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Current Affairs 04 December 2023

  1. World Malaria Report 2023
  2. Union Cabinet Approves Terms of Reference for Sixteenth Finance Commission
  3. PLFS Data for July-September 2023: Unemployment in Urban India
  4. Fast Radio Bursts (FRB)
  5. Voice over 5G (Vo5G)
  6. Global Initiative of Academic Networks


Context:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report titled ‘World Malaria Report 2023’.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Malaria
  2. World Malaria Report 2023: Key Insights
  3. India in the World Malaria Report
  4. Government of India’s Efforts to Control Malaria

Malaria:

  • Malaria is a disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite.
Transmission through Mosquito Bites:
  • The Plasmodium parasite is primarily transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • These Anopheles mosquitoes are often referred to as “night-biting” mosquitoes because they are more active and likely to bite between dusk and dawn.
Variety of Parasites:

While there are many types of Plasmodium parasites, only five of them cause malaria in humans:

  • Plasmodium falciparum: Predominant in Africa, responsible for most malaria-related deaths worldwide.
  • Plasmodium vivax: Mainly found in Asia and South America, causing milder symptoms but capable of remaining dormant in the liver, leading to relapses.
  • Plasmodium ovale: Less common, usually found in West Africa, can stay in the liver for several years without causing symptoms.
  • Plasmodium malariae: Rare and primarily found in Africa.
  • Plasmodium knowlesi: Extremely rare, found in parts of Southeast Asia.
Transmission Process:
  • When an infected mosquito bites a person, the Plasmodium parasite enters the bloodstream and eventually travels to the liver.
  • The infection develops in the liver, and then the parasites re-enter the bloodstream and invade red blood cells (RBCs).
  • Within RBCs, the parasites grow and multiply. Periodically, the infected RBCs burst, releasing more parasites into the bloodstream.
  • If another mosquito bites a person already infected with malaria, it can become infected and subsequently spread the parasite to other individuals.
  • Notably, malaria does not transmit directly from person to person. It relies on the mosquito vector for transmission between humans.

World Malaria Report 2023: Key Insights

Annual Assessment:
  • Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) releases the World Malaria Report, offering a comprehensive and up-to-date evaluation of global trends in malaria control and elimination efforts.
Trends in Global Malaria Burden:
  • Despite advancements in providing insecticide-treated nets and antimalarial medicines, the report highlights an alarming increase in malaria cases.
  • In 2022, there were an estimated 249 million malaria cases worldwide, surpassing the pre-pandemic level of 233 million recorded in 2019.
Climate Change Threat:
  • A notable addition to this year’s report is a dedicated chapter addressing the intersection of climate change and malaria.
  • Climate variables like temperature, humidity, and rainfall can affect the behavior and survival of malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and flooding, can directly impact malaria transmission and disease burden.
  • An example is the five-fold increase in malaria cases in Pakistan in 2022 due to catastrophic flooding.
Challenges Persist:
  • Beyond climate change, challenges like conflict, humanitarian crises, resource limitations, and issues like drug and insecticide resistance continue to hinder progress in malaria control.
Positive Developments:
  • The report highlights positive achievements, including the phased introduction of the first WHO-recommended malaria vaccine, RTS, S/AS01, in three African countries.
  • In October 2023, WHO recommended a second safe and effective malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, further enhancing malaria prevention efforts.
  • Availability of two vaccines is expected to improve supply and enable widespread deployment in Africa.
  • Many countries with a low malaria burden have made progress toward malaria elimination. In 2022, 34 countries reported fewer than 1000 cases, compared to only 13 in 2000.

India in the World Malaria Report:

  • The World Malaria Report indicates that India was responsible for a significant portion of malaria cases in the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia region in 2022, accounting for 66% of the cases.
  • Furthermore, India, along with Indonesia, accounted for approximately 94% of all malaria-related deaths in the same region in the preceding year.
  • The report highlights that nearly 46% of all cases in the region were attributed to Plasmodium vivax, a protozoal parasite causing malaria in humans.

