Daily Current Affairs – 19-07-2023

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    Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas 

    Syllabus: GS3/Biodiversity and Conservation

    In News

    • New data from the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas of World Resources Institute (WRI) has been released.

    About

    • The World Resources Institute is a global research non-profit organization established in 1982.
    • It uses research-based approaches to work globally and in focus countries to meet people’s essential needs; to protect and restore nature; and to stabilize the climate and build more resilient communities. 
      • It aims to fundamentally transform the way the world produces food, uses energy and designs its cities to create a better future for all. 
    • Aqueduct’s global water risk mapping tool helps companies, investors, governments, and other users understand where and how water risks and opportunities are emerging worldwide.

    What is Water Stress? 

    • Water stress is the ratio of water demand to renewable supply, measuring the competition over local water resources.
    • A country facing “extreme water stress” means it is using at least 80% of its available supply, “high water stress” means it is withdrawing 40% of its supply.

    Highly Water Stressed Countries

    • 25 countries — housing one-quarter of the global population — face extremely high water stress each year, regularly using up almost their entire available water supply. 
      • Even a short-term drought puts these places in danger of running out of water and sometimes prompts governments to shut off the taps.

    • At least 50% of the world’s population — around 4 billion people — live under highly water-stressed conditions for at least one month of the year.
    • The five most water-stressed countries are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar. 
    • The most water-stressed regions are the Middle East and North Africa, where 83% of the population is exposed to extremely high water stress, and South Asia, where 74% is exposed.

    Causes of Global Water Stress

    • Across the world, demand for water is exceeding what’s available. Globally, demand has more than doubled since 1960.
    • Increased water demand is often the result of growing populations and industries like irrigated agriculture, livestock, energy production and manufacturing. 
    • Meanwhile, lack of investment in water infrastructure, unsustainable water use policies or increased variability due to climate change can all affect the available water supply.

    Concerns

    • By 2050, an additional 1 billion people are expected to live with extremely high water stress, even if the world limits global temperature rise to 1.3 degrees C to 2.4 degrees C by 2100.
    • Global water demand is projected to increase by 20% to 25% by 2050.
      • For the Middle East and North Africa, this means 100% of the population will live with extremely high water stress by 2050. 
    • The biggest change in water demand between now and 2050 will occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.
      • By 2050, water demand in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to skyrocket by 163% — 4 times the rate of change compared to Latin America.
    • According to data from Aqueduct, 31% of global GDP will be exposed to high water stress by 2050, up from 24% of global GDP in 2010. 
      • Just four countries India, Mexico, Egypt and Turkey — account for over half of the exposed GDP in 2050.

    • Water shortages can lead to industrial interruptions, energy outages and agricultural production losses.
    • Failing to implement better water management policies could result in GDP losses in India, China and Central Asia of 7% to 12%, and 6% by 2050.
    • Global food security is also at risk. 
      • Already, 60% of the world’s irrigated agriculture faces extremely high water stress — particularly sugarcane, wheat, rice and maize. 
      • By 2050, the world will need to produce 56% more food calories than it did in 2010 — all while dealing with increasing water stress as well as climate-driven disasters like droughts and floods.

    What can be done?

    • Water stress doesn’t necessarily lead to water crisis. For example, places like Singapore and the U.S. city of Las Vegas prove that societies can thrive even under the most water-scarce conditions by employing techniques like removing water-thirsty grass, desalination, and wastewater treatment and reuse.
    • Solving global water challenges will cost the world about 1% of GDP, or 29 cents per person, per day from 2015 to 2030. 
    • Policy Initiatives: Countries can improve their water governance, incentivize water efficiency in agriculture, adopt integrated water resource management, and enhance water infrastructure through nature-based solutions and green infrastructure. 
      • Policymakers in water-stressed countries should prioritize water-prudent energy sources like solar and wind to avoid power shutdowns caused by water shortages.
    • Strategic Debt Relief Programs: International development banks and other lenders should consider strategic debt relief programs, like debt relief in return for a commitment to invest in biodiversity or resilient infrastructure, such as mangrove restoration or wetland conservation
      • These nature-based solutions can achieve positive climate and water outcomes in countries unable to afford improved water management on their own.
    • Cities should develop urban water resilience action plans, learning from the group of six African cities already piloting such approaches. 
    • Farmers should use more efficient water measures, such as switching to water-efficient crops or using methods like sprinkler or drip irrigation versus flooding fields.
    • Companies should set science-based water targets, which are in line with what the science says is “enough” to stay within Earth’s limits and meet society’s needs, learning from a growing number of businesses that have already set such targets.

