Daily Current Affairs – 25-08-2023

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    India and the Northern Sea Route (NSR)

    Syllabus: GS2/International Relations

    In News

    • Murmansk is witnessing the rising trend of Indian involvement in cargo traffic.

    About Murmansk 

    • It is popularly called the capital of the Arctic region and the beginning point of the Northern Sea Route (NSR).
    • It is a city in the north-west of the European part of Russia, the administrative center of Murmansk Oblast. 
    • It is the largest city in the world located beyond the Arctic Circle and one of the largest ports in Russia.
    • Murmansk’s ice-free harbour makes it Russia’s only port with unrestricted access to the Atlantic and world sea routes.

     Northern Sea Route (NSR)

    • It is the shortest shipping route for freight transportation between Europe and countries of the Asia-Pacific region, straddles four seas of the Arctic Ocean. 
      • Running to 5,600 km, the Route begins at the boundary between the Barents and the Kara seas (Kara Strait) and ends in the Bering Strait (Provideniya Bay).
    • Distance savings along the NSR can be as high as 50% compared to the currently used shipping lanes via Suez or Panama.
    • The 2021 blockage of the Suez Canal, which forms part of the widely-used maritime route involving Europe and Asia, has led to greater attention on the NSR.

    India’s Engagement in the Region

    • In the first seven months of 2023, India got the lion’s share with 35% of eight million tonnes of cargo handled by the Murmansk port. India has been showing greater interest regarding the NSR for a variety of reasons: 
      • The growth in cargo traffic along the NSR is on the constant rise and during 2018-2022, the growth rate was around 73%. 
      • The NSR, as a transit route, assumes importance, given India’s geographical position and the major share of its trade associated with sea transportation.
      • The Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor (CVMC) project, an outcome of signing of the memorandum of intent between the Russa and India in 2019, is being examined as one linking with another organise international container transit through the NSR. 
      • The 10,500 km-long CVMC, passing through the Sea of Japan, the South China Sea and Malacca Strait, will bring down transport time to 12 days, almost a third of what is taken under the existing St. Petersburg-Mumbai route of 16,000 km.
      • Experts are discussing the possibility of China and Russia gaining collective influence over the NSR.

    Way Ahead

    • The NSR development plan until 2035, as approved by the Russian government last year, sets the cargo traffic target as 80 million tonnes and 150 million tonnes for 2024 and 2030. 
    • In 2023, a Russian delegation held meetings with the Indian business community on the NSR development. 
      • The delegation had promised to provide the availability of key components for the year-round operation of the route. 
      • Rosatom seeks the participation of Indian companies in projects related to the NSR.

    Source: TH

    Gene-Edited Mustard

    Syllabus: GS-3/ Science and Technology, Biotechnology

    Context

    • Indian scientists have developed the first ever low-pungent mustard that is pest and disease-resistant. It is based on CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing.

    Need/ Significance of Gene Editing in Mustard

    • Pungency: Traditional mustard is strong in glucosinolates, sulfur, and nitrogen-containing chemicals, which add to the pungency of mustard oil and meal.
    • High Glucosinolate: The high glucosinolate content of mustard oil limits its attractiveness among consumers who prefer softer smells and scents in food.
      • Reduced glucosinolate levels in the seeds result in mustard oil with a softer flavor and odor, making it more appealing to customers.
    • Quality of feed for Animals: Rapeseed meal is a byproduct of oil production that is used in livestock and poultry feed. High glucosinolate levels leaves the meal unappealing for some animals, resulting in decreased feed intake, diseases and organ abnormalities.
    • Pest and Disease Resistance: The created mustard variety has improved resistance to pests and diseases, resulting in increased agricultural yields and less reliance on chemical pesticides.

    Mustard Cultivation in India

    • The most extensively grown oilseed crop in India is mustard, which is planted on 9 million hectares annually. It is cultivated during the Rabi Season.
    • Given that it has a greater average oil content (38%) and is a good “oilseed” crop, mustard is also a good source of protein and fat for humans and other animals.
    • For farmers in states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, among others, mustard is a significant cash crop.

    Technique of Gene Editing in Mustard Breeding

    • The CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique is used in mustard plants to change the Glucosinolate Transporter (GTR) genes.