Government of India’s Efforts to Control Malaria:

  • India has made substantial strides in malaria control efforts. Since the year 2000, the country has successfully reduced malaria cases by over 50% and decreased malaria-related deaths by more than 66%.
  • In 2016, India introduced its inaugural National Framework for Malaria Elimination (2016-2030), with a vision to achieve a malaria-free country by 2027 and complete elimination by 2030.
  • In 2019, the Government of India took additional measures by increasing funding for the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme by more than 25%. India also enhanced its support as a donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, further reinforcing its commitment to combat malaria.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

In a significant development, the Union Cabinet has granted approval for the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Sixteenth Finance Commission. The commission’s primary mandate is to propose a revenue distribution formula between the Central and State governments for the upcoming five-year period, commencing on April 1, 2026.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Terms of Reference for 16th Finance Commission
  2. Finance Commission: An Overview

Major Terms of Reference for 16th Finance Commission

The 16th Finance Commission has been tasked with several crucial Terms of Reference:

  • Tax Distribution Recommendation: Proposing the distribution of taxes between the Union Government and the States as per Chapter I, Part XII of the Constitution.
  • Allocation of Tax Shares: Determining the allocation of tax proceeds among the States.
  • Principles for Grants-in-Aid: Establishing principles governing grants-in-aid to the States from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Grants-in-Aid Amounts: Specifying the amounts to be provided to the States as grants-in-aid, particularly under Article 275 of the Constitution, for purposes beyond those outlined in the provisos to clause (1) of that article.
  • Enhancing State Funds: Identifying measures to enhance the Consolidated Fund of a State, with the aim of supplementing resources available to Panchayats and Municipalities within the State, based on recommendations made by the State’s own Finance Commission.
  • Review of Disaster Management Financing: Reviewing the current financing structures related to Disaster Management initiatives, including examining funds created under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and proposing suitable recommendations for improvements or alterations.

Finance Commission: An Overview

Purpose:

  • The Finance Commission is a constitutional body responsible for providing recommendations on the distribution of tax revenues among the Union (Central) and State governments, as well as among the States themselves.

Constitution:

  • It is constituted by the President of India under Article 280 of the Constitution. The Commission is established at the end of every fifth year, or earlier if deemed necessary by the President.

Legislation:

  • Parliament has the authority to determine the qualifications for Commission members and the procedure for their selection. The Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951, was enacted to address these aspects.

Mandate: The Commission’s main duties include:

  • Recommending the distribution of tax proceeds between the Union and States and among States.
  • Formulating principles for grants-in-aid to States from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Identifying measures to enhance the Consolidated Fund of a State to support Panchayats and Municipalities based on State Finance Commission recommendations.
  • Addressing any other matters referred by the President in the interest of sound finance.

Composition:

  • The Commission comprises a Chairman and four other members appointed by the President.

Qualifications: Members of the Commission have specific qualifications, including:

  • Experience in public affairs (for the Chairman).
  • Qualifications to be appointed as Judges of a High Court.
  • Special knowledge of government finances and accounts.
  • Wide experience in financial matters and administration.
  • Specialized knowledge in economics.

Tenure:

  • Members serve for a duration specified by the President’s order and are eligible for reappointment.

Non-Binding Recommendations:

  • It’s important to note that the recommendations made by the Finance Commission are not binding on the government, but they play a significant role in shaping fiscal policies and resource allocation in India.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), recently released data for July-September 2023, shedding light on India’s unemployment rate in urban areas.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Recent PLFS Highlights: Urban Unemployment, Worker Population Ratio, and LFPR
  2. Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Overview
  3. Types of Unemployment in India
  4. Causes of Unemployment in India

Recent PLFS Highlights: Urban Unemployment, Worker Population Ratio, and LFPR

Urban Unemployment:
  • The urban unemployment rate showed improvement, declining from 7.2% (July–September 2022) to 6.6% (July–September 2023).
  • Among males, the unemployment rate decreased from 6.6% to 6% during the same period.
  • Females witnessed a more positive trend, with the unemployment rate decreasing from 9.4% to 8.6% over the given time frame.
Worker Population Ratio (WPR):
  • The percentage of employed individuals in the population (aged 15 years and above) in urban areas increased from 44.5% (July-September 2022) to 46% (July-September 2023).
  • Among males, the WPR increased from 68.6% to 69.4% during the same period.
  • For females, there was a more substantial increase, rising from 19.7% to 21.9%.
Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR):
  • The LFPR in urban areas exhibited growth, rising from 47.9% (July-September 2022) to 49.3% (July-September 2023).
  • Among males, there was a marginal uptick from 73.4% to 73.8% during this period.
  • Females showed a more significant increase, with the LFPR increasing from 21.7% to 24.0%.

Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Overview:

  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey was launched by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in April 2017.
  • The survey was initiated to address the need for more frequent and timely availability of labor force data.
Objectives:
  • To estimate key employment and unemployment indicators within a short time interval of three months specifically for urban areas using the “Current Weekly Status” (CWS) approach.
  • To estimate employment and unemployment indicators annually using both the “Usual Status” (ps+ss) and CWS approaches for both rural and urban areas.
Indicators:

The PLFS focuses on estimating the following indicators:

  • Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR): It represents the percentage of individuals in the population who are part of the labor force, which includes those who are employed, seeking work, or available for work.
  • Worker Population Ratio (WPR): This indicator represents the percentage of employed individuals in the population.
  • Unemployment Rate (UR): The UR indicates the percentage of individuals who are unemployed among those in the labor force.
Current Weekly Status (CWS):
  • CWS refers to the activity status of individuals based on their activities during the preceding seven days before the survey.
Conducting Authority:
  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey is conducted by the National Sample Survey (NSO), which operates under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

Types of Unemployment in India

  • Disguised Unemployment: This is a situation in which more people are employed than are required. It is mostly seen in India’s agricultural and unorganised sectors.
  • Seasonal unemployment: Unemployment that happens only during particular seasons of the year. In India, agricultural labourers rarely work throughout the year.
  • Structural Unemployment: This is a type of unemployment that occurs when there is a mismatch between the jobs available and the abilities of the available workers.
  • Cyclical unemployment: Unemployment that rises during recessions and falls with economic expansion. It is mostly a phenomenon of capitalist economies.
  • Frictional Unemployment:  It is also known as Search Unemployment, is the time lag between jobs when someone is looking for a new job or moving jobs.

Causes of Unemployment in India

  • Jobs in the capitalist world have become highly specialised but India’s education system does not provide the right training and specialisation needed for these jobs.
  • In India nearly half of the workforce is dependent on Agriculture – even though agriculture is underdeveloped in India and only provides seasonal employment.
  • Mobility of labour in India is low due to factors like language, religion, and climate.
  • The industrial development had adverse effects on cottage and small industries – as the cottage industries fall, many artisans become unemployed.
  • Constant increase in population has been a big problem and one of the main causes of unemployment.
  • Certain work is prohibited for specific castes in some areas and this also contributes to unemployment.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, scientists are trying to understand a new aspect of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which are mysterious radio signals coming from distant galaxies. Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), which is scheduled to launch in the early 2030s, will aid in studying FRBs and mysterious radio signals.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is an FRB?
  2. Why are they significant?
  3. Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA): An Overview

What is an FRB?

  • Since the first FRB was spotted in 2007, researchers have been trying to determine where they came from.
  • FRBs are essentially brilliant radio wave bursts (radio waves can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields).
  • The X-ray component of the simultaneous bursts was detected by several satellites, including NASA’s Wind mission; in addition, a NASA-funded project called Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2 (STARE2) also detected the radio burst;
  • However, because of their millisecond durations, it is challenging to detect them and determine their position in the sky.

Why are they significant?

  • First noticed in 2018 by the Canadian observatory the waves have created ripples across the globe for one reason — they arrive in a pattern.
  • This gave birth to theories that they could be from an alien civilization.
  • Initially, it was believed that the collision of black holes or neutron stars triggers them.
  • But the discovery of repeating FRBs debunked the theory of colliding objects.

Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA): An Overview

  • Definition: LISA stands for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, and it is a collaborative project led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • Purpose: LISA is designed to serve as a space-based gravitational wave observatory, with the primary objective of detecting and studying gravitational waves.
  • Detection Method: LISA achieves this by measuring the tiny variations in the distances between three spacecraft positioned in a triangular formation. These variations are caused by the passage of gravitational waves through space.
  • Cosmic Insights: This space-based observatory is expected to provide valuable insights into various cosmic events, including the mergers of massive black holes and other astrophysical phenomena.
  • Contribution to Understanding: The data and observations from LISA are poised to significantly contribute to our understanding of the universe, shedding light on the fundamental forces and events that shape our cosmos.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Reports indicate Reliance Jio, India’s largest mobile carrier, has been testing Voice over New Radio (VoNR) behind the scenes.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Voice over 5G (VoNR): An Overview
  2. Advantages of VoNR Over VoLTE (Voice over LTE)