    Source: DTE

    Ragging

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions

    In News

    • According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), over the last five and a half years, at least 25 students have died by suicide after they were subjected to ragging.

    About

    • Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have reported four deaths each followed by Odisha with three deaths. 
    • Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana have reported two deaths each. 
    • According to a survey in the year 2017, about 40% of India’s students had to face some form of ragging and bullying, of which medical and engineering colleges reported the most.

    What is Ragging?

    • Ragging is an act of violence which causes, or is likely to cause, insult, intimidation, or injury to students. 
    • It involves abuse, humiliation, or harassment of new entrants or junior students by the senior students. It often takes a malignant form wherein the newcomers may be subjected to psychological or physical torture.

    Reasons for Ragging incidents in India

    • Ragging is done in the name of fresher’s welcome & gives a sense of authority to the senior students
    • Vengeance is one of the major reasons for carrying out ragging. This means that the students themselves who are victims of ragging do it with their juniors. They take revenge for the excesses done to them by their juniors. They compel them to perform everything they suffered.
    • Several highly reputed Indian colleges in India have a history of ragging. Sometimes it is even considered to be a college tradition.

    Consequences

    • Ragging in colleges can lead to prolonged stress that minimizes the ability of effective functioning. 
    • The long-term consequences of ragging and bullying can be a high risk of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and poor quality of interpersonal relationships
    • It can also lead to severe depression and people taking drastic steps like attempting suicide
    • As per studies, ragging can also increase the risk of displaying aggressive behaviour and engaging in criminal activity in the long run. 
    • It can also lead to alcohol and drug addiction.

    Government initiatives against Ragging

    • National Anti-Ragging Helpline: Following a Supreme Court order, a National Anti-Ragging Helpline was created to help the victims and take action in cases of ragging, by informing the head of the institution and the local police authorities of the ragging complaint from the college. 
      • The main feature of the helpline is that the complaints can be registered anonymously.
    • UGC’s guidelines: UGC regulations on curbing the menace of ragging in higher educational institutions provide clear guidelines and mandates all institutions to prevent ragging and help students avoid taking extreme steps.
    • UGC’s helpline: UGC maintains a dedicated 24×7 anti-ragging helpline for students. 
      • The UGC anti-ragging cell serves as a bridge between the students and educational authorities. 
      • Reports and complaints received through the helpline are escalated to appropriate authorities for timely action.
    • Other regulations: The All India Council For Technical Education [AICTE] has created “All India Council for Technical Education (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Technical Institutions, Universities including Deemed to be Universities imparting technical education) Regulations 2009”.
      • Similarly, the Medical Council of India has made “Medical Council of India (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges/Institutions) Regulations, 2009”

    Suggestions

    • Counselling cells: While law and order is in place, institutes should take initiatives to provide a sense of security to students. 
      • Colleges should have counselling cells that can help students in times of crisis. 
    • Promoting healthy ways of interactions: Extra measures should be taken to ensure students’ safety, in and around campuses.
      •  Conducting cultural festivals and other extracurricular activities involving both juniors and seniors, can alleviate such situations.
    • Awareness building: Anti-ragging programmes can be held to spread awareness about the ill-effects of ragging. 
      • Most tormentors consider ragging to be casual entertainment. This can be reduced by conducting regular interactive sessions on the impacts of ragging.
      • The counselling services should be autonomous so that confidentiality of students can be maintained and they can seek help without any hesitation.
    • Anti-ragging activities: The Anti-ragging students committee can help in making sure it is a ragging- free campus. 
      • Colleges should also try to set up a working ‘campus safety office’. Such initiatives will instil hope not just for students, but also for parents.

    Way ahead

    • Students, teachers, and parents must be educated about mental health, stress management, and identifying signs of distress. 
    • We should de-stigmatise and encourage students to seek mental health support.