    CRISPR Cas9 Technology

    • It is an acronym for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats”.
    • With the use of the gene editing technique CRISPR, researchers can modify the DNA of living things. 
    • An enzyme called Cas9 functions as molecular scissors, guided by RNA molecules created to precisely match a certain DNA sequence.

    • Ten of the twelve GTR genes in the high-yielding Indian mustard variety ‘Varuna’ are altered.
    • Using the Cas9 enzyme, particular nucleotide sequences in the DNA are changed, rendering the encoded proteins inactive.

    GE (Genome Editing): Involves precise modification of specific genes within an organism’s genome without introducing foreign genes, resulting in targeted genetic changes.

    GM (Genetically Modified): Involves the insertion of foreign genes from unrelated organisms into an organism’s genome to confer specific traits or characteristics.

    Regulatory Bodies

    • GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee): It is a regulatory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).GEAC is responsible for evaluating and approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) 
    • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB): Ensures safe handling of GMOs that may impact biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur 
    • Supplementary Protocol: Establishes liability and redress rules for damage caused by LMOs (Living Modified Organisms). 
    • Codex Alimentarius Commission: Develops global food standards, including GMO guidelines, for consumer health and fair trade. 
    • WTO SPS Agreement: Regulates food safety and plant health standards in international trade 

    Source: IE

    Lunar Space Missions

    Syllabus: GS3/ Space

    In News

    • India made history by being the first nation to set foot on the South Pole of the lunar surface. 

    About

    • A landing in the South Pole is challenging due to the rough terrain, but ice there could provide fuel, oxygen, and water for upcoming missions.
    • Earlier, Luna 25 of ESA suffered a glitch and crashed on the moon’s surface.
    • According to ISRO as of July 2023, there are six active lunar orbiters and currently, the only operating rover is China’s Yutu-2 rover released by Chang’e 4, which operates on the far side.

    Why are nations exploring the Moon?

    • To set up bases on the Moon for astronauts to live in.
    • The Moon is being used as a stepping stone to places like Mars. It’s a great place to test out deep space technologies.
    • It also takes less fuel to launch a spacecraft from the Moon than from Earth to travel into deep space
    • The Moon’s southern polar region contains an estimated 600 billion kilograms of water ice. This could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, which could be used to refuel craft for journeys to Mars and elsewhere.

    What other space missions are planned?

    • Aditya L1 Mission: It is the first solar mission from India with the capability of an observatory in space. The probe will be positioned in a halo orbit 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, at Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system.
    • Mission Psyche: It would be launched by NASA  to explore an asteroid called 16 Psyche, thought to be the remnant of a planet created in the earliest days of the solar system.
    • JUICE Mission: It is European Space Agency (Esa)’s mission to explore the Jupter’s moons. It will look for signs of life in the water ice believed to lie under the surface of three of Jupiter’s moons – Ganymede, Callistro and Europa.
    • Artemis Mission: NASA is preparing to send humans back to the moon with the Artemis program. The uncrewed Artemis 1 circled the moon in December 2022. Artemis 2 is expected to go around the moon with a crew of four people in November 2024. Artemis 3 will attempt a landing at the moon’s south pole in 2025.
    • The other moon missions include China’s lunar communication and navigation satellite constellation and Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) which is an Orbiter/lander mission.

    Source: TH

    Missing Right to Information (RTI) applications

    Syllabus: GS2/Governance

    Context:

    • The public records obtained by Right to Information (RTI) applicants over years had disappeared from the RTIOnline website from many users’ accounts. It has processed 58.3 lakh applications since 2013.
      • Portal said the public records disappeared because of maintenance activity.

    About:

    • The Data prior to 2022 is moved to the archive database for better performance and manageability.
    • RTIOnline portal promised missing RTI applications will be restored, and Archival Data (before 2022) will be available soon and be plugged into present provided reports.
      • This is the third time in recent months that the RTIOnline portal has gone into ‘maintenance’ mode without offering any new features or showing improvements in performance.
    • Appeal Data prior to 2022 will be available on the portal by 26th August 2023.

    About RTIOnline portal:

    The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) administers and disseminates training and standards for government officials who handle RTI applications.

