Daily Current Affairs – 23-06-2023

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    Titan tragedy: Lessons for India’s Deep Ocean Mission 

    Syllabus :GS1/Resources /GS 3/Conservation /Environment 

    In News

    The Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions, has been imploded in the Atlantic Ocean.

    • Titan tragedy offers lessons for proposed Indian submersible dive because  India is in the process of designing the submersible,‘MATSYA 6000’

    About Titan 

    • It is a submersible, or an underwater vehicle. It is operated by the privately owned U.S. company OceanGate that organises underwater expeditions for both research and tourism.
    •  Its expeditions were meant to document the Titanic and its rate of decay on the ocean floor.

    What is the difference between a submarine and a submersible?

    • While the two categories can overlap, a submarine refers to an underwater vehicle that is largely independent and has power reserves to help it depart from a port or come back to the port after an expedition. 
    • Meanwhile, a submersible is generally smaller in size and has less power, so it needs to work with a ship in order to be launched and recovered.

    About ‘MATSYA 6000’ 

    • ‘MATSYA 6000’ vehicle is being designed and developed by National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai under Ministry of Earth Sciences.
    • It will carry three persons to a depth of 6000 metres for exploration of deep-sea resources like minerals into the Indian Ocean, at a point about 1,500 km away from Kanyakumari. 
    •  It has an endurance of 12 hours under normal operation and 96 hours in case of emergency for human safety.

    Deep Ocean Mission 

    • The Centre had approved the Deep Ocean Mission at a total budget of ₹4,077 crore for five years. 
    • It is a multi-ministerial, multi-disciplinary programme with emphasis on development of deep-sea technology that includes development of Manned Submersible rated for 6000 metre water depth along with technologies for deep sea mining, exploration of deep-sea minerals resources and marine biodiversity, development of ocean climate change advisory services, deep sea surveys and exploration, and capacity building in Marine Biology.

    Purpose 

    • India has a unique maritime position, a 7517 km long coastline, which is home to nine coastal states and 1,382 islands. 
    • The mission aims to boost the central government’s vision of ‘New India’ that highlights the blue economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.  

    The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT)

    • It was established in November 1993 as an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India. 
    • It is managed by a Governing Council and the Director is the head of the Institute. 
    • Objectives : It aims  to develop reliable indigenous technologies to solve the various engineering problems associated with harvesting of non-living and living resources in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is about two-thirds of the land area of India.

    Source:TH

    PM gifted “The Ten Principal Upanishads” Book to Biden

    Syllabus: GS1/ Art & Culture

    In News

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted US President Joe Biden a first edition print of the book “The Ten Principal Upanishads” during his visit to the White House.

    About

    • The book is an English translation of the Indian Upanishads, co-authored with Shri Purohit Swami, and published by Yeats in 1937. Yeats had a lifelong fascination with Indian philosophy and literature, and his interest in the Upanishads led to the co-translation. 
    • The book is considered one of the best translations, aiming to retain the original text’s essence while being accessible to the general reader.

    What are the Upanishads?

    • Upanishads are one of the four texts that together compile each of the Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva). Vedas is a collection of poems or hymns written in Sanskrit.
    • Upanishad is derived from upa (near), ni (down) and sad (to sit). Hence, the term implies the pupils, intent on learning, sitting near the teacher to acquire knowledge and truth. They serve to explore the fundamental principles of the religion.
    • There are over 200 Upanishads, of these, only 10 are the principal Upanishads: Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashan, Mundaka, Mandukya, Tattiriya, Aitareya, Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka.
    • This ancient Hindu sacred text teaches how the “individual self (atman) finds the ultimate reality (brahman)” through an “inner spiritual journey”.

    Significance of Upanishads

    • The Upanishads are the most sacred late Vedic and post-Vedic Sanskrit texts which are considered to contain the ultimate truth and the knowledge that leads to spiritual emancipation.

    Who Was WB Yeats?