    Source: TH

    Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) 

    Syllabus: GS 3/Economy

    In News 

    • As per the latest reports submitted by banks the total number of Jan Dhan accounts have crossed 50 crore as on 9th August 2023.
      • Out of these accounts 56% accounts belong to women and 67% accounts have been opened in Rural / Semi-urban areas.

    About Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) 

    • It is National Mission for Financial Inclusion to ensure access to financial services, namely, basic savings & deposit accounts, remittance, credit, insurance, pension in an affordable manner. 
    • It was launched on 28th august 2014 .
    • Under it , a basic savings bank deposit (BSBD) account can be opened in any bank branch or Business Correspondent (Bank Mitra) outlet, by persons not having any other account.

    Features 

    • One basic savings bank account is opened for unbanked people.
    • There is no requirement to maintain any minimum balance in PMJDY accounts.
    • Interest is earned on the deposit in PMJDY accounts.
    • Rupay Debit card is provided to the PMJDY account holder.
    • Accident Insurance Cover of Rs.1 lakh (enhanced to Rs. 2 lakh to new PMJDY accounts opened after 28.8.2018) is available with RuPay card issued to the PMJDY account holders.
    • An overdraft (OD) facility up to Rs. 10,000 to eligible account holders is available.
    • PMJDY accounts are eligible for Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY), Atal Pension Yojana (APY), Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Bank (MUDRA) scheme.

    Objectives 

    • The major objective of the scheme is to provide universal access to banking facilities to every household, and access to credit, insurance and pension facilities to every adult individual.

    Achievements 

    • It has been successful in changing the financial landscape of the country and has brought near saturation in bank accounts for adults.
    • It has been the foundation stone for people-centric economic initiatives. 
    • It has completed almost 9 years and the deposits in PMJDY accounts  are above Rs. 2.03 lakh crore and about 34 crore RuPay cards have been issued in these accounts free of cost. 
    • The average balance in PMJDY accounts is Rs. 4,076 and more than 5.5 crore PMJDY accounts are receiving DBT benefits.
    • PMJDY has brought the unbanked into the banking system, expanded the financial architecture of India and brought financial inclusion to almost every adult. 

    Issues and Challenges

    • There are certain challenges hindering the growth in access to banking services, especially in rural areas which include large number of dormant accounts, lack of training to banking correspondents, lack of knowledge about functioning of ATMs, e-banking and government schemes among customers, poor digital infrastructure, risk of cyber frauds, data privacy, etc.

    Way Ahead 

    •  The technological issues like poor connectivity, on-line transactions need to be addressed. 
    • Mobile transactions through telecom operators and their established centres as Cash Out Points are also planned to be used for Financial Inclusion under the Scheme. 
    • Also an effort is being made to reach out to the youth of this country to participate in this Mission Mode Programme.
    • To achieve the cherished goal of providing access to financial services to each adult, emphasis should be given on quality rather than quantity, financial literacy and credit counselling programmes, adoption of secure digital technology with adequate safeguards and consumer protection measures.

    Source:PIB

    3D Printing

    Syllabus:GS3/Science and Technology

    News

    • India’s first 3D printed Post Office was inaugurated in Bengaluru’s Cambridge Layout.

    What is 3D printing?

    • 3D Printing is a process that uses computer-created design to make three-dimensional objects layer by layer.
    • It is an additive process, in which layers of a material like plastic, composites or bio-materials are built up to construct objects that range in shape, size, rigidity and color.
    • 3D Printing was invented in the 1980s by Charles W. Hull. 

    How is 3D printing done?

    • To carry out 3D printing,a personal computer connected to a 3D printer is required.There is a need to design a 3D model of the required object on computer-aid design (CAD) software and press ‘print’. The 3D printer will make the desired object.
    • 3D printers construct the desired object by using a layering method, opposite of the subtractive manufacturing processes. It builds from the bottom up by piling on layer after layer until the object looks exactly like it was envisioned. 
    • The 3D printer acts generally the same as a traditional inkjet printer in the direct 3D printing process, where a nozzle moves back and forth while dispensing a wax or plastic-like polymer layer-by-layer, waiting for that layer to dry, then adding the next level. 

    Examples of 3D printing

    • 3D printing is being used in a host of different industries like healthcare, automobile and aerospace. An aerospace manufacturing company Relativity Space launched a test rocket made entirely from 3D-printed parts, measuring 100 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide.
    • At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the healthcare industry used 3D printers to make much-needed medical equipment, like swabs, face shields, and masks, as well as the parts to fix their ventilators.