    • According to the National Informatics Centre (NIC), it requires very little internet bandwidth to serve users, and maximum data load on RTIOnline was 8Mbps.
    • Heavy usage of the portal till 2022: The RTIOnline portal allows citizens to pay ₹10 through many digital payment options to file an RTI application, a facility that is far more convenient than the other typical method of mailing an application through post with a postal cheque.

    Government response:

    • The Union Government removed the facility of creating an account on the RTIOnline portal, with the DoPT citing a ‘heavy load’ on the website.
    • Existing account holders must file at least one application in a six-month period if they wish to retain their accounts.
    • Public dissatisfaction: RTI appeals were at an all-time high at Union Government bodies, with 1.62 lakh applications being appealed, which indicates a very high degree of dissatisfaction with the performance of these public authorities of their obligations under the RTI Act.

    The Right to Information Act, 2005

    • It was promulgated to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
    • Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning, including:
      • disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure,
      • powers and duties of its officers and employees, and
      • financial information.
    • If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request it from the Authorities.
      • This may include information in the form of documents, files, or electronic records under the control of the Public Authority.
    • The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.

    Changing the law

    • The recent amendment of the RTI Act, 2005 prohibits all disclosure of personal information.
      • Earlier, personal information could be disclosed in public interest.
    • In 2019, the RTI Act was amended to give the government more powers over appointments to the Central Information Commission (CIC), the body which hears appeals for RTI applications filed with the Union Government and issues decisions.

    TH

    India-China Border Dispute in Eastern Ladakh

    Syllabus: GS2/India and its Neighbourhood Relations

    In News

    • Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to intensify efforts for expeditious disengagement and de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

    About 

    • Since 2020, Corps Commanders of India and China have been discussing resolution of the flashpoints along the LAC, including those which emerged after the standoff began.
    • The talks led to some forward movement with both sides deciding to pull back troops – and dismantle temporary structures – from the Galwan Valley, the north and south banks of Pangong Tso and Patrolling Points in the Gogra and Hot Springs area.
    • The last such movement was in September 2023 when both armies disengaged from PP-15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area after multiple rounds of talks.
    • Disengagement in most of these areas led to the creation of buffer zones – this stops troops of both sides from accessing areas which they patrolled earlier.

    Major friction points along the India-China border

    • Depsang Plains: This area is located in the northernmost part of Ladakh and has seen incursions by Chinese troops in the past.
    • Demchok: This area is located in eastern Ladakh and has seen disputes over the boundary between India and China.
    • Pangong Lake: This area has been a major flashpoint between the two countries, with Chinese troops attempting to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the region.
    • Gogra and Hot Springs: These two areas are located in eastern Ladakh and have seen standoffs between Indian and Chinese troops in recent years.
    • Arunachal Pradesh: The Arunachal Pradesh state is claimed by China as part of its territory and has been a major point of contention between the two countries.

    Current Status

    • Following the 19th round of talks this month, Major General-level talks were held to decide the finer details of resolving the existing issues, including the legacy issues along the LAC, as well as gaining access to all pre-2020 patrolling points along the LAC.
    • The commanders discussed several issues such as mutually ensuring that no new posts are constructed in close proximity to the LAC, and identifying specific limits of patrolling.

    Way ahead

    • India-China border dispute requires sustained efforts from both sides to address the challenges and build mutual trust and understanding.
    • There is a need to continue discussions through military and diplomatic channels and to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries to further stabilize the border situation.

    Source: IE

    Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs): Background and Achievements

    Syllabus: GS2/Structure and Functioning of Judiciary

    News

    • Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) have disposed of 1.74 lakhs cases of Rape & POCSO Act as on 30.06.2023, providing speedy justice to the victims.

    About the Fast Track Special Courts(FTSCs)

    • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Department of Justice, Ministry of Law &  Justice to fast track priority cases.
    • Since October 2019, 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts for sexual offences. Each court comprises 1 Judicial Officer and 7 Staff Members.
    • The Scheme was initially approved for a period of one year (2019-20 and 2020-21), but later Cabinet further approved the continuation of the Scheme for two years (up to March, 2023). 
    • As of June 2023, 763 FTSCs including 412 exclusive POCSO Courts are functional in 29 States / UTs which have disposed of more than 1,74,000 pending cases. 