    • William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, writer and politician. 
    • Yeats was also heavily inspired by the teachings of Mohini Mohan Chatterjee, who came to Dublin in 1885 as a representative of the Theosophical Society.
    • Yeat’s interest in philosophy increased after he met poet and Hindu monk Shri Purohit Swami in 1931. He also wrote the Introduction to Swami’s The Holy Mountain.
    • Yeats wrote three poems (published in 1889) that referred to India:
      • ‘The Indian to His Love’
      • ‘The Indian upon God’
      • ‘Anushuya and Vijaya’.

    How did Upanishads reach the West?

    • Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, had a keen interest in the religions of the world. 
    • Dara, who lived from 1615 to 1659, translated the Bhagavad Gita and 52 Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian.
    • In 1775, Dara’s translation was discovered by a French resident at the court of Shuja-ud-daula, Nawab of Awadh, who sent the copy to Anquetil Duperron, a popular French traveller.
    • German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who came across the book, became greatly impressed by the Upanishads, called them “the production of the highest human wisdom”.
    • Later, Famous American poets Ralph W Emerson, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau have been credited for popularising this Hindu religious text in the US. 

    Source: IE

     

    United States’ Debt Ceiling Negotiations and their Importance

    In News: 

    • President Joe Biden recently signed the bill that will raise the U.S. debt limit. 

    What is the Debt Ceiling/limit?

    • The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money that the United States can borrow cumulatively by issuing bonds. The debt ceiling was created under the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 and is also known as the debt limit or statutory debt limit.
    • Also, Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution states that, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and ….…To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;….”
    • This power was delegated to the U.S. Department of Treasury with the stipulation that the approval of the Congress would be needed for increasing the debt limit.

    Raising of Debt Ceiling in the past

    • According to a report of Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the debt ceiling has been raised 78 times since 1960, with the most recent one in December 2021 when it was raised to $31.4 trillion.

    Current Debt Ceiling

    • The debt ceiling is $31.4 trillion as of June 2023. It was raised to this level under President Biden in 2021. 
    • Although spending officially reached that limit in January 2023, Congress suspended the debt ceiling until 2025.

    What if the Congress does not raise the debt limit?

    • The Treasury Department can postpone a default through temporary solutions called “extraordinary measures” like suspending payments to some government employee savings programs, under-investing in certain government funds, and delaying auctions of securities. 
    • Other measures such as reducing federal spending and/or increasing taxes could be implemented, selling U.S. gold and minting platinum coins to the extent of a total amount of US$1 trillion.
    • The U.S. President is also authorized to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned….” 

    The US Debt Ceiling and its Impact on U.S. economy:  

    • Analysis by Council of Economic Advisors (CEA)and external researchers point that if the U.S. government were to default on its obligations—whether to creditors, contractors, or citizens—the economy would quickly shift into reverse, with the depth of the losses dependent on how long the breach lasted. 
    • According to Moody’s, even a short debt limit breach could lead to a decline in real GDP, nearly 2 million job loss and an increase in the unemployment rate to nearly 5 per cent from its current level of 3.5 per cent. 
    • The ability of households and businesses, especially small businesses, to borrow would also be compromised. 
    • The risks endangered by the default would cause interest rates to increase. This would lead to a recession within the U.S.

    Implication for the global economy. 

    • A default on government debt—which sits at almost $31.5 trillion—would send shock waves through global financial markets as confidence in U.S. borrowers falls. 
    • Credit analysis firm Moody’s Analytics predicts that a four-month default would shave around 4% from the U.S. GDP, see stock prices fall by a third, and result in companies slashing nearly six million jobs. Furthermore, its analysis reveals that a default on U.S. Treasury bonds could lead to a downturn similar to the 2007–2009 Great Recession.
    • The creditworthiness of U.S. treasury securities has long bolstered demand for U.S. dollars, contributing to their value and status as the world’s reserve currency and a lack of confidence in the U.S. economy’s strength would lead investors to sell the U.S. treasury securities which would likely weaken the dollar.
    • This in turn would have a domino effect as nearly half the world’s foreign currency reserves are held in U.S dollars and most global transactions are valued in U.S. dollars.
    • Heavily indebted low-income countries struggle to make interest payments on their sovereign debts, a weaker dollar could make debts denominated in other currencies relatively more expensive and threaten to tip some emerging economies into debt or political crises.
    • The financial panic would cause credit markets to freeze investments and the stock markets too will plunge. Both the U.S. and the world economy will face a recession.