    Advantages of 3D Printing

    • 3D Printers Are Affordable: 3D printing is capable of making the manufacturing process of complex parts more streamlined due to software programming which makes it an affordable option in some industries. Also,because there is no need for a mold in 3D printing it saves cost.
    • 3D Printers Are Fast: 3D printing is ideal for quick prototyping of products because it can be done in house in small runs. Alterations to products can easily be made through CAD while the manufacturing cost stays the same.
    • 3D Printers Can Work With Specialty Materials: The specialty parts and products can be made with specific materials like water-absorbing plastic, nitinol, gold and carbon fiber. Specialty materials like this allow for properties such as high heat resistance, water repellency and strength.
    • Environmentally Friendly: As this technology reduces the amount of material wastage used this process is inherently environmentally friendly. 

    Disadvantages of 3D Printing

    • 3D Printers May Not Provide Enough Strength: Building an object layer by layer, can affect the durability and strength of the object. 
    • 3D Printers May Have Accuracy Issues: Although CAD is often an accessible and accurate way to design, there can be errors. Accuracy with 3D printing is dependent on the techniques and printers use. 

    Source:IE

    Fair Lending Practice – Penal Charges in Loan Accounts

     

    Syllabus: GS3/Indian Economy

    Context

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued guidelines to Regulated Entities (REs) such as banks, NBFCs and other lenders to ensure reasonableness and transparency in disclosure of penal interest. 

    About the guidelines

    • Background: It has been observed by the RBI that many Regulated Entities (REs) use penal rates of interest, over and above the applicable interest rates, in case of defaults / non-compliance by the borrower with the terms on which credit facilities were sanctioned.
    • The instructions in the guidelines shall come into effect from January 1, 2024.
    • Source of power to issue the guidelines by RBI:
      • The instructions are issued under different sections of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, and the National Housing Bank Act, 1987 and shall be updated in the relevant Master Directions / Master Circulars of the applicable REs.

    Significance of the guidelines

    • No capitalisation of penal charges: The intent of levying penal interest/charges is essentially to inculcate a sense of credit discipline and such charges are not meant to be used as a revenue enhancement tool over and above the contracted rate of interest.
      • No further interest computed on such charges. However, this will not affect the normal procedures for compounding of interest in the loan account.
    • Interest charged on the advances: The lending institutions have the operational autonomy to formulate Board approved policy for levy of penal rates of interest.
      • Penalties charged for non-compliance with material terms and conditions of loan would be treated as ‘penal charges’ and not be levied in the form of ‘penal interest’.
      • The quantum of penal charges shall be reasonable and commensurate with the non-compliance with material terms and conditions of loan contract without being discriminatory within a particular loan/product category.
    • Impact on Consumers: The penal charges in case of loans sanctioned to ‘individual borrowers, for purposes other than business’, shall not be higher than the penal charges applicable to non-individual borrowers for similar non-compliance of material terms and conditions.
    • Fair Practice by REs: The quantum and reason for penal charges shall be clearly disclosed by REs to the customers in the loan agreement and most important terms & conditions / Key Fact Statement (KFS) as applicable, in addition to being displayed on REs website under Interest rates and Service Charges.
    • Exemption: The instructions in the guideline will not apply to Credit Cards, External Commercial Borrowings, Trade Credits and Structured Obligations which are covered under product-specific directions.

    Extra mile: The Banking Regulation Act, 1949

    • It was enacted to consolidate the regulatory laws relating to banking and also to define the transactions that can be carried out by commercial banks in the country.
    • Initially, it was not applicable to the Cooperative banks, but when the deposits started increasing in the Co-operative sector, it was made applicable to Co-operative banks too, with effect from March 1966.
    • This Act gives supervisory and regulatory powers to RBI over the Co-operative banks.

    Objectives of the Act:

    • to safeguard the interest of depositors;
    • to develop banking institutions on sound lines; and
    • to attune the monetary and credit system to the larger interests and priorities of the nation.
      • Section 21 of the Act gives power to RBI to control advances by banks, and Section 35A to give directions to banks.

