Daily Current Affairs – 26-06-2023

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    India-U.S. deal for 31 MQ-9B Drones

    Syllabus: GS2/ INternational Relations, GS3/ Defence

    In News

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden announced the mega deal on the purchase of General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” armed drones by India. 
      • The procurement process has commenced with the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the Defence Minister.

    About MQ-9 ‘Reaper’ Armed Drone

    • With an endurance of over 27 hours, the General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” speeds speeds of 240 KTAS, can operate up to 50,000 feet, and has a 3,850 pound (1,746 kilogrammes) payload capacity.
    • It can carry 500 per cent more payload and has nine times the horsepower in comparison to the earlier MQ-1 Predator.
    • is designed to fly over the horizon via satellite for up to 40 hours, depending on configuration, in all types of weather.
    • The MQ-9B has two variants — the SkyGuardian and the SeaGuardian. 15 SeaGuardians are for the Indian Navy and 16 SkyGuardians — eight each for the Indian Army and Air Force.

    Significance

    • MQ-9 UAV provides long-endurance, persistent surveillance, and strike capability for the warfighter.
    • It will be assembled in India, will enhance the ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities of India’s armed forces across domains
    • It will bolster India’s national security and surveillance capabilities not only in the Indian Ocean but also along the frontier with China.
    • General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in India in support of India’s long-term goals to boost indigenous defence capabilities.

    India- US Defence Cooperation

    • About: 
      • The relationship between the United States (US) and India in the defence sector has proven to be one of their most resilient and high-value.
      • India and the United States (US) galvanised their defence relationship with the signing of the ‘New Framework for India-US Defence Relations’ in June 2005.  India and the US pledged to cooperate in areas such as defence technology transfer, licensing, trade, research, co-production and co-development.
      • The Defence Framework Agreement was updated and renewed for another 10 years in June 2015.
      • In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major Defence Partnership (MDP) to build a comprehensive, enduring and mutually beneficial defence partnership. 
    • Defence agreements signed:
      • Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (2016) 
      • Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (2018)
      • Industrial Security Agreement (2019)
      • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (2020)
    • Defence Exercises:
      • Yudh Abhyas (Army); Vajra Prahar (Special Forces), a tri-services exercise– Tiger Triumph (inaugurated in 2019). 
      • Exercise Malabar, naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
      • The U.S. participated in India’s multilateral Exercise Milan 2022.

    Source: TH

    Wagner Group

    Syllabus :GS 2/International Relations

    In News

    • Recently, Wagner Group waged an armed rebellion against Russia and vowed to topple the country’s defence leadership. 

    What is the Wagner Group? 

    • It is a Russian paramilitary organisation headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin. 
    • Legally, it is not a Russia-based private military company though it works closely with the Russian security apparatus
    •  It is basically a private military company and a network of mercenaries. 
    • It was first identified in 2014 while backing pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
    • It got registered as a company in 2022 and opened a new headquarters in St Petersburg.
    • According to reports ,The Wagner Group now consists of 50,000 fighters in Ukraine and has become a key component of the Ukraine campaign.

    Presence 

    • The Wagner group has been active in Sudan, Mali, the Central African Republic, Mozambique and Libya in Africa. 
      • The activities are related to providing direct support to authoritarian governments, supporting rival leadership engaged in internal wars, filling the void created by the withdrawal of the French military engagement, taking part in resource exploitation etc.
    • According to media reports, it provides its services to different governments often in exchange for access to gold and diamond mines.

    Association with russia 

    • The Wagner group under Prigozhin has benefited Russia significantly in the ongoing war against Ukraine. 
    • It was this mercenary group that captured the key regions of Soledar and Bakhmut for Russia. Because of the Wagners’ military contributions, Prigozhin enjoys some popularity and influence.

    Criticism 

    • The Wagner Group has been accused of committing severe human rights violations, killing civilians, looting homes and harassing activists, journalists and peacekeepers. 
    • There have also been reports of the group supplying arms and weapons, and training regional forces in fighting jihadist threats. 

    How did India see these dramatic developments?