    Significance of FTSCs

    • Special courts are empowered to look at only a specific category of cases and are widely-regarded as a solution to problems of Indian judiciary. 
      • First, Indian courts suffer delays and backlogs. Lawmakers often invoke these courts to speed up the disposal of the cases and help reduce the overall pendency of cases. 
      • Second, regular courts lack the infrastructure required under certain laws, such as vulnerable witness courtrooms under the POCSO Act, which allow these courts to be established with special arrangements (Smruti Tukaram Badade v. State of Maharashtra & Anr., 2022)
    • Recently, politicians, lawmakers, and even civil society have routinely invoked special courts as a solution to the judiciary’s woes. For instance, in the aftermath of several high-profile cases of sexual assault, various leaders have called for the establishment of such courts to allow speedier justice. 
    • Moreover, it has become commonplace for the legislature and executive to contemplate setting up special courts under the diverse new legislation– from social legislation to insolvency laws

    Issues with FTSCs

    • Inconsistencies in establishing FTSCs: According to a study on special courts in legislation between 1950 and 2015, laws “interchangeably use the terms ‘set up’ or ‘designate’” with special courts, even though these terms carry completely different connotations. 
      • Setting up a court implies creating a court with new infrastructure and personnel. 
      • Designating a court means allocating additional case categories to a judge still responsible for their regular workload .
    • Lack of performance: As of 2022, pendency in fast-track courts rose above 10 lakh cases, including 2.26 lakh pending POCSO cases. 
      • 69% of cases disposed of by POCSO courts in 2019 took between 1-10 years. 
      • According to 2018 data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 78% of trials in fast-track courts took over a year, 42% took more than three, and 17% took more than five. 
    • Overburdened judges are assigned other categories of cases to dispose of alongside their existing workload without additional infrastructure or support staff. Here, the disposal rate of all cases would slow down. 
    • Moreover, speedier case disposal cannot be expected without relaxing procedural requirements or making special courts more streamlined.
    • Judicial ad-hocism and inconsistency: The Supreme Court in 2017 ordered the government to establish special courts for “expeditious trial of criminal cases involving MP/MLAs” (Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India & Anr., 2021)
      • A year later, the Supreme Court changed its directions for Kerala and Bihar and directed their High Courts to assign MP/MLA cases amongst existing courts without creating additional courts. 
    • A Madras High Court Committee report argued that the Supreme Court’s directions were not legally permissible. Special courts can only be offence-centric and not offender-centric. Hence, MP/MLA special courts can not override the jurisdiction of other existing special courts.
    • The ad-hoc nature of executive decisions to establish special courts means that some categories of offences are arbitrarily prioritised over others for speedier disposal. 
      • Where discretion is provided to the executive to establish special courts, its decisions are rarely based on quantitative or qualitative evidence. 

    Way Ahead

    • Speedy trial is a fundamental right implicit in the guarantee of life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and FTSCs helps in fulfilling it.
    • In pursuance of this mandate, FTSCs need to be empowered with additional expenditure on setting up of new infrastructure and recruiting additional human resource.

    Source: PIB

    NMC hold rules for doctors to prescribe only generic medicines

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    Context

    • Recently, the NMC Registered Medical Practitioner (Professional Conduct) regulations, 2023 were suspended, making it mandatory for doctors to only prescribe generic drugs.

    More on the News

    • The Indian Medical Association (IMA) claimed that if doctors were forbidden from prescribing branded generics, drug quality may become a problem.
      • Eventually affects the safety and treatment of patients. 

    What are Generic Drugs?

    • A generic drug is a medication created to be the same as an already marketed brand-name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics, and intended use.
    • These are approved and regulated by Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) after going through a thorough examination procedure.

    Advantages of Generic Drugs

    • Cost Effective: Generic medications are typically less expensive than branded drugs. This cost savings increases access to healthcare and can lower drug costs.
      • Generic drugs being 30 % to 80 % cheaper than branded drugs.
    • Equivalent efficacy: Generic medications are bioequivalent to branded drugs, which means they share the same active components, dosage forms, strengths, and routes of administration.
    • Improved Access: It is  because generic medications are more affordable, enabling a wider population to access medication. Patients are better able to afford it when prices are lower, especially for chronic diseases that require long-term medication.
      •  Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)  stores have been set up to provide generic drugs.