    TH

    Suborbital Tech Demonstrator (SorTeD): Single-stage Launch Vehicle 

    Syllabus: GS3/Developments in Science and Technology

    News

    • Space-tech startup Agnikul Cosmos recently announced that it has developed a rocket for a proposed suborbital space flight.

    About

    • A successful flight will make Agnikul the second Indian space-tech company to send a vehicle to space after Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace. 
    • The launch of Skyroot’s 545-kg rocket named Vikram-S in November 2022 marked the launch of India’s private space industry.

    What is Agnikul’s space vehicle?

    • It’s a Suborbital Tech Demonstrator (SorTeD) single-stage launch vehicle, called Agnibaan, which is driven by the company’s patented Agnilet engine. 
    • Agnibaan SOrTeD will lift off vertically & follow a predetermined trajectory. It can carry payloads up to 100 kg to a low Earth orbit (LEO) up to 700 km. 

    What sort of engine does Agnikul have?

    • The Agnilet engine is an entirely 3D-printed, single-piece, 6 kN semi-cryogenic engine
      • In 2021, Skyroot had successfully demonstrated the country’s first privately developed cryogenic engine, Dhawan-1, which too was completely 3D printed, using a superalloy, by a process that cut the manufacturing time by 95 per cent.
    • The Agnilet engine uses a mixture of liquid kerosene at room temperature and supercooled liquid oxygen as propellant.

    Present status of Indian space sector

    • The Indian space industry had a barely 3% share in the rapidly growing global space economy, which was already worth at least $360 billion.
    • Indian industry is unable to compete at global scale, because its role has traditionally been to supply components and subsystems. 
    • Indian industries did not have the resources or the technology to undertake independent space projects of the kind that companies such as SpaceX have been doing in the United States.
    • ISRO was unable to keep up with the growing demand for space-based applications and services even within India. 
    • Hence, in June 2020, the government approved the creation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) to ensure greater private participation in India’s space activities and boost the sector. 

    How does ISRO benefit from the privatization?

    • Private participation will free up ISRO to concentrate on science, research and development, interplanetary exploration, and strategic launches. 
      • Right now, too much of ISRO’s resources are consumed by routine activities that delay its more strategic objectives.
    • Commercial benefits: There is no point in ISRO alone should be launching weather or communication satellites. 
      • The world over, an increasing number of private players are taking over this activity for commercial benefits. 
    • Revenue to ISRO: ISRO can earn some money by making its facilities and data available to private players.
      • It is not that private players will wean away the revenues that ISRO gets through commercial launches. The space-based economy is expected to “explode” in the next few years, and there would be more than enough for all.

    Source: IE

    Organoid Intelligence

    Syllabus: GS3/Developments in Science and Technology

    News: 

    • In the last few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has rapidly pushed the boundaries of cognitive computing further. 

    What is Organoid Intelligence (OI)? 

    • Biocomputers use biologically-derived materials to perform computational functions while organoid intelligence is an emerging field that envisions novel biocomputing models using stem cell-derived brain organoids.
    • Organoids are small tissue cultures derived from stem cells to replicate part of a human organ’s functioning. 
    • These organoids have been used for various purposes such as disease modelling and drug testing, but researchers are now beginning to explore their potential for information processing.

    Applications of Organoid Intelligence

    • Such organoid studies show promise for replicating the cellular aspects of learning and memory to further our understanding of the brain. 
    • Researchers have already begun experimentation to determine the effects of substances like medicine and alcohol on brain organoids’ ability to learn.
    • Brain organoids can also be cultured to mimic different regions and cell layers, resembling the early stages of brain development. 
    • They can be used to study the cognitive aspects of neurological disorders. Comparing memory formation in organoids derived from people with and without Alzheimer’s disease might reveal ways to repair the deficits. 
    • Scientists could also study personalised brain organoids to investigate how genetic factors, medicines, and other environmental elements influence an individual’s condition.
    • Further, brain organoids can create biocomputers that will be faster and more efficient than silicon computing and AI.

