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Current Affairs 15 November 2023

  1. Loss and Damage Fund
  2. India’s Bioeconomy Ambition and Biotechnology Funding Challenges
  3. CAFRAL Highlights Growing Risks in NBFC Financing
  4. Genetic Factors in Silk Production: Transforming the Silk Industry
  5. Data Breach: PII of 815 Million Indians Allegedly Sold on Dark Web
  6. Vadhvan Port
  7. Arrow-3 Missile Defence System


Context:

In light of the escalating climate crisis, the ‘Loss and Damage’ (L&D) fund and adaptation have recently come into focus. 

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Loss and Damage Fund: Addressing Irreversible Climate Consequences
  2. Challenges Regarding the Loss and Damage Fund
  3. Way Forward for the Loss and Damage Fund

Loss and Damage Fund: Addressing Irreversible Climate Consequences

  • The Loss and Damage (L&D) fund addresses irreversible climate change consequences unmitigated by adaptation efforts.
  • Compensation for real losses encompassing human rights, well-being, and environmental sustainability.
Genesis and Historical Accountability:
  • Persistent calls over 30 years for affluent nations to acknowledge historical pollution’s role in global temperature rise.
  • Historic pollution causes widespread damage, especially affecting the poorest nations.
COP 19 and Fund Inception:
  • Formal agreement at COP 19 in 2013 led to the establishment of the L&D fund.
  • Designed to provide financial and technical assistance to economically developing nations facing Loss and Damage.

Subsequent Developments and Challenges:

  • COP 25:
    • Santiago Network for L&D established, but no country committed funds.
  • COP 26:
    • 2021 summit in Glasgow continued discussions on the fund’s operationalization.
  • COP 27 (November 2022):
    • Agreement to set up the L&D fund.
    • Transitional Committee (TC) formed to devise operational mechanisms.
Stalemate at TC4 and TC5:
  • TC4 Meeting:
    • No consensus on operationalizing the fund.
    • Contention over hosting at the World Bank, common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), climate reparations, and eligibility of developing nations.
  • TC5 Meeting:
    • Drafted recommendations forwarded to COP 28.

Challenges Regarding the Loss and Damage Fund

Non-Commitment of Developed Nations:

  • Developed nations, especially the US, show reluctance to be primary donors, raising doubts about their commitment.
  • Voluntary support undermines global climate negotiations and cooperative efforts.

Uncertainty Regarding Fund Size:

  • Lack of clarity on the fund’s size, with attempts to specify it thwarted by the U.K. and Australia.
  • The current draft urges developed nations to contribute without a defined commitment or framework.

Discontent among Developing Nations:

  • Developing nations feel their concerns are inadequately addressed, complicating climate action and eroding trust.
  • Weakness in the L&D fund threatens climate justice, disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities.

Global Implications:

  • Weakening the L&D fund has broader implications, challenging climate justice and worsening the plight of vulnerable communities.
  • Potential security challenges arise as climate-induced instability leads to conflicts with cross-border repercussions.

Humanitarian Consequences:

  • Absence of support for vulnerable communities may result in humanitarian crises, including food shortages, displacement, and conflicts.
  • Communities are left to independently cope with worsening climate impacts, exacerbating the humanitarian burden.

Way Forward for the Loss and Damage Fund

Call for Active Contribution:

  • Urge developed nations to play a pivotal role as primary donors to the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund, demonstrating a robust financial commitment.

Advocate for Transparency:

  • Push for transparent discussions to clearly define the fund’s size, operational guidelines, and allocation mechanisms, ensuring accountability and effectiveness.

Promote Diplomatic Dialogues:

  • Foster open diplomatic dialogues addressing the concerns of developing nations, emphasizing collaboration for impactful climate action and resolution of global issues.

