. The axis and hence the poles fluctuate due to variations in the Earth’s mass distribution.
    • In the past, the poles’ drift was only caused by natural forces like ocean currents and the convection of heated rock deep beneath the Earth. But the new research pitched the redistribution of groundwater as the primary culprit for the drift.
    • In the new study, researchers analysed changes first by accounting for just ice sheets and glaciers and then by adding different groundwater redistribution scenarios. 
    • A 2021 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that the direction of polar drift moved from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average drift speed from 1995-2020 was 17 times quicker than from 1981-1995.
    • In the past 50 years, humans have extracted 18 trillion tonnes of water from aquifers without replacing it, it added.

    How does the Earth’s axis shift?

    • The Earth’s axis of rotation is the line along which it spins around itself as it revolves around the Sun. The points on which the axis intersects the planet’s surface are the geographical north and south poles.
    • The location of the poles is not fixed, however, as the axis moves due to changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet. Thus, the poles move when the axis moves, and the movement is called “polar motion”.
    • According to NASA, data from the 20th century shows that the spin axis drifted about 10 centimetres per year. Meaning over a century, polar motion exceeds 10 metres.
    • Generally, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth. But now, climate change is adding to the degree with which the poles wander.

     What will be the impact?

    • Pronounced shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation can impact our planet’s climate, noted the study.
    • Earth’s rotational pole normally changes by several metres within about a year, so changes due to groundwater pumping don’t run the risk of shifting seasons. But on geologic time scales, polar drift can have an impact on climate.
    • Redistributing water from the mid-latitudes significantly influences polar drift; therefore, the location of redistribution determines polar drift. During the study period, most redistribution occurred in western North America and northwestern India — both located at mid-latitudes.
    • Change to the Earth’s axis isn’t large enough that it would affect daily life. It could change the length of day we experience, but only by milliseconds.

    Way Ahead: 

    • Attempts to slow groundwater depletion rates, especially in those sensitive regions, could alter the change in drift, but only if such conservation approaches are sustained for decades.

    Source: IE

     

    Y chromosome

    Syllabus: GS3/Science & Tech

    In News

    • Researchers have discovered that the Y chromosome possesses genes linked to aging and lifespan regulation.

    What are chromosomes?

    • The term chromosome comes from the Greek words for color (chroma) and body (soma). 
    • Chromosomes are thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of animal and plant cells. Each chromosome is made of protein and a single molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) passed from parents to offspring.
    • The unique structure of chromosomes keeps DNA tightly wrapped around spool-like proteins, called histones. Without such packaging, DNA molecules would be too long to fit inside cells.
    • Changes in the number or structure of chromosomes in new cells may lead to serious problems. 

    Chromosomes in Humans

    • Humans, along with other animals and plants, have linear chromosomes that are arranged in pairs within the nucleus of the cell.
    • Humans have 22 pairs of numbered chromosomes (autosomes) and one pair of sex chromosomes (XX or XY), for a total of 46.
    • Each pair contains two chromosomes, one coming from each parent, which means that children inherit half of their chromosomes from their mother and half from their father.
    • Biologically female individuals have two X chromosomes (XX) while those who are biologically male have one X and one Y chromosome (XY).
    • The sex chromosomes determine the sex of offspring. The father can contribute an X or a Y chromosome, while the mother always contributes an X.

    Do You Know?

    • Inheriting too many or not enough copies of sex chromosomes can lead to serious problems. For example, females who have extra copies of the X chromosome are usually taller than average and some have mental disability. 
    • Males with more than one X chromosome have Klinefelter syndrome, which is a condition characterized by tall stature and, often, impaired fertility. 
    • Another syndrome caused by imbalance in the number of sex chromosomes is Turner syndrome. Women with Turner have one X chromosome only. They are very short, usually do not undergo puberty and some may have kidney or heart problems.

    Y chromosome

    • The ‘sex-determining region Y’ on the Y chromosome determines the biological male sex. 
    • Scientists published the complete genetic sequence of the Y chromosome in 2003. In total, the chromosome encoded for only 55 genes and accounted for around 2% of the genetic material inside a cell.
    • The initial assumptions were that the chromosome is degenerating and shrinking over time, and possibly has little functional role but of late researchers have discovered that the Y chromosome possesses genes that are vital to biological functions, including those linked to ageing and lifespan regulation.
    • Difference in lifespan between sexes: In the animal kingdom (including mammals), scientists have noticed substantial differences in lifespan between the sexes: the females tend to live longer than the males. This phenomenon has been attributed largely to the absence of a second Y chromosome in males, exposing the deleterious mutations in the X chromosome. 
    • LoY: It is also well known that men lose the Y chromosome (LoY) with age and that this is associated with a higher frequency of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and a shorter lifespan. 
      • This has been corroborated by studies on mice models that showed that LoY resulted in shorter lifespans and that older mice with LoY displayed significant memory deficiencies compared to younger mice.

    Do humans lose the Y chromosome?