    Concerns in Generic Drugs

    • First, because generics have low profit margins, medical stores typically do not stock them.
    • Second, the duty of substitution is transferred to pharmacists if the generic version is not readily available. By doing this, only brands with healthy profit margins would be promoted.
    • Third, not all generic medications are of the same quality.

    Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO)

    • It is the Central Drug Authority and is responsible for carrying out duties entrusted by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940.
    • It is governed by the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India, which reports to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • Responsibilities:
      • Adoption of drugs.
      • clinical trials, please.
      • establishing the criteria for drugs.
      • control over the country’s imported drugs’ quality.
      • Coordination of state drug control organizations’ efforts.
    • Additionally, CDSCO and state regulators are jointly in charge of granting licenses to specific categories of vital drugs like vaccines and sera, among others.
    • The Indian government has stated that it intends to have CDSCO examine all medical devices, including implants and contraceptives.

    Other Drug Regulatory Bodies in India

    • Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI): It is in charge of approving licenses for specific kinds of medications. He or she also serves as the head of the CDSCO department of the Indian government.
    • Drug Price Control Order (DPCO): To keep certain necessary medications in India accessible for the general people, the DPCO controls their prices. 
    • State level Drug Regulatory Bodies: State Drug Regulatory Authorities (SDRAs), which are statutory organizations established under the 1940 Drugs and Cosmetics Act, are present at the state level. They are regulated by the state’s individual health departments.  
    • Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940: This act regulates domestic drug use.  

    Source: TH

    Sodium-ion Battery

    Syllabus:GS3/Science and Technologies

    News

    • AR4 Tech, a start-up in Coimbatore, has partnered Sodion Energy of Singapore to make sodium ion battery packs for domestic and export markets.

    Background

    • Sodium-ion batteries (NIBs) were originally developed in the early 1980s, but large-scale development of the technology was abandoned in favor of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).
    • Nowadays NIBs are considered to be one of the most appealing alternative rechargeable batteries to LIBs.

    About

    • Sodium-ion batteries generate electricity through a chemical reaction and are made up of an anode, cathode, separator and an electrolyte.
    • In a sodium-ion battery, lithium ions are replaced with sodium ions in the battery’s cathode, and lithium salts swapped for sodium salts in the electrolyte.
    • Operating Principle:During charging, sodium ions move from the cathode to the anode while electrons travel through the external circuit. During discharge, the reverse process occurs.

    Advantages of Sodium-ion batteries 

    • Lower cost:The materials used in sodium-ion batteries tend to be cheaper than those in lithium-ion batteries.It doesn’t use the expensive raw materials like cobalt, copper, lithium and graphite.Including potentially lower cost due to the abundance of sodium, which could make them more affordable than lithium-ion batteries. 
    • Safe for transportation:Sodium-ion batteries are safer since they can be completely discharged for transportation.
    • Easier integration into existing technologies as they have a similar electrochemical behavior to lithium-ion batteries.
    • Useful for large-scale energy storage applications, such as renewable energy systems, due to their potential scalability and compatibility with grid-level storage needs.

    Disadvantages of Sodium ion batteries

    • Lower energy density: They store less energy per unit of weight or volume.
    • Shorter cycle life and less mature technology, resulting in challenges related to safety, efficiency, and overall performance. 
    • Larger size:Sodium is three times heavier than Lithium,which is the reason behind the bulkiness of the sodium ion batteries.

    Applications of Sodium-Ion Batteries

    • Automobiles and Transportation:To reduce the carbon emission cost-effective battery is a necessity in electric vehicle (EV) innovation. As EV sales are expected to grow in the coming years, sodium-ion technology is the undeniable choice for electric vehicles, including electric bikes and electric cars.
    • Grid-level Applications:Smart grids rely on reliable power. The intermittent power supply can impede grid functioning. Sodium Ion batteries can help optimize solar energy and wind energy to effectively meet unique grid energy storage requirements.
    • Industrial Mobility:Sodium-ion batteries can maximize asset utilization and minimize operating costs with a constant state of readiness and powerful peak power.
    • Power Backup:Data and telecom sectors rely heavily on battery-powered infrastructure and operations to drive the global economy. Sodium-ion batteries can provide on-demand power to ensure a safe and seamless power supply.