Address Security Implications:

  • Proactively tackle security implications arising from climate-induced instability, implementing measures to manage humanitarian crises and support vulnerable communities.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

India targets a rise in the Bioeconomy’s GDP contribution from 2.6% to 5% by 2030, according to the ‘Bioeconomy Report 2022’ by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). However, biotechnology funding remains at 0.0001% of the GDP, with limited recovery post-Covid-19. The ‘Guidelines for Genetically Engineered Insects’ issued in April 2023 offer procedural roadmaps but face challenges.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Bioeconomy
  2. Key Highlights of the Bioeconomy Report 2022
  3. What are Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects?

Bioeconomy:

  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines bioeconomy as the utilization of biological resources, knowledge, science, technology, and innovation to provide sustainable economic solutions.
  • Coined in the early 21st century, the term gained prominence through adoption by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • The EU and OECD have since implemented dedicated policies to promote biotechnology for the development of new products and markets within the bioeconomy framework.

Key Highlights of the Bioeconomy Report 2022

  • India’s bioeconomy is thriving, with a projected growth to USD 150 billion by 2025 and an ambitious target to surpass USD 300 billion by 2030.
  • The sector witnessed a substantial 14.1% increase, reaching USD 80 billion in 2021, up from USD 70.2 billion in 2020.
  • Daily, the bioeconomy contributes USD 219 million, showcasing its substantial economic impact on a regular basis.
  • In 2021, the sector saw the inception of three biotech startups per day, totaling 1,128 for the year.
  • With an investment exceeding USD 1 billion in research and development, the industry emphasizes a commitment to innovation.
  • Despite the global pandemic, India demonstrated resilience by administering 4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses daily and conducting 3 million tests.
  • Over the last decade, the number of biotech startups surged from 50 to over 5,300, with expectations of doubling by 2025.
  • The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) played a crucial role, establishing 74 bio-incubation centers across 21 states/UTs to nurture bio-entrepreneurs.
  • India holds the distinction of having the second-highest number of USFDA-approved manufacturing plants outside the US, affirming its global prominence in the biotech industry.

What are Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects?

  • GE insects are organisms whose genetic material undergoes alteration through genetic engineering techniques to introduce specific desired traits or characteristics.
  • This manipulation of the insect’s DNA is not naturally occurring and is done with the goal of conferring particular benefits or addressing specific issues.
Applications:

The development and release of GE insects find applications in various fields, including:

  • Vector Management: Targeting human and livestock health by managing disease-carrying organisms.
  • Crop Insect Pest Management: Controlling major insect pests that affect crops.
  • Environmental Health: Contributing to human health and environmental well-being by reducing the need for chemical interventions.
  • Protein Production: Generating proteins for healthcare purposes.
  • Genetic Improvement: Enhancing beneficial insects like predators, parasitoids, pollinators (e.g., honey bees), or productive insects (e.g., silkworms, lac insects).

Challenges Related to Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects:

Ecological Impact:

  • Releasing genetically modified insects into the environment poses a potential risk of disrupting ecosystems, affecting non-target species, and altering population balances.

Unintended Consequences:

  • Genetic engineering is complex, and unintended consequences can arise, impacting the insect’s behavior, lifespan, or interactions with other organisms.

Gene Spread:

  • There’s a risk of modified genes spreading beyond the intended population, entering the wild gene pool through breeding with wild populations.

Ethical Concerns:

  • Morality concerns are raised about altering the genetics of living organisms, especially when released into the environment.

Regulatory Frameworks:

  • Developing regulatory frameworks for genetically engineered insects is challenging, requiring appropriate levels of testing, monitoring, and oversight.

Trait Stability:

  • Ensuring the stability of engineered traits over generations is crucial to maintaining effectiveness and preventing degradation or natural selection pressures.