    Implications on Indian Economy

    • As the US has never defaulted on its debt obligations, the impact it can have is still up for discussion. However, the Indian market can face a downturn in case this happens due to the centrality of the US economy to global growth. 
    • With the US economy shifting into reverse, many Indian businesses with exposure to the United States can face troubles in their operations as investor sentiment is hit and thousands are laid off due to the crisis. 
    • The US debt ceiling may not directly impact Indian markets, however, any statement from US Fed officials hinting at a change in stance on interest rates, could trigger a buying spree in the US dollar, resulting in a withdrawal of FIIs from the Indian stock market.

    Way Ahead

    • The U.S. has been able to avoid a default on the federal government’s debt in the past. But, the tense negotiations have raised the need to find alternative solutions. 
    • Over the years negotiations to increase the debt ceiling have increasingly become more political with both parties taking it as an opportunity to extract concessions. Fiscal insight and long term planning must be a given preference in any negotiation.
    • The ceiling is seen as a means to check government spending and borrowing, which need to be adhered to in most situations. 
    • The debt ceiling crisis has raised questions on the financial power of the U.S and the dollar and it is clear that the consequences for the American and global economy could have been dire. 
    • The U.S. would have to look for solutions for the future that ensure that it does not bring the country to the brink of a default and in turn, shock international economic stability.

    Source: LM

    Cord Blood Banking

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health, Government Policies & Interventions, Issues Arising out of their Design & Implementation

    In News

    • Over the past decade, the popularity of cord blood banking has increased among new parents.

    More about the news 

    • About the Cord blood:
      • Cord blood (short for umbilical cord blood) is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta post-delivery.
        •  The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta.
        •  The placenta grows in the womb (uterus) and supplies the baby with food and oxygen.
    • Cord blood banking:
      • Cord blood banking is the process of collecting the cord blood and extracting and cryogenically freezing its stem cells and other cells of the immune system for potential future medical use.
        • In Europe and other parts of the world, cord blood banking is more often referred to as stem cell banking.
      • Collection process & storage:
        • The process of preserving umbilical cord blood and stem cells involves collecting the blood immediately after childbirth. 
        • This collection is non-invasive, painless, and does not pose any risk to the mother or the baby. 
        • The collected blood is then sent to specialised laboratories where it undergoes a series of tests and is processed for long-term storage.
    • Significance of Umbilical cord blood:
      • Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that can potentially develop into different types of cells, and be used, via a transplant, in the treatment of certain blood, immune and metabolic disorders
        • These are known as hematopoetic stem cell transplantations (HSCT) and require certain markers to match between the cord blood and the patient, to work.
      • Once stem cells are transplanted into those individuals, they help make new, healthy cells. Stem cell transplants help people with:
        • Cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
        • Bone marrow diseases requiring a transplant.
        • Anemia like sickle cell disease.
        • Certain immune system disorders.
        • Researchers are studying cord blood to see how it can help treat other life-threatening conditions like Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

    Cord blood banking in India

    • License:
      • Umbilical Cord Blood banks (UCB) are permitted only under license and monitoring by the Central Drug Standards Controlling Organization (CDSCO).
    • Repositories of stored cord blood:
      • ‘Community’ or ‘social’ banks, are repositories of stored cord blood from multiple donors, accessible to those who register for these services with the stem cell banking companies.
      • The stored stem cells remain the property of the client for the first two years after which they are transferred to the social banking repository.
    • What types of people are choosing to have the UCB banked?
      • Initially, banking started in the metro urban class of people who could afford the cost of banking. 
      • Now with intensive advertisement by the cord blood banks, the upper middle and middle class is getting aware about banking and opting for it even in smaller cities and towns. 