    Concluding Remark

    • Sodium ion batteries are way more advantageous than the lithium ion batteries due to their low cost and stability.
    • However, it is  important to note that sodium-ion battery technology is still under development, and challenges like energy density and life cycle  need to be addressed for widespread adoption.

    Source:TH

    Facts In News

    69th National Film Awards

    Syllabus: GS1/ Miscellaneous

    News

    • The 69th National Film Awards has been announced for the year 2021.

    Overview

    • National Film Awards are the most prestigious awards, which are announced annually to honor the best filmmaking talent across the country. It aims at encouraging the production of films of aesthetic and technical excellence and social relevance.
    • The awards are given in three sections – Features, Non-Features and Best Writing on Cinema.
    • The winners of the awards are decided by the Jury comprising persons distinguished in the field of cinema, other allied arts and humanities.

    History 

    • The awards were first presented in 1954 and were known as the ‘State Awards’. At the time,only best films in different regional languages were recognised and awarded. 
    • Separate awards for artists and technicians were instituted in 1968 for the films of 1967.Nargis Dutt and Uttam Kumar being the first actress and actor to get the Best Actress and Best Actor ( Awards respectively.

    Key Recipient of 2023 Awards

    • Best Feature Film: Rocketry 
    • Best Hindi Film: Sardar Udham  
    • Best Non-feature film: Ek Tha Gaon
    • Best Actor:Allu Arjun , Pushpa
    • Best Actress:Alia Bhatt, Gangubai Kathiawadi and Kriti Sanon,Mimi

    Source:PIB

    Insurance Surety Bonds 

    Syllabus: GS3/ Infrastructure

    In News

    • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is advocating for the adoption of surety bond insurance products for highway projects. 

    About

    • Insurance surety bonds are instruments where insurance companies act as ‘surety’ and provide the financial guarantee that the contractor will fulfil its obligation as per the agreed terms.
    • The Surety Bonds were introduced with the expectation that construction companies could utilize the liquidity to complete highway projects on schedule.

    Need & Significance

    • Surety bonds act as a viable option to bank guarantees (BGs) and offer longer maturity terms than the traditional banking products. Surety bonds are one of the most cost-effective ways to finance contract security options.
    • As India aspires to become a US$ 5 trillion economy, instruments like insurance surety bonds will boost availability of liquidity and capacity of bidders and concessionaires.
    • It will help to strengthen national highway infrastructure development, which has a cascading positive impact on the Indian economy. 
    • India is projected to become the world’s third-largest construction market. The infrastructure sector alone may need an estimated Rs 2.70 lakh crore of BGs in 2023, anticipated to grow by 6 to 8 per cent on a year-on-year basis. 
    • Replacing BGs with surety bonds could offer capital relief of up to Rs 50,000 crore to Indian contractors.

    National Highways Authority of India (NHAI)

    • NHAI was constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1988 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
    • The Authority consists of a full time Chairman, and not more than five full time Members and four part time Members who are appointed by the Central Government.

    Source: BS

    Next-Generation Photonic Analog to Digital Converters (NG-PADC) Project

    Syllabus: GS-3/Science and Technology

    Context

    • Recently, a new prototype in the Next-Generation Photonic Analog-to-Digital Converters (NG-PADC) project was introduced .

    About

    • It carries out instant transport of Radio Frequency (RF) through optical methods to improve digital and satellite communication.
    • It is developed by IIT Madras in collaboration with the IMPRINT programme of Science, Engineering, Research Board (SERB).

    Analog-to-digital converters (ADCs):

    • A converter that is used to change the analog signal to digital is known as an analog to digital converter or ADC converter. 
    • This converter is one kind of integrated circuit that converts the signal directly from continuous form to discrete form. 
    • These converters are critical components for developing the next generation of advanced digital receivers. 