Cost and Scalability:

  • Developing and implementing genetically engineered insect technologies can be expensive, requiring ongoing efforts for cost-effectiveness and scalability in large-scale applications like disease vector control.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Centre for Advanced Financial Research and Learning (CAFRAL), established by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has drawn attention to an escalating risk in bank financing for Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs). Additionally, CAFRAL has issued a warning regarding the digital lending landscape, identifying potential dangers. The research body also cautions against fake or illegitimate lending apps, emphasizing the risk of these apps collecting personal data and posing threats of misuse and safety concerns for users.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Concerns Highlighted by CAFRAL
  2. What are NBFCs?

Major Concerns Highlighted by CAFRAL:

Inter-Dependency in NBFC Sector:
  • Banks primarily lend to larger NBFCs, creating a network of inter-dependencies.
  • Cross-lending within the NBFC sector amplifies shocks and transmits them across the financial system.
  • Instances like the IL&FS default in 2018 and DHFL collapse in 2019 triggered a liquidity crisis and affected banks’ asset quality and profitability.
Impact of Contractionary Monetary Policy on NBFCs:
  • Contractionary monetary policy results in risk accumulation in NBFC portfolios.
  • Tightening policy rates by RBI leads to higher borrowing costs and lower profitability for NBFCs.
  • To maintain margins, NBFCs shift lending to riskier segments, increasing exposure to unsecured loans and subprime borrowers.
  • Increased exposure to capital markets through equity and mutual fund investments exposes them to higher credit, market, and liquidity risks.
Risks Associated with Digital Lending Apps:
  • Warning about illegitimate digital lending apps gathering personal data for potential misuse.
  • Difficulty in verifying the legality of these apps poses risks to consumer safety and privacy.
  • Concerns about potential losses from online lending impacting traditional banking if linkages between the sectors strengthen.
  • Fake/illegal apps request extensive personal information, raising privacy and safety concerns for users.
  • FinTech growth has led to approximately 1100 lending apps available for Indian Android users across 80 app stores, increasing product diversity.

What are NBFCs?

  • An NBFC, registered under the Companies Act, 1956, engages in various financial activities, including loans, securities investments, leasing, and insurance.
  • Excludes institutions primarily involved in agriculture, industry, goods trading, services, or immovable property trading.

Criteria for Registration:

  • A company is registered as an NBFC by the RBI if over 50% of its assets are financial assets and more than 50% of its income is derived from these financial assets.

Regulatory Authority:

  • The Reserve Bank, under the RBI Act 1934, has the authority to register, lay down policy, issue directions, inspect, regulate, supervise, and exercise surveillance over NBFCs.
Differences from Banks:
  • NBFCs cannot accept demand deposits from the public, unlike banks.
  • NBFCs are not part of the payment and settlement system, and they cannot issue cheques like banks.
  • Deposit insurance facilities, available to bank depositors, are not extended to NBFC depositors.

Funding:

  • NBFCs primarily finance operations through a combination of market borrowing and bank loans.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Researchers have unveiled the genetic factors influencing cocoon colors and adaptations in silk-producing insects, shedding light on the intricate mechanisms that have revolutionized the silk industry. Renowned as the “queen of fibers,” silk’s beauty and luxury have been cherished for centuries, and understanding the underlying genetics offers insights into the remarkable diversity and characteristics of silk.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Silk Cocoons: Genetic Revelations and Silk Types
  2. India’s Silk Industry: A Comprehensive Overview

Understanding Silk Cocoons: Genetic Revelations and Silk Types

Cocoon in Silk:
  • A protective layer of silk thread spun by a silkworm around itself.
  • Fine, strong, and lustrous silk thread; cocoon typically oval or round.
  • Utilized to create silk fabric through unwinding and weaving.
Genetic Insights from Silk Moth Domestication:
  • Produced by cocoons of the domesticated silk moth (Bombyx mori), originating from the wild silk moth (Bombyx mandarina) over 5,000 years ago in China.
  • Domesticated silk moth thrives globally, while the ancestral moth persists in regions like China, Korea, Japan, and far-eastern Russia.
Types of Silk:

Wild Silk (Non-mulberry Silks):

  • Includes muga, tasar, and eri silks from moth species like Antheraea assama, Antheraea mylitta, and Samia cynthia ricini.
  • Moths survive independently, caterpillars forage on diverse trees.
  • About 30% of India’s silk production; shorter, coarser threads.