    Advantages of Biological Learning 

    • Human brains may be slower than machines at processing simple information like numeric data, they massively outperform machines when it comes to processing complex information and making decisions. 
      • In 2013, it took the world’s fourth-ranked supercomputer, Fujitsu, 40 minutes to simulate 1 second of neural activity, and to date, no technology can run large-scale simulations faster than in real-time. 
    • Biological learning also requires far fewer samples to learn.     
      • AlphaGo was the first computer programme to beat a human world champion in the complex game of ‘Go’ but it required training data from 1,60,000 games—the equivalent of playing five hours a day for over 175 years to do so.
    • The third is the energy efficiency of biological learning. 
      • Humans operate at 10^6 times better power efficiency as compared to Frontier, the world’s most powerful supercomputer. This is increasingly relevant, given the insatiable demand for computing power. 
      • This ‘computational burden’ is pushing progress in deep learning towards becoming economically, technically, and environmentally unsustainable.

    Conclusion

    • The advantages of biological learning make OI a tempting notion to embrace. However, there are significant ethical and technological hurdles to overcome before we develop an OI biocomputer. 
    • At the time of donation, voluntary informed consent is key to protecting the rights and dignity of the donor. 
    • Selection biases must also be prevented to reduce risks of discrimination and promote neurodiversity. 
    • The commercial interest in organoids creates the need for limitations on the use of and regulations for gene editing to ensure ethical culturing.
    • At the learning and computation stages, data sharing and open access to technology are vital to inclusivity and plurality in knowledge generation. 
    • During its application, there would need to be stakeholder-informed regulations around its use.

    Source: ORF

    Facts In News

    Monsoonal Break

    Syllabus: GS1/Geography

    In News

    • The current monsoon break that started on August 7, 2023 has finally ended, according to the regional centre of India Meteorological Department, Pune.

    About

    • This current monsoonal break makes it the third-longest for this century after 2002 and 2009.

    What is Monsoonal Break? 

    • A monsoonal break occurs when the monsoon trough shifts northward, which enhances rainfall along the Himalayan foothills and parts of eastern India while rainfall is suppressed in the rest of the country.
    • This happens especially in the core monsoon zone area or the region stretching from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal and Odisha in the east, where agricultural activities are rain-fed.
    • A monsoonal break is declared when deviation from the long term rainfall average over the core monsoon zone exceeds -1 threshold and the situation persists for at least three consecutive days.
    • The break monsoon ends when the normalised rainfall anomaly decreases in magnitude.

    Concerns

    • While a monsoonal break from an active phase is quite normal, what is alarming about the current situation is that the break persisted for a prolonged period of time. 
    • According to the data, in the last 73 years, there have been a total of 10 instances when the break spell has stretched over 10 days. 
    • The longest consecutive break spell was reported in 1972, when the core monsoon zone did not receive any rainfall for 17 days at a stretch, while in 1966 and 2002, the break spell stretched over 10 days on multiple occasions. 

    Source: DTE

    Sadbhavana Diwas

    Syllabus: Miscellaneous

    In News

    • The birth anniversary of India’s sixth prime minister Rajiv Gandhi is observed as Sadbhavana Diwas or Harmony Day every year on August 20 in the country. 

    About

    • ‘Sadbhavana’ in English means goodwill.
    • It is dedicated to the cause of encouraging peace, national integration, and communal harmony among all religions in the country.
    • The day was first observed in 1992, more than a year after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack in Tamil Nadu.
    • Rajiv Gandhi became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he assumed the post at the age of 40.
    • He was posthumously awarded country’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna in 1991.

    Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award

    • The All India Congress Committee established the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award in 1992. 
    • This award is given to people who have done exemplary work in establishing peace in society.

    Source: PIB

    Nanomechanical Testing Technology

    Syllabus: GS 3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • Indian scientists in collaboration with two international institutions developed a novel method to test nanomechanical properties of materials at very minute scales with high precision and accuracy.

    About Nanomechanical Testing Technology

    • It is also known as the Nanoindentation technique .
    • It was invented by Dr. Warren Oliver (KLA Corp.) and Dr. John Pethica (Oxford University) in the 80s because  conventional testing methods are not always feasible at nano scales, which are usually of the order of 1/100th of the diameter of a human hair.

    Applications 

    • It has been widely used to measure the strength of semiconductor devices and structural materials that have ubiquitously penetrated every aspect of our daily life through electronic gadgets. 
    • It has been used for a wide range of applications from identifying cancerous cells to establishing how meteorites are formed in deep space.
    • The novel approach involved a combination of extensive modelling and simulation to understand the material response during an indentation test and subsequent tailoring of the methodology to improve the precision and accuracy
    • The modelling results have also been validated by experiments under extreme conditions. 

