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Current Affairs 21 April 2023

CONTENTS

  1. National Quantum Mission
  2. 24th Russia-India Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meeting
  3. Critical Minerals
  4. Galapagos Islands
  5. Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam
  6. N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  7. Hakki-Pikki tribe

National Quantum Mission


Context:

Recently, the union cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM) to aid scientific and industrial research and development in quantum technology.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About National Quantum Mission
  2. Significance of NQM
  3. Quantum technology

About National Quantum Mission

  • India’s National Quantum Mission (NQM) is a program initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • It is a long-term mission, planned for 2023-2031, that aims to seed, nurture, and scale up scientific and industrial R&D and create a vibrant and innovative ecosystem in Quantum Technology (QT).
Salient features of NQM include:
  • Developing intermediate scale quantum computers with 50-100 physical qubits in 5 years and 50-1000 physical qubits in 8 years
  • Developing magnetometers with high sensitivity for precision timing, communications, and navigation
  • Supporting design and synthesis of quantum materials such as superconductors, novel semiconductor structures, and topological materials for fabrication of quantum devices
  • Developing satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2000 km within India
  • Developing long-distance secure quantum communications with other countries
  • Developing inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km
  • Developing multi-node Quantum network with quantum memories
  • Setting up four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) in top academic and National R&D institutes on the domains of Quantum Technology: Quantum computation, Quantum communication, Quantum Sensing & Metrology, and Quantum Materials & Devices
Significance of NQM:
  • Accelerating QT led economic growth and making India one of the leading nations in the development of Quantum Technologies & Applications (QTA) ranging from healthcare and diagnostics, defense, energy, and data security.
  • Working towards indigenously building quantum-based computers which are far more powerful and able to solve the most complex problems in a highly secure manner.
    • With the launch of this mission, India will become the seventh country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France, Canada, and China.

Quantum technology:

  • Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, according to classical physics (based on Newtonian mechanics)
  • It was thought until the early twentieth century that this was a fundamental physics law that was followed by everything in nature
  • However, scientists began to look into particles like atoms, electrons, and light waves that did not appear to follow these laws.
  • The subject of quantum mechanics was founded by Max Planck, Neils Bohr, and Albert Einstein in an attempt to investigate the “quirky” principles that did bind such particles.
About:
  • It is a type of technology (developed in the early twentieth century) that operates on the principles of quantum mechanics – the physics of subatomic particles, such as quantum entanglement and quantum superposition.
  • As a result, it is based on phenomena exhibited by microscopic particles (such as photons, electrons, atoms, and so on) that differ significantly from how normal macroscopic objects behave.

There are Four domains of Quantum Technology:

  • Quantum communication
  • Quantum simulation
  • Quantum computation
  • Quantum sensing and metrology

The underlying principles of quantum technology are as follows:

Quantum entanglement (QE):
  • Quantum entanglement occurs when two atoms are connected or entangled despite their separation
  • If one atom’s properties change, the other changes instantly, and quantum mechanics observe these changes in properties.
  • It improves communication security by using quantum-protected encrypted keys, and entangled atoms can be used to detect whether data transmission has been compromised.
Quantum entanglement:
  • Quantum superposition is the theory that subatomic particles can exist in multiple states at the same time.
  • Quantum computers are a practical application of this principle.
  • Whereas digital computers store data as bits (binary of 0 and 1), quantum computers use qubits, which can be either a 1 or a 0 at the same time.
  • This superposition generates a nearly infinite set of options, allowing for extremely fast calculations.

Applications:

Quantum technology promises to improve a wide range of everyday devices, including:

  • Improved navigation and timing systems.
  • Improved communication security.
  • Improved healthcare imaging through quantum sensing (using quantum phenomenon to perform a measurement of a physical quantity).
  • Quantum computers provide more powerful computing.
  • Improved disaster management through better prediction, computing, and so on.
  • To comprehend biological phenomena such as smell and consciousness, as well as the spread of pandemics such as Covid-19, etc.