Mulberry Silk:

  • Most common, constitutes 90% of global silk production.
  • Derived from domesticated mulberry silkworm (Bombyx mori) feeding on mulberry leaves.
  • Long, smooth, lustrous fibers suitable for various applications.
Cocoon Colors:
  • Ancestral moth produces brown-yellow cocoons; domesticated silk moth offers a vibrant palette.
  • Pigments from carotenoids and flavonoids in mulberry leaves color silkworm cocoons.
  • Silkworms absorb and transport pigments to silk glands, determining thread color.
  • Water-soluble pigments fade over time; market-available colored silks use acid dyes.
  • Mutations in pigment-related genes contribute to diverse cocoon colors, offering molecular insights.

India’s Silk Industry: A Comprehensive Overview

Production and Global Standing:

  • Second-largest producer of raw silk globally, following China.
  • Produced a substantial 33,739 MT of raw silk in FY 2020-21.
  • Diverse silk types include Mulberry, Tasar, Muga, and Eri, influenced by distinct silkworm feeding habits.
  • Significant contributor to India’s foreign exchange earnings, playing a crucial role in the economy.

Regional Production Dynamics:

  • Karnataka led silk production in FY 2021-22, contributing 32%.
  • Other major contributors: Andhra Pradesh (25%), Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, and West Bengal.

Global Export and Import:

  • Exports to over 30 countries, with top importers including the USA, UAE, China, UK, Australia, and Germany.

Employment and Rural Impact:

  • Employs approximately 9.76 million people in rural and semi-urban areas.
  • Sericulture activities spread across 52,360 villages, contributing to rural livelihoods.

Central Silk Board (CSB):

  • Statutory body established in 1948 under the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India.
  • Headquarters located in Bangalore.
  • Responsible for the overall development, promotion, and support of the sericulture and silk industry in India, encompassing research, extension, training, quality control, and marketing.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, Resecurity, an American cybersecurity company, reported the sale of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of 815 million Indian citizens, including sensitive details like Aadhaar numbers and passport information, on the Dark Web. The threat actors behind the sale attributed the data to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), an organization that faced numerous cyber-attack attempts, with 6,000 incidents reported in 2022.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dark Web
  2. Data Governance Provisions in India

Dark Web:

  • The dark web comprises unindexed sites accessible only through specialized web browsers, forming a smaller but concealed part of the internet.
  • It requires special software, configurations, or authorization for access, making it intentionally hidden and challenging for average users to reach.
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Data Breach:
  • PII includes information that can identify an individual, ranging from direct identifiers like passport details to quasi-identifiers.
  • Threat actors on the dark web claimed to possess PII of 815 million Indians, including Aadhaar and passport details, sourced from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Data Source and Authentication Challenges:
  • The threat actors did not disclose how they obtained the data, posing challenges in identifying the data leak’s source.
  • Claims of a 1.8 terabyte data leak from an unnamed “India internal law enforcement agency” by a threat actor named Lucius are yet to be authenticated.
India’s Cybersecurity Landscape:
  • India, a rapidly growing economy, ranked 4th globally in malware detection in H1 2023, exposing the vulnerability of its digital infrastructure.
  • Unrest in West Asia contributed to an increase in cyber attacks, elevating the risk of digital identity theft as threat actors exploit stolen identity information for various cyber-enabled financial crimes.

Data Governance Provisions in India:

IT Amendment Act, 2008:

  • Encompasses privacy provisions, but largely specific to situations like restricting the publication of names of juveniles and rape victims.

Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India 2017:

  • Supreme Court declared Indians have a constitutionally protected fundamental right to privacy under Article 21.