    Relevance of Latest Development 

    • The new methodology not only significantly improves the precision and accuracy of what is known as nanoindentation technique or testing of mechanical strength, but enables testing at much higher rates, thus facilitating high throughput.
    • The new methodology is expected to impact a broad spectrum of scientific research on measuring the strength of materials at small scales. 

    Source:PIB

    Sapphires 

    Syllabus :GS 1/Distribution of natural resources

    In News 

    • In Jammu and Kashmir, the Lieutenant Governor said that the Sapphire mines will be auctioned in a scientific way to give a boost to the local economy.

    About Sapphires 

    • The name Sapphire is derived from the Latin word ‘Saphirus’ and the Greek word ‘Sapherios’ both the words mean blue
    • People believed that the name blue sapphire is associated with the planet Saturn.
      • Sapphire has been a prized gemstone since 800 BC.
    • Sapphires contain traces of iron, titanium and nickel, giving them a range of colours including green, yellow, blue, orange, black and pink. 
    • Distribution(Globally) : The best known sources, including some lode deposits, are in Sri Lanka, Myanmar , Thailand, Australia, India, Madagascar, Russia, South Africa, and the United States .
      • In India : The total reserves/resources of sapphire was estimated at 450 kg, all  of which is placed under ‘Remaining Resources’ category and is located in Jammu & Kashmir.
        • Kashmir Sapphire are valued as significantly as they are because they have a superior cornflower blue tint with a sleepy quality as “Blue Velvet”. 
    • Relevance :  Sapphire has emerged as a versatile material useful to a range of industries in many varied applications including LEDs, optical and Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits (RFICS).
      • Sapphire is also  known as wisdom stone. It releases mental tension, unwanted thoughts and spiritual confusion.

    Source:News on air 

    Domestic Coking Coal 

    Syllabus: GS3/ Energy

    News

    • Government of India taking steps to raise the level of availability of domestic coking coal for use in steel industries.

    What is coking coal?

    • Coking coal’ is a certain type of bituminous coals which, when heated at high temperatures (over 1,000 deg C) in the absence of air (carbonization), soften, liquefy, and then re-solidify into a hard but porous mass known as coke.Coke is used mainly in the production of hot metal in a blast furnace.  
    • Properties:Coking coal contains more carbon, less ash and less moisture than thermal coal, which is used for the generation of power.
    • Domestic coking coal is high ash coal (mostly between 18% – 49%) and is not suitable for direct use in the blast furnace. Therefore, coking coal is washed to reduce the ash percentage and is blended with imported coking coal (

    Steps taken by the GoI to strengthen the availability of Coal

    • Enactment of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2021 for enabling captive mines owners (other than atomic minerals) to sell up to 50% of their annual mineral (including coal) production in the open market after meeting the requirement of the end use plant linked with the mine.
    • Single Window Clearance portal for the coal sector to speed up the operationalization of coal mines.
    • The Ministry of Coal has 16 coking coal blocks so far, out of which 4 blocks were auctioned in the year 2022-23.
    • Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) invited agencies/companies to mine coking coal from their BCCL owned abandoned/discontinued mines on a revenue sharing basis.
    • The Ministry of Coal has also taken an initiative to bundle setting up of washeries with linkage of coking coal. It has been envisaged that the agencies including steel industries, can set up greenfield washeries or revamp old washeries of BCCL, which will be provided linkage of coking coal.

    Source:PIB

    Bio-Trace Minerals Project

    Syllabus: GS-3/Science and Technology

    Context

    • Recently, the Technology Development Board under Department of Science and Technology (TDB-DST) collaborated with M/s Chemlife Innovations pvt ltd.  for innovation in the Bio-Trace Minerals Project.

    About the Project

    • The mission aims to enhance livestock productivity, optimize feed and fodder resources and infuse technology into livestock management.
    • It will enhance animal nutrition, transform livestock and poultry & dairy production, and set new eco-friendly manufacturing benchmarks. 
    • As per the ‘Accelerated Natural Bio Transformation’ (ANBioT) technology, the project introduces a proprietary nutrient that facilitates chelation reactions under milder conditions, aligning with environmental sustainability.
    • This project contributes to the circular economy by repurposing silkworm pupae meal and mitigating waste generated by the silk industry. 
    • Innovative products like MinBioZen address the need for bio trace minerals in optimizing livestock health and growth. It integrates bioavailability and stability, symbolizing their dedication to innovation and environmental stewardship.