    Issues & challenges

    • Credibility of storing Cord blood for future self use:
      • While over the past decade or so the popularity of cord blood banking has increased among new parents, witnessed by the many banking facilities that have come up across the country, doctors’ associations say private banking of cord blood is not a routine recommendation for pregnant women. 
      • Its use in transplants is decreasing and the areas of regenerative medicine where it could potentially be used, are still, mostly, experimental.
    • Carrier of genetic abnormalities:
      • Consensus has also emerged in recent years, that stored cord blood should not be used for treating one’s own genetic condition in the future, because these stem cells could harbour the same genetic abnormality that caused the primary disease.
    • Lesser chances of stored cord blood being used:
      • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), The likelihood of the stored blood being used for HSCT is very small, probably as low as 0.005 to 0.04% in the first 20 years of life. 
    • Under-utilisation:
      • The ICMR’s ‘Guidelines for Umbilical Cord Banking’ 2023 too state that the trend is decreasing utilisation of cord blood for transplants in recent years. “Presently, the cord blood stored in private cord blood banks remains under-utilised.
    • Misleading and luring advertisements:
      • The misleading and luring advertisement by private cord blood banks is an area of major concern. 
      • Such ads often involve celebrities as their brand ambassador’s prompting storage as status symbols because celebrities are doing the same. 
    • Availability of newer method:
      • Now, however, a newer method – haploidentincal transplants – is more common.
        • In this, healthy cells from a half-matched donor such as a family member are used to replace the unhealthy ones in a patient.
        • This method is faster and has a higher success rate.

    Way ahead

    • Private cord blood banking is not a ‘biological insurance’ and its role in regenerative medicine is still hypothetical. It is recommended only if there is an existing family member (siblings or biological parents only), who is currently suffering from diseases approved to be benefitted by allogenic stem cell transplantation.
    • There is still a lack of awareness among stakeholders about the uses of cord blood banking. This needs to be countered through widespread information dissemination.

    Source: TH

    Outcomes of PM Modi’s visit to USA

    Syllabus: GS2/ International Relations

    In News

    • Recent PM Modi’s visit to the US has the following outcomes. 

    Key Outcomes

    India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS X):

    • The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) launched the IndiaU.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X).
    • It aims to expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the two countries. 
    • Planned initiatives under INDUS-X include:
      • Mentor-Protégé Partnerships for Start-ups
      • Accelerator Program for Defense Start-ups
      • Indo-U.S. Joint Innovation Fund
      • Standardisation of Indo-U.S. certifications for technology start-ups

    Jet engine tech transfer:

    • Engine manufacturer GE Aerospace announced signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) to produce fighter jet engines for the indigenous Light combat aircraft (LCA).
    • It includes the joint production of F414 engines in India for the IAF as part of the LCA Mk2 programme.

    Semiconductor testing and assembly facility:

    • U.S. semiconductor and chip maker Micron Technology, Inc’s announced that it would invest up to $825 million in a new chip assembly and test facility in Gujarat.
    • It would be bolstered by investment from the Indian and Gujarat governments, totalling $2.75 billion.

    Easing Visa renewable protocols:

    • After years of pandemic-induced visa slowdowns, the U.S. is announcing a pilot programme to renew visas domestically — which means that applicants do not have to travel outside the U.S. to get their renewal stamps — for certain petition-based temporary workers. 
    • This programme could expand to cover H1B and L-1 skilled visas by 2024 and to other categories eventually.

    Space cooperation:

    • India signed on to the Artemis Accord,a US-led alliance seeking to facilitate international collaboration in planetary exploration and research.
      • The Artemis Accords, established by the US and seven partner countries in 2020, are a set of 13 principles that seek to promote peaceful and cooperative exploration of space.
      • The Accords have been signed by 26 countries till now, including the original eight.
      • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will partner the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US in sending a joint mission to the International Space Station, a permanent laboratory in space, in 2024.

    Purchase of Predator UAV:

    • A mega deal on the purchase of MQ-9 “Reaper” armed drones by India was welcomed.
    • The agreement would strengthen India’s national security and surveillance capabilities, extending beyond the Indian Ocean and encompassing the border region with China.

    Predator UAV:

    • These are High-Altitude Long Endurance drones that are able to strike strategic targets.
    • The MQ-9 UAV has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS, can operate up to 50,000 feet, and has a 1,746 kilograms payload capacity that includes 1,361 kilograms of external stores.

     

    Source: TH

     

    National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)

    Syllabus: GS2/ Regulatory Bodies

    In News

    • Recently NCDRC fined  â‚¹1.5 crore on a Delhi based hospital for negligence and resorting to unethical practices during IVF procedure.