    • India would have been keeping a close eye and monitoring the event. Through the embassy in Moscow, it would have been receiving reports on the situation on the ground. 
    • In Moscow, the situation seems to have been calm, with work going on as usual.
    • So there were no reasons for New Delhi to panic about anything. It was in a wait-and-watch mode.

    Future Outlook 

    • At present, it appears that the Wagner group is disbanded. But it will probably be resurrected under some other guise. It is unclear what happens to the operations of the Wagner group in Syria, Libya, Africa, etc. 
    • These operations were in Russia’s interests, so the group will probably be revived in some form, maybe under a new name or a new leader.
    • But for now, Russia has a headache on its hands, because with the Wagner group gone, there are armed and trained Russians sitting in various parts of the globe, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. 

    Source:IE

    Cell-cultivated Chicken

    Syllabus :GS 3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • Recently, two California-based companies were cleared to make and sell cell-cultivated chicken in the country .

    Cell-cultivated chicken

    • It’s meat grown from the cells of animals in steel tanks  for human consumption.
    • Though it’s known in the industry as cultivated meat, it’s sometimes called cultured meat, lab-grown meat or cell-based meat. 
    • Livestock doesn’t need to be raised and killed to produce this new type of meat.
    • The first country to approve the sale of alternative meat was Singapore in 2020.
    • There are more than 150 companies around the world trying to develop these food products. 
    • They’re working on a variety of meats: chicken, beef, pork and lamb.

    Process

    • It starts with cells, which can come from a fertilized egg, a special bank of stored cells or tissue initially taken from a living animal. 
    • The cells are mixed with a broth of nutrients that the cells need to grow and divide. 
    • Cells are triggered to turn into skeletal muscle, fat and connective tissues. After days or weeks, the cells are removed from the tanks and shaped into products such as nuggets.

    Purpose and Needs

    • Its proponents have advanced the following arguments in favour of developing lab-grown meat: emissions, land use, prevention of animal slaughter, food security, and customisation.
      • It is better for the animals and for the environment because land does not need to be cleared for grazing or growing feed.
      • The FAO has estimated that global livestock is responsible for 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions. 
    • It can be customized to be healthier than their animal counterpart, such as being designed to contain less fat, thus contributing to public health.

    Challenges 

    • Consumer acceptance – Perfectly substituting animal meat with alternative meat requires the latter to match the former’s taste, texture, and appearance, and cost.
      • Researchers have achieved some success on these counts but it remains a work in progress, especially as more meats acquire alternative counterparts.
    • Cost – The cost of cell-cultivated meat is expected to remain high in the near future. 
      • It may never be cost-competitive, while reports have also expressed concerns about the costs imposed by quality control, especially at scale.
    • A World Health Organization report on the food safety aspects of cell-based food noted several potential issues, such as microbial contamination at various points in the process, biological residues and by-products and scaffolding that some people might be allergic to.

    Source:TH

    Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulations (ART), 2023

    Syllabus: GS3: Science and Technology

    In News

    • Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notified the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulations (ART), 2023.

    New Regulations

    • The provision states that an oocyte donor should be an ever-married (persons who have been married at least once in their lives) woman having at least one living child of her own (minimum three years of age). 
    • She can donate oocytes only once in her lifetime and not more than seven oocytes can be retrieved. 
    • An ART bank cannot supply gamete (reproductive cell) of a single donor to more than one commissioning couple (couple seeking services). 
    • Parties seeking ART services will be required to provide insurance coverage in the favour of the oocyte donor (for any loss, damage, or death of the donor). 
    • A clinic is prohibited from offering to provide a child of pre-determined sex. Also checking for genetic diseases before the embryo implantation is needed.
    • Significance: A regulation like this is a big step towards preventing congenital abnormalities and in the long run will help the community and eliminate exploitation of donors. 
    • Implications: The new provisions have pushed up the already sky-high medical costs and are proving to be a challenge for treating doctors and couples wanting to have children through ART because of the restricted and limited resource availability in terms of donors.

    What is Assisted Reproductive Technology?

    • It refers to techniques that seek to obtain a pregnancy by handling a gamete (sperm or egg) outside the human body and transferring the gamete or fertilised embryo into the woman’s uterus.  