    Role of Micro Minerals/Trace Minerals in Livestock Health

    • They are found in low concentrations in the body or are required in lower amounts in the animal’s food. 
    • Chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc are examples of micro minerals.
    • They play an important part in a variety of metabolic, enzymatic, and biochemical activities. 
    • A lack of these essential micronutrients would result in deficient disorders, poor development, reduced egg production, and poor feed efficiency.
    • They are important for the metabolic activities of livestock and poultry. 

    Source: PIB

    Switch from floating to fixed rate regime

    Syllabus:GS3/Economy

    News

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked all regulated entities (REs),including banks and NBFCs, to give personal loan borrowers an option to switch over from a floating rate to a fixed rate regime at the time of resetting interest rates.

    What are the new changes?

    • Clear communication: At the time of sanction, REs will have to clearly communicate to the borrowers about the possible impact of a change in benchmark interest rate on the loan leading to changes in EMI and/or tenor or both.
      • Any increase in the EMI/ tenor or both will have to be communicated to the borrower immediately through appropriate channels.
    • Switchover: At the time of reset of interest rates, REs will have to give the option to borrowers to switch over to a fixed rate as per their board-approved policy. The policy will also specify the number of times a borrower will be allowed to switch during the tenor of the loan.
      • REs will have to disclose all applicable charges for switching loans from floating to fixed rate and any other service charges/ administrative costs in the sanction letter and also at the time of revision of charges or costs from time to time.
    • Elongation:The borrowers will also be given the choice to opt for enhancement in EMI or elongation of tenor or for a combination of both options, and to prepay, either in part or in full, at any point during the tenor of the loan, with foreclosure charges.

    Why has RBI issued new regulations?

    • Unreasonable elongation of tenor:The supervisory reviews undertaken by the RBI and the feedback and references from members of the public have revealed several instances of unreasonable elongation of tenor of floating rate loans by lenders without proper consent and communication to the borrowers.
    • Banks can change the interest rate by changing the internal benchmark rate and the spread during the term of the loan which could harm the interest of the borrower and also impair monetary transmission. 
    • The borrower can refinance the floating rate loan by going to another bank, but in practice, this does not work well. Floating rate loans of different banks with internal benchmarks are not identical even if spreads are identical at loan origination and in future, given that different banks change or reset internal benchmarks differently.
      • The borrower in such a situation is more often left with no choice, but to remain captive to the original bank and pay higher charges on existing loans rather than refinance.

    What are personal loans?

    • According to RBI, personal loans are the loans given to individuals and consist of consumer credit, education loan, loans given for the creation or enhancement of immovable assets (such as housing loans), and loans given for investment in financial assets (shares and debentures). 

    What is the interest rate reset?

    • When a customer takes a home loan, the interest rate reset clause in the loan agreement allows the lender to review the interest rate after a certain period, as per the occurrence of a scheduled reset date of the loan. 
    • The reset rate is the new interest rate that a borrower must pay effective from the scheduled reset date. EMI of a floating rate loan changes with periodical changes in reset interest rates. These rates and the calculation are not uniform for all the banks as the cost of funds differs from banks.

    Source:IE

    Yard 76 (LSAM 8)

     

    Syllabus: GS3/Defence Technology 

    Context

    • Yard 76 (LSAM 8), a second Missile Cum Ammunition (MCA) Barge was delivered to the Indian Navy at Guttenadeevi, Andhra Pradesh.
      • It has all major and auxiliary equipment and systems sourced from indigenous manufacturers.

    About

    • The contract to develop MCA Berge is part of the government’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’ efforts to boost local manufacturing capabilities in the defence sector.
    • These have a service life of 30 years and are capable of operating in Indian tropical environment conditions.
    • These MCA Berges are aimed to provide impetus to Operational commitments of the Indian Navy by facilitating Transportation, Embarkation and Disembarkation of articles / ammunition to Indian Navy Ships both alongside jetties and at outer harbours.

    PIB