    • Studies conducted by researchers have shown that LoY in humans occurs with age and is associated with several debilitating medical conditions resulting in weak heart muscles (cardiomyopathy), stretched or thickened heart tissue (fibrosis), and heart failure. 
    • Researchers have also found that the pathological effects observed on account of LoY in mice’s hearts could be negated by transforming growth factor β1-neutralising antibodies, suggesting a potential treatment for this medical condition in future.
    • Researchers performed an analysis of 29 primate sex chromosomes and suggested that in the last 80 million years, there has been a rapid evolution of the Y chromosome. 
      • This is exemplified by the fact that the human Y chromosome is about one-third as big as the X chromosome. So, many animal species, including humans, have a genuine fear of losing the Y chromosome in the distant future.

    Way Ahead

    • Rodents have naturally lost their Y chromosome which provide us with models to understand the process of sex-chromosome turnover and a means to repurpose another chromosome (i.e. one of the autosomes) into a sex chromosome. 
    • Further, the evolutionary path leading to the appearance of modern humans provides clues as to what could be in store for the Y chromosome. 
    • Genome sequences of the Neanderthals, an ancient relative of the modern human, harbour telltale signs of the replacement of the Y chromosome beginning from modern humans.
    • This suggests that such replacement is not new to the human lineage, and that it is quite possible that the Y chromosome may have to be replaced to another chromosome in the times to come.

    Source: TH

    High net-worth individuals

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    In News

    • According to Henley and Partners, an advisory firm on investment-linked visas India is expected to lose 6,500 high net-worth individuals (HNWIs), worth $1 million or more in 2023.

    High net-worth individuals (HNIs)

    • HNIs belong to the financial services sector where a class of individuals has an investible surplus of more than Rs 5 crore. Such investors are categorised as retail as they are measured by their net worth in the financial industry.
    • Types of HNIs
      • High-net-worth individuals (HNWIs): Investors who own liquid assets valued between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5 crore.
      • Very-high-net-worth individuals (VHNWIs): Investors who possess liquid assets valued between Rs 5 crore and Rs 25 crore.
      • Ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs): Investors who own more than Rs 25 crore in liquid assets.

    Outflow of HNIs

    • In 2023, India will be the second-biggest loser of millionaires, after China’s net outflow of 13,500. 
    • In 2022, India lost 7,500 HNWIs, the 3rd highest after China (10,800) and war-wrecked Russia (8,500). 
    • Between 2013 and 2022, India lost 48,500 HNWIs,  these outflows are not particularly concerning as India produces far more new millionaires than it loses to migration. 

    Why are HNWIs leaving India?

    • Tax legislation: Prohibitive tax legislation” and “convoluted, complex rules relating to outbound remittances”.
      • The recent increase in tax collected at source from 5% to 20% on all foreign remittances above ₹ 7 lakh except for education and medical bills. 
    • Better Quality of life: The rich seek to live in other countries for non-monetary reasons too—such as children’s education, social security and a better lifestyle.
      • Higher education and career prospects in these countries drive the demand. 

    The US, Canada and Australia continue to be the top destinations not just for the rich but for Indians from lower income brackets as well. 

    • Large market: Tech entrepreneurs and wealthy Indian families also set up their businesses and offices in Dubai and Singapore to access a larger market and robust banking solutions.
    • Easy emigration: Countries offer an easier visa route for those willing to make an investment or set up a businesses. 
      • The US EB-5 immigrant investor programme, for instance, offers a far smaller queue than other routes to get a green card for a minimum investment of $800,000. 
      • The UAE’s Golden Visa grants renewable residence for up to 10 years with a minimum investment of $550,000. 
      • Indian millionaires sometimes move to exotic locations or tax havens such as Portugal, Greece and Monaco, albeit in a smaller number.

    Source: Mint

     

    Facts In News

    Gita Press awarded Gandhi Peace Prize

    Syllabus: GS2/ Awards, GS1/ Important Personalities
    In News

    • The Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2021 is being conferred on Gita Press, Gorakhpur by PM Modi-led jury.

    About

    • Gita Press is one of the world’s largest publishers of Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and the Upanishads, having published 41.7 crore books in 14 languages, including 16.21 crore Bhagavad Gita. It completes 100 years of its establishment in 2023. 
    • The institution has never relied on advertisement in its publications, for revenue generation.
    • Past awardees: Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, social worker Baba Amte, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, Oman and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh (2020).
      • Also include organizations such as ISRO, Ramakrishna Mission, Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari, Akshaya Patra, Bengaluru, Ekal Abhiyan Trust, India and Sulabh International, New Delhi.

    Gandhi Peace Prize

    • Intitution: It is an annual award instituted by Government of India in 1995, on the occasion of 125th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi as a tribute to the ideals espoused by Mahatma Gandhi. 
    • Eligibility: This is an annual award given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods. The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or gender.
    • Rewards: The award carries an amount of Rs. 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handicraft/handloom item.
    • Selection Committe: The Jury chaired by Prime Minister and comprises two ex-officio members, namely the Chief Justice of India and  Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha. Two eminent members are also part of the Jury, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and Founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.

    Source: TH