Voice over 5G (VoNR): An Overview

  • Alternate Name: Voice over 5G is also known as Voice over New Radio (VoNR).
  • Upgrade from 4G: VoNR is a standard that facilitates voice calls over 5G networks, replacing the existing standard that relies on 4G networks.
  • Leveraging 5G: VoNR takes advantage of the improvements offered by 5G, including increased speed, capacity, and responsiveness, and applies them specifically to voice communication.
  • Infrastructure Preparedness: The goal of VoNR is to ensure that the necessary infrastructure and interoperability are in place well before its widespread implementation.
  • Requirements: To use VoNR, three key elements are necessary: a phone that supports VoNR, a carrier that offers VoNR services, and access to a 5G signal in the user’s area.

Advantages of VoNR Over VoLTE (Voice over LTE):

  • Enhanced Bandwidth and Lower Latency: VoNR benefits from 5G’s significantly higher bandwidth and reduced latency compared to 4G LTE.
  • Advanced Audio Codecs: It employs more advanced audio codecs, resulting in superior voice clarity and fidelity, enabled by 5G’s increased data capacity.
  • Faster Call Connection: VoNR promises quicker call connection times, ensuring a seamless and prompt user experience.
  • Reduced Call Drops: VoNR aims to address the problem of call drops, particularly during transitions between 5G and 4G networks.
  • Improved Reliability: Lower packet loss contributes to better call reliability, minimizing instances of voice interruptions during calls.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Eight years after its inception, the Ministry of Education is gearing up to restart the fourth phase of the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN).

Relevance:

GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education
  2. Significance of GIAN Programme

Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education

  • GIAN, the Global Initiative of Academic Networks in Higher Education, was launched in 2015 and is a program under the Ministry of Education in India.
Aim:
  • The primary aim of GIAN is to tap into the global talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs, encouraging their active involvement with higher education institutions in India.
  • This engagement is intended to enhance India’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate the nation’s scientific and technological capabilities to global excellence.
Objectives:
  • GIAN has several key objectives, including:
    • Enhancing the quality of higher education through international collaboration.
    • Increasing the presence of esteemed international faculty members in Indian academic institutions.
    • Infusing international academic excellence into India’s higher education establishments.
    • Augmenting India’s existing academic resources and boosting the country’s scientific and technological prowess to attain global eminence.
  • Nodal Agency:
    • IIT Kharagpur serves as the nodal agency for the implementation of GIAN.
Salient Features:
  • GIAN offers an honorarium to foreign experts, covering their travel and associated expenses.
  • Short-term courses are conducted by these international experts or faculties in Indian educational institutions.
  • While initially focused on collaboration between India and the United States of America, the program’s scope has since expanded.
  • The duration of GIAN courses varies, with a minimum duration of one week and a maximum duration of three weeks.
  • Foreign experts can receive a lump-sum amount, ranging up to US$ 8,000 for 12 to 14 hours of contact and up to US$ 12,000 for 20 to 28 hours of contact, covering their travel and honorarium expenses.

Significance of GIAN Programme

The Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) programme has significant importance due to several key factors:

  • International Expertise: GIAN allows Indian educational institutions to access a wealth of international expertise by bringing in foreign faculty members. These experts contribute to enhancing the quality of education and research in India.
  • Global Collaboration: The programme fosters international collaboration between Indian institutions and universities and experts from various countries, promoting academic exchange and knowledge sharing.
  • Diverse Course Offerings: GIAN offers a wide range of courses delivered by foreign faculty, covering diverse fields of study. This diversity enriches the educational experience for Indian students.
  • Exposure to Global Perspectives: Indian students benefit from exposure to different teaching methodologies, perspectives, and global best practices, which can enhance their academic and professional development.
  • Financial Investment: The significant financial investment made by the Central government, amounting to ₹126 crore, demonstrates the commitment to improving the quality of education in India through international engagement.
  • Broad Reach: GIAN has reached a large number of educational institutions and students across the country. A substantial number of courses were conducted in prestigious institutions like IITs and NITs, ensuring a broad impact.
  • Benefit for Indian Students: The programme directly benefits Indian students, as approximately 72,000 students have gained knowledge and insights from the foreign faculty members, enriching their educational experience.

-Source: Indian Express


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