    NCDRC

    • NCDRC India is a quasi-judicial commission in India which was set up in 1988 under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
    • Head office:New Delhi
    • Members:The body consisting of the President & 11 Members.
    • The President of the Commission is a sitting or a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India or a sitting or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.
    • Jurisdiction:The Commission has three types of jurisdiction i.e. Original, Appellate & Revisional. 
    • It has been receiving complaints, Appeals & Revision Petitions from the consumers from all over the country.
    • It has Appellate and Revisional jurisdiction from the orders of State Commissions or the District commissions.
    • A consumer can file an Appeal before the Supreme Court of India against the decision of the National Commission within a period of 30 days.
    • The National Commissions has been functioning as per the provisions laid down in the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

    Consumer Protection Act, 2019

    • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 was introduced to replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
    • The act promulgates a three-tier quasi-judicial mechanism for redressal of consumer disputes namely district commissions, state commissions and national commission.
    • The Act also stipulates the pecuniary jurisdiction of each tier of consumer commission ie;
    1. ₹50 lakh for District Commission,
    2. More than ₹ 50 lakh to ₹ 2 crore for state Commision,
    3. More than ₹  2 crore for the National Commission.
    • The Central Government has set up the E-Daakhil Portal, which provides a hassle-free, speedy and inexpensive facility to consumers around the country to conveniently approach the relevant consumer forum.

    Source: TH

    Global Liveability Index 2023

    Syllabus: GS 2/International Reports /Index 

    In News

    • Recently, the Global Liveability Index 2023 was published.

    About Global Liveability Index 2023

    • It is published by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the Economist.
    • The concept of livability assesses the best or worst living conditions of cities based on 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. 
    • It quantify the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 173 cities worldwide
    • Assessing liveability has a broad range of uses, from benchmarking perceptions of development levels to assigning a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages.

    Major Findings 

    • Top performers:  The top rank of the liveable cities is dominated by European and North American cities. 
      • Asia-Pacific cities have made some of the biggest gains, accounting for eight of the top ten movers up the rankings as economies recover from the pandemic
      • Vienna in Austria tops the ranking of the most liveable cities in the world followed by Copenhagen in Denmark, Melbourne, and Sydney on 3rd and 4th rank while Vancouver has been placed as the 5th best city on the liveability index. 
      • Among Asian countries, only Osaka in Japan features among the top 10 most liveable countries at number 9. 
    • Worst performers: Damascus (Syria) and Tripoli (Libya) are still at the bottom of the list, held back by social unrest, terrorism and conflict. However, while Damascus has seen no improvement since last year, scores for Tripoli and other cities in the bottom ten have improved as the pandemic has receded.
    • Key Analysis :  After the end of covid restrictions, the liveability index has shown a noticeable improvement across the world. The average index score among all 172 cities has now reached  76.2 out of 100. 
      • EIU’s Liveability Index has risen significantly in the 2023 survey, reaching a 15-year high as the world moves on from the covid-19 pandemic and healthcare and education scores improve in many cities in Asia and the Middle East and Africa.
      •  However, scores for stability have slipped backward since last year, amid several instances of civil unrest around the world
        •  The war in Ukraine and the resulting economic and political disruption are affecting liveability in many European cities

    Source:IE

     

    National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF)

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science & Technology

    In News: 

    • A $100 million contract to build two new supercomputers dedicated to weather modeling and climate research, has been awarded to a French firm Eviden by NCMRWF.

    More on News 

    • These two new supercomputers,would have a combined capacity of up to 21.3 Petaflops.
    • The NCMRWF supercomputer, to be located in Noida, would have an 8.3-Petaflop computing capacity for weather and climate modeling to support advanced numerical weather research.
    • Since Weather and climate research requires massive computing power, this partnership with Atos Group will augment current capacity to increase resolutions and accuracy of weather forecasts.

    About NCMRWF (The National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting)

    • The NCMRWF is a Centre of Excellence in Weather and Climate Modelling under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. 
    • The mission of the Centre is to continuously develop advanced numerical weather prediction systems, with increased reliability and accuracy over India and neighbouring regions.
    • HQ: Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

    Source: TH