    • The digital signal is represented with a binary code, which is a combination of bits 0 and 1.
    • The bandwidth of ADC is 12 times higher than Electronic Analog-to-digital converters (EADC).

    IMPacting Research, INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) Program

    • It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Human resource Development (MHRD) and the Department of Science & Technology (DST) (steered by Science and Engineering Research Board, SERB).
      • As per the National Education Policy (NEP), 2023, the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), created by an act of Parliament in 2008, will stand repealed and subsumed into the National Research Foundation (NRF).
      • Board was vested with the function of  research and development in science and engineering.
    • It is a unique technology development initiative for translation of research knowledge into viable technology.

    Source: PIB

    Mera Bill Mera Adhikaar

    Syllabus: GS2/Governance

    In News

    • The Government of India, in association with State Governments, is launching an ‘Invoice incentive Scheme’ by the name ‘Mera Bill Mera Adhikaar’.

    About

    • Objective: To encourage the culture of customers asking for invoices/bills for all purchases.
    • Aim: To bring a cultural and behavioural change in the general public to ‘Ask for a Bill’ as their right and entitlement.
    • The details of the Scheme are as under:
      • The Scheme will be launched on 1st September, 2023.
      • This scheme will initially be launched as a pilot in the States of Assam, Gujarat & Haryana and UTs of Puducherry, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu.
      • All B2C invoices issued by GST registered suppliers to consumers will be eligible for the scheme. All residents of India will be eligible to participate in this Scheme irrespective of their State/UT. 
      • Invoices can be uploaded on Mobile Application ‘Mera Bill Mera Adhikaar’ available on IOS and Android as well as on web portal ‘web.merabill.gst.gov.in’.
      • Minimum value for invoices to be considered for a lucky draw has been kept at Rs. 200.
      • Maximum 25 invoices can be uploaded by an individual on App/web portal in a month to be considered for lucky draw.
      • For each uploaded invoice an Acknowledgement Reference Number (ARN) will be generated which will be used for the draw of prizes.
      • Winning invoices will be picked by a method of random draw at regular intervals (monthly/quarterly).
      • This Pilot Scheme will run for a period of 12 months.

    Source: PIB

    Mine Developer and Operator Mode

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    In News

    • SECL’s Pelma mine will become the first opencast mine in Chhattisgarh under MDO (Mine Developer and Operator) mode.

    About

    • South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) has signed an agreement with Pelma Collieries to operate the Pelma opencast mine located in the Raigarh area.
    • Pelma Collieries will operate the mine for the next 20 years, under which Pelma Collieries will be responsible for all activities related to designing, financing, procurement, construction, operation and maintenance of the project. 
      • High quality G-12 grade coal will be extracted from the mine.
      • Ketki UG of Bishrampur area has achieved the distinction of becoming the first coal mine in India to produce coal on MDO mode.
    • SECL Raigarh area is a strategically important coalfield in terms of coal reserve, it is the third largest coalfield in the country with an estimated coal reserve of about 1900 million tonnes. 
      • Rail corridor is also being developed in this area by SECL for speedy evacuation of coal.

    About MDO Mode

    • MDO mode is a novel concept of mine operation under which Government and private enterprises will work together to fulfil the country’s energy needs. 
    • This will help in expansion of coal production of SECL and will play an important role in achieving the 1 billion tonne production target of Coal India.

    Source: PIB

    SANKALP Programme 

    Syllabus :GS 3/Growth ,Development and Employment 

    In News

    • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), in collaboration with Generation India Foundation (GIF) and Amazon Web Services India Private Limited (AWS India) is providing ‘cloud’ skills training to 1,500 learners and connecting them to employment opportunities, under project AMBER (co-funded by MSDE under the SANKALP programme).

    Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (“SANKALP”) 

    • SANKALP is a Centrally sponsored scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with loan assistance from the World Bank.
      • SANKALP was launched on 19th January 2018 .
    • It aims to improve short term skill training qualitatively and quantitatively through strengthening institutions, bring in better market connectivity and inclusion of marginalised sections of the society. 
    • The outcomes in the project are measured through the Results Framework, and Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) agreed between MSDE and World Bank.