    Assisted Reproductive Techniques

    • In vitro Fertilization: Mature eggs are collected (retrieved) from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Then the fertilized egg (embryo)  is transferred to the uterus. 
    • Gamete Donation: A person provides his /her gametes (sperm or oocyte) with the objective of enabling an infertile couple or woman to have a child.
    • Intrauterine Insemination: A procedure in which laboratory processed sperm are placed in the uterus to attempt a pregnancy.
    • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): A procedure in which a single spermatozoon is injected into the oocyte cytoplasm.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Testing: A test performed to analyze the DNA from oocytes or embryos for HLA-typing or for determining genetic abnormalities. 
    • Surrogacy: A practice whereby one woman bears and gives birth to a child for an intending couple with the intention of handing over such child to the intending couple after the birth.
    • Altruistic Surrogacy: Surrogacy in which no charges, expenses, fees, remuneration or monetary incentive of whatever nature, except the medical expenses and such other prescribed expenses incurred on surrogate mother and the insurance coverage for the surrogate mother, are given to the surrogate mother.

    ART Regulation in India

    • The Act aims at the regulation and supervision of ART clinics and assisted reproductive technology banks, prevention of misuse, and safe and ethical practice of ART services
    • Every ART clinic and bank is required by the Act to be listed in the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India. 
    • Minimum standards and codes: Act seek to set minimum standards and codes of conduct for fertility clinics and egg or sperm banks
    • Standard operating procedures: There is a need to formulate standard operating procedures to ensure “uniform costs” and “global quality standards” across India.
    • Monitoring body: The committee also noted that a monitoring body should be set up to prevent the “commercialisation” of ART services by private players.

    Significance of the ART Act 

    • It helps infertile couples to obtain fertility treatment in an ethical and regulated manner.
    • It helps couples to get appropriate legal action against the misuse of assisted reproductive technology.
    • Couples with HIV, Hepatitis B & C positive status can also avail fertility treatment as there is provision of separate storage of these positive patient’s gametes or embryos in ART clinics.
    • It also assists couples having cancer to avail facility of cryopreservation of oocytes, sperms and embryos for future fertility.

    Source: TH

    China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal 

    Syllabus: GS2/ International Relations

    In News

    • Recently, China and Pakistan signed an agreement for a 1,200 MW nuclear power plant in the Chashma nuclear complex in Pakistan. 

    Pakistan’s Energy Sector

    • Pakistan is currently operating six China-built nuclear plants, four smaller reactors at the Chashma complex and two at the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP). 
    • Pakistan’s oldest reactor, the Canada-built KANUPP-1, is now decommissioned, while KANUPP-2 and KANUPP-3 both use 1,100 MW Chinese Hualong One reactors. 
    • Facing a continuing energy deficit, financial crisis and rising import bills, the country needs to urgently increase the share of renewables and nuclear energy. 
    • Currently, thermal sources account for 61% of the energy mix, while hydropower accounts for 24%, nuclear 12%, and wind and solar only 3%, according to the 2021-22 Economic Survey. 
    • The Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy rolled out in 2019 envisages increasing the share of renewables to 30% by 2030. 

    China Under the Scrutiny of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

    • NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries “that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports”.
      • It explicitly prohibits the transfer of nuclear technology by its members to countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 
    • China joined the 48-member grouping in 2004, and argued subsequently that the Chashma 3 and Chashma 4 reactors were under its earlier Chashma deals with Pakistan that pre-dated its joining of the NSG.
    • Chinese analysts have justified the continuing nuclear commerce, by pointing to the India-U.S. nuclear deal. There are, however, significant differences. 
    • Indian Case: India and the U.S. had to seek a waiver from the NSG for their civilian nuclear deal, which was granted in 2008, paving the way for India to enter the tent of global nuclear commerce.
      • India undertook a number of commitments such as placing facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, separating civilian and military nuclear programmes and a continued moratorium on testing. 
    • Neither has China sought any such waiver from the NSG nor has Pakistan undertaken similar commitments. China has suggested that the reactors being under IAEA safeguards would suffice.
    • Implications: Experts fear the latest deals have only further eroded the global rules governing nuclear commerce, and also raised questions about both the continuing relevance and future of the NSG and governance of global nuclear commerce.

    Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

    • It is a voluntary, non-legally binding association of major countries that trade in nuclear material and was established in 1974. 
    • NSG has no formal link to the UN, but its activities contribute to the UN’s efforts in the field of non-proliferation and export controls. 
    • How did it come into being? Signatories to the 1970 NPT felt a need to apply further safeguards on exports of nuclear material and specialized nuclear equipment to non-nuclear weapon states. 
      • Multilateral consultations on nuclear export controls continued under separate mechanisms.
      • India’s 1974 Pokhran nuclear test was a trigger, as it arguably demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific technology could be turned to weapons development. Hence, the NSG was created in 1974 
    • Participants: Signatories to the NPT can join the NSG. It works on the basis of consensus, i.e any decision needs to be ratified by all member countries. It currently has 48 participants, who work on accepted guidelines to prevent proliferation while indulging in nuclear commerce. 

    Where does the case for India’s membership stand?

    • Being a non-signatory to NPT, India is normally not to be considered for NSG membership.
    • Following the India-US civil nuclear deal of 2006, the US lobbied hard for an exception for India, citing the country’s impeccable record.
    • In 2008, NSG members agreed to grant India a “clean waiver” from its existing rules, in exchange for a commitment to “no nuclear trade with non-NPT countries”.
    • Russia, France, UK, Germany, Italy, Turkey and several other countries have subsequently supported India’s membership bid.
    • China has opposed India’s inclusion in the NSG, citing the non-NPT status and unwilling to make an exception. New Zealand, Ireland and Austria have also opposed India, citing the same clause.

    Source: TH

    Radio Telescopes: Probing Space

    Syllabus: GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions, GS3/ Space

    In News

    • The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in Pune recently helped detect atomic hydrogen from far-away galaxy.

    More about the news

    • This is the first confirmed detection of strong lensing of 21 cm emission from a galaxy.
      • The astronomical distance over which such a signal has been picked up is the largest so far. 
    • The research was funded by McGill University in Canada and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

    About a radio telescope

    • About:
      • A radio telescope is a telescope that helps scientists ‘see’ the universe using radio waves (1 mm to more than 10,000 km in wavelength). 
    • Functions:
      • These telescopes collect faint radio waves coming from deep space, and with the help of other equipment focus and amplify them for scientific study.
      • Radio telescopes can detect radio waves from a number of celestial objects, such as stars, galaxies, and black holes. 
    • Structure:
      • They are ground-based, and not in orbit, because they are usually quite large. 
        • This is because the size of the antenna – the dish-like structure that detects the waves – is proportional to the wavelength being tracked.
      • In fact, the most common radio telescopes have a parabolic dish antenna. 
        • Due to its curved shape, the radio waves hitting the dish bounce to a point called the focus, where a receiver collects them. 
    • Collecting radio wave:
      • Dish antennas collect many different wavelengths at once, so scientists often use receivers picking up multiple wavelengths at once.
      • Because of their large wavelength, radio waves can travel long distances without interruption, making them ideal to catch glimpses of stars behind dust clouds, for example. But the longer they travel, the weaker they get. 
        • So telescopes often try to maximise their signal collection area and use amplifiers to increase their strength.
    • China’s FAST instrument:
      • One of the biggest radio telescopes in the world today is the FAST instrument in China, with a 500-metre-wide dish.

    Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) 

    • About:
      • It is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45 meter diameter.
      • It is the largest and most sensitive radio telescope array in the world at low frequencies.
    • Functions:
      • It functions at the meter wavelength part of the radio spectrum because man-made radio interference is considerably lower in this part of the spectrum in India and there are many outstanding astrophysics problems which are best studied at meter wavelengths.
    • ‘SMART’ concept:
      • Its design is based on the `SMART’ concept – for Stretch Mesh Attached to Rope Trusses.
    • Operations:
      • GMRT is Built and operated by National Centre for Radio Astrophysics – Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, (NCRA-TIFR), Pune.