B.N. Srikrishna Committee 2017:

  • Expert committee appointed for data protection submitted recommendations in July 2018, proposing measures like restrictions on data processing, a Data Protection Authority, and the right to be forgotten.

IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021:

  • Mandates social media platforms to exercise greater diligence in managing content on their platforms.

Proposal of ‘Digital India Act’, 2023:

  • Aims to replace the IT Act, 2000, addressing gaps in the cybersecurity landscape and data privacy rights, promoting innovation, startups, and citizen protection.

Way Forward:

  • Recommendation for using “masked Aadhaar” to enhance privacy and security, displaying only the last four digits.
  • Suggestion to amend the Aadhaar Act for independent oversight through an “Identity Review Committee.”
  • Limiting mandatory Aadhaar usage to permissible purposes and providing alternative authentication methods when Aadhaar fails.
  • Users advised to lock their Aadhaar data through the UIDAI website or app for added protection, rendering compromised biometric information useless.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Vadhavan Port Project Ltd. (VPPL) has initiated the process for construction of the ₹76,220 crore port and public hearings are likely to begin in the next few months.

Relevance:

GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vadhavan Port
  2. Jawaharlal Nehru Port (Nhava Sheva)

Vadhavan Port Overview:

Proposed Container Port Project
  • Location: Vadhavan, Maharashtra.
  • Estimated Cost: Rs 75,000 crore.
  • Joint Venture: Developed by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) and the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB).
Technical Specifications:
  • Natural Draft: Approximately 20 meters close to the shore.
  • Vessel Handling Capacity: Capable of accommodating container vessels of 16,000-25,000 TEUs.
  • Cargo Handling Capacity: Designed to handle around 254 million tonnes (MT) of cargo.
Environmental Considerations:
  • Green Port Initiative: Planned as a Green Port.
  • Green Fuel Provision: Intends to provide green fuel to ships.
  • Environmental Planning: Construction and operations planned with a focus on addressing environmental concerns.

Jawaharlal Nehru Port (Nhava Sheva):

Largest Container Port in India
  • Handling Capacity: Manages around 55% of total containers handled by all Major Ports in India.
  • Location: East of Mumbai, in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  • Access: Connected to the Arabian Sea via Thane Creek.
  • Alternate Name: Commonly referred to as Nhava Sheva.
Integral Role in Freight Transportation
  • Terminal of Western Dedicated Freight Corridor: Plays a crucial role in the transportation network as the terminal for the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor.

-Source: Hindustan Times



Context:

Israel recently confirmed that it used its sophisticated Arrow 3 missile interceptor against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Arrow-3 Missile Defence System

Arrow-3 Missile Defence System Overview

Purpose and Development:
  • Type: Exo-atmospheric anti-ballistic missile defense system.
  • Designed for: Long-range threat engagement.
  • Developed by: Israel Aerospace Industries and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Operational Deployment:
  • Initiated Service: Initially deployed in 2017.
  • Integration: Forms the top layer of Israel’s air-defense network.

Key Characteristics:

Missile Design:
  • Interception Zone: Targets ballistic missiles outside of the atmosphere.
  • Propulsion: Two-stage solid-fueled interceptors.
Components:
  • System Elements: Launcher, radar, and battle management system.
  • Radar Capabilities: Early warning, fire control, extended-range acquisition, multi-target acquisition, and tracking.
Operational Range:
  • Range: 2,400 km.
  • Altitude: Can intercept threats at an altitude of 100 km.

Operational Mechanism:

Hit-to-Kill Technology:
  • Destruction Method: Utilizes hit-to-kill technology for intercepting and destroying incoming missiles.
  • Launch Orientation: Vertical launch with a change in direction towards the estimated interception point.
Target Acquisition:
  • Sensor Technology: High-resolution electro-optical sensor.
  • Target Identification: Acquires the target for the kill vehicle to intercept and destroy the warhead.

-Source: Times of India


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