    PROJECT AMBER (Accelerated Mission for Better Employment and Retention)

    • It is a joint initiative of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Generation India Foundation (GIF) under the aegis of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE). 
    • This project is co-funded by MSDE (under the SANKALP programme) and private philanthropy and aims to train 30,000 youth, 50% of whom will be women trainees. 
      • The training will be conducted in post-COVID resilient job roles, over a period of two years. 

    Source:PIB

    Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting

    Syllabus :GS 3/Defence

    In News

    • A Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting held under the chairmanship of the Defence Minister of India .

    The Defence Acquisition Council 

    • It is the highest decision-making body in the defence ministry for deciding on new policies and capital acquisitions for the three services( (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Indian Coast Guard.

    Key outcomes of recent meet 

    • DAC accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for capital acquisition proposals worth approximately Rs 7,800 crore .
    • The DAC has granted AoN for procurement and installation of Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite on Mi-17 V5 Helicopters under Buy (Indian-IDDM) category which will enhance better survivability of Helicopters to enhance the efficiency of the Indian Air Force.
      • The EW Suite will be procured from Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
    • The DAC has also accorded AoN for procurement of Ground-Based Autonomous System for mechanised infantry and armoured regiments which will enable various operations like unmanned surveillance, logistic delivery of ammunition, fuel & spares and casualty evacuation in the battle field.
    • Proposals for procurement of 7.62×51 mm Light Machine Gun (LMG) and Bridge Laying Tank (BLT) have also been given go ahead.
    • While induction of LMG will enhance fighting capabilities of infantry forces, the induction of BLT will result in faster movement of Mechanised Forces. 
    • The AoN for procurement of Ruggedised Laptops and Tablets for the Indian Army under Project Shakti has also been accorded. 
      • All these procurements will be sourced from Indigenous vendors only.

    Source:PIB

    Khanan Prahari App

    Syllabus:GS2/Governance

    News

    • The Khanan Prahari mobile app has received a significant response, with a total of 483 complaints registered.

    About

    • The mobile app Khanan Prahari, allows citizens to report incidents of illegal coal mining through geo-tagged photographs and textual information.It is a step taken by the Ministry of Coal
    • A corresponding web portal called the Coal Mine Surveillance & Management System (CMSMS) has been developed to detect the location of sites for unauthorized mining.

    Key features of the app 

    • Reporting Incidents: Users can easily report incidents of illegal mining by taking photographs and providing comments on the incident. The app allows for the geotagging of photographs by enabling the GPS location feature.
    • Confidentiality:The user’s identity is kept confidential, ensuring privacy and security.
    • Complaint Tracking: Complainants receive a complaint number, which they can use to easily track the status of their reported complaints on the Khanan Prahari mobile app.

    Concerns of illegal coal mining

    • Environmental damage, loss of biodiversity, displacement of local communities, unsafe working conditions.
    • Loss of government revenue,affecting the country’s economy.
    • It can also lead to social conflict, funding of criminal activities, and violation of human rights. 

    Source:PIB

    International Conference on Structural Integrity (ICONS) 

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    Context

    • The Third International Conference on Structural Integrity (ICONS 2023) was inaugurated at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu.

    About

    • The ICONS 2023, experts from diverse fields deliver technical talks and discuss the recent trends and future directions in structural integrity, which covers:
    1. Fatigue life and fracture assessment of steel and concrete structural components,
    2. Design, manufacturing and quality assurance of large size components.

    Do you know?

    • Mamallapuram is an UNESCO world heritage site and is famous for traditional art & culture.
    • The town is known for various historic monuments, particularly, monolithic rock carvings, built largely between 700 and 900 AD.

    Major highlights of the conference

    • The multidisciplinary community in the ICONS shared their experience for setting up critical structures – design, manufacturing and construction.
    • It includes ways to curb global warming and structural degradation due to absorption of CO2 because of degradation of structures of power plants, petrochemical industries and iconic structures.
    • To develop Indian standards and codes for structural integrity assessment and for various structural applications.
    • Integrating quality assurance and structural integrity into the design and fabrication process.
    • New experiments in material science, like Mechanical behaviour of materials, experimental, computational and analytical methods in fatigue and fracture assessment, failure analysis. For example: Elastomeric materials.

    PIB