-Source: The Hindu


24th Russia-India Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) Meeting


Context:

Recently, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister has attended the 24th Russia-India Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meeting in India.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Meeting between India and Russia
  2. Status of India-Russia Trade Ties and Related Concerns

Key Highlights of the Meeting between India and Russia

India and Russia held discussions on various bilateral issues, including defense cooperation, trade, and economic ties. The key highlights of the meeting are:

  • Russia expressed interest in importing manufacturing equipment, including machinery, from India to replace those of Western origin.
  • Both countries reviewed the defense cooperation between India and Russia, which has been facing challenges related to deliveries and payments due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
  • India discussed its plans for Russia’s far eastern region, which is an essential part of Russia’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The two sides discussed bilateral trade efforts and the identification of new industrial points that would provide additional impetus for trade between the two countries.
  • There was a discussion on the balance of trade, which currently tilts in favor of Russia, and ways to bring more balance in trade relations.
  • Discussions covered many areas of mutual interest, including those related to technology, energy, healthcare, and education, highlighting the need for bilateral cooperation in these sectors.

Status of India-Russia Trade Ties and Related Concerns

India’s bilateral trade with Russia has been growing steadily over the years, but concerns related to trade balance persist. The current status of India-Russia trade ties is as follows:

  • India’s total bilateral trade with Russia stood at ~USD 13 Billion in 2021-22 and USD 8.14 Billion in 2020-21.
  • Russia is India’s seventh biggest trading partner, up from 25th position in 2021.
  • The US, China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Indonesia were the six countries that recorded higher volumes of trade with India during the first five months of 2022-23.
  • India’s Imports from Russia accounted for USD 17.23 Billion, while India’s exports to Moscow were only worth USD 992.73 million, resulting in a negative trade balance of USD 16.24 Billion in 2020-21.
  • Russia’s share in India’s total trade has increased to 3.54%, up from 1.27% in 2021-22.
  • The sudden jump in imports from Russia, mainly oil and fertilizers, which began to surge earlier in 2022, is the main driver behind this increase in bilateral trade.
  • Petroleum oil and other fuel items accounted for 84% of India’s total imports from Russia, while Fertilizers were second.
  • Together, fertilizers and fuel accounted for over 91% of the total imports from Russia this year.
Concerns
  • India-Russia trade ties primarily stem from the trade imbalance, which has been in favor of Russia for many years.
  • India has been importing a lot of oil and gas from Russia, which has contributed significantly to the trade deficit. However, efforts are being made to address this issue, and both countries are exploring ways to increase trade and promote balance.

-Source: The Hindu


Critical Minerals


Context:

A national critical minerals strategy for India, underpinned by the minerals identified in this study, can help focus on priority concerns in supply risks, domestic policy regimes, and sustainability.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Critical Minerals?
  2. Why is this resource critical?
  3. Challenges Faced by India in Assuring Resilient Critical Minerals Supply Chains
  4. Way Forward for India’s Critical Minerals Strategy

What are Critical Minerals?

  • Critical minerals are elements that are the building blocks of essential modern-day technologies, and are at risk of supply chain disruptions.
  • These minerals are now used everywhere from making mobile phones, computers to batteries, electric vehicles and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Based on their individual needs and strategic considerations, different countries create their own lists.
  • However, such lists mostly include graphite, lithium and cobalt, which are used for making EV batteries; rare earths that are used for making magnets and silicon which is a key mineral for making computer chips and solar panels.
  • Aerospace, communications and defence industries also rely on several such minerals as they are used in manufacturing fighter jets, drones, radio sets and other critical equipment.

Why is this resource critical?

  • As countries around the world scale up their transition towards clean energy and digital economy, these critical resources are key to the ecosystem that fuels this change.
  • Any supply shock can severely imperil the economy and strategic autonomy of a country over-dependent on others to procure critical minerals.
  • But these supply risks exist due to rare availability, growing demand and complex processing value chain.
  • Many times the complex supply chain can be disrupted by hostile regimes, or due to politically unstable regions.
  • They are critical as the world is fast shifting from a fossil fuel-intensive to a mineral-intensive energy system.

Challenges Faced by India in Assuring Resilient Critical Minerals Supply Chains:

  • China’s struggle with Covid-19-related lockdowns poses a risk of slowdown in the extraction, processing, and exports of critical minerals, as it is the most dominant player in critical mineral supply chains.
  • The war between Russia and Ukraine has implications for critical mineral supply chains, as Russia is one of the significant producers of nickel, palladium, titanium sponge metal, and the rare earth element scandium, while Ukraine is a major producer of titanium and has reserves of other critical minerals.
  • The strategic partnership between China and Russia may affect critical mineral supply chains as the balance of power shifts across continents and countries.
  • Manufacturing renewable energy technologies and transitioning to electric vehicles would require increasing quantities of critical minerals, many of which India does not have sufficient reserves, necessitating reliance on foreign partners to meet domestic needs.

Way Forward for India’s Critical Minerals Strategy