    Role of Atomic hydrogen

    • Formation of stars:
      • Atomic hydrogen is the basic fuel required for star formation in a galaxy. 
      • When hot ionised gas from the surrounding medium of a galaxy falls onto the universe, the gas cools and forms atomic hydrogen
      • This then becomes molecular hydrogen and eventually leads to the formation of stars. 
        • Understanding the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time requires tracing the evolution of neutral gas at different cosmological periods. 
    • Atomic hydrogen and emission of radio waves:
      • Atomic hydrogen emits radio waves of 21 cm wavelength, meaning the wavelength is a direct tracer of the atomic gas content in nearby and distant galaxies. 
      • However, this radio signal is feeble and nearly impossible to detect the emission from a distant galaxy using current telescopes due to their limited sensitivity.
    • Distant galaxy detected until now:
      • Until now, the most distant galaxy detected using 21 cm emission was at redshift z=0.376, corresponding to a look-back time – the time elapsed between detecting the signal and its original emission – of 4.1 billion years.
        • Redshift represents the signal’s wavelength change depending on the object’s location and movement; a greater value of z indicates a farther object.

    Way ahead

    • Findings like this opens up exciting new possibilities for probing the cosmic evolution of neutral gas with existing and upcoming low-frequency radio telescopes in the near future.

    Source: TH

    Egypt’s Highest State Honour to PM Modi

    Syllabus: GS2/ IR, Awards

    In News

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi conferred with ‘Order of the Nile’ award, Egypt’s highest state honour.
      • This is the 13th such highest state honour that various countries across the world have conferred upon PM Modi.

    About the Award

    • The Order of the Nile was established in the year 1915 by Sultan Hussein Kamel of Egypt
    • Originally intended to recognize individuals who had rendered valuable service to the country, the Order of the Nile became Egypt’s highest state honor after the monarchy was abolished in 1953. Its rich history and symbolism make it a coveted accolade. 
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honored with the Order of the Nile by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during his visit. 

    List of International Awards received by Prime Minister Modi

    • PM Modi has received many international awards.

    Name of the Award

    country

    year

    Order of the Nile

    Egypt

    June 2023

    Companion of the Order of Logohu

    Papua New Guinea

    May 2023

    Companion of the Order of Fiji

    Fiji 

    May 2023

    Ebakl Award 

    Palau

    May 2023

    Order of the Druk Gyalpo

    Bhutan 

    2021

    Legion of Merit 

    United States 

    2020

    King Hamad Order of the Renaissance

    Bahrain

    2019

    Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddin

    Maldives

    2019

    Order of St. Andrew award

    Russia

    2019

    Order of Zayed Award

    United Arab Emirates 

    2019

    Grand Collar of the State of Palestine Award

    Palestine

    2018

    State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan 

    Afghanistan

    2016

    Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud

    Saudi Arabia

    2016

    Awards conferred by Organizations / Foundations

    • Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award in 2021: Awarded by the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) to recognize his leadership towards the future of global energy and environment.
    • Global Goalkeeper’ Award in 2019: Conferred by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
    • Champions of The Earth Award in 2018: Awarded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for his leadership of the International Solar Alliance and pledge to eliminate single-use plastic in India by 2022.
    • Seoul Peace Prize in 2018: Awarded biennially by Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation to individuals who have contributed to world peace.

    Source: TOI

    Anna Bhagya 2.0 scheme

    Syllabus: GS2/ Welfare Schemes, Government policies & interventions

    In News

    • Food Corporation of India (FCI) recently rejected various States’ demands to reconsider the decision to restrict purchase through the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS), which is going against Karnataka’s Anna Bhagya 2.0 scheme.
      • State governments had alleged that such a move was against the interest of the poor.

    What is the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)?

    • OMSS refers to the selling of food grains by the government/government agencies at predetermined prices in the open market from time to time.
    • Food Corporation of India sells surplus stocks of wheat and rice under Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic) at pre-determined prices through e-auction in the open market from time to time to enhance the supply of food grains.

    What is FCIs argument?

    • The FCI had said the States’ schemes cater to the same set of beneficiaries covered under the Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna and to curb the inflation

    Anna Bhagya 2.0 scheme

    • It is Karnataka’s food security program that provides subsidized rice to poor families in the state.
    • The scheme aims to alleviate poverty in the region by providing poor families with access to subsidized rice. This will help to reduce the cost of living for these families and can help to improve their food security.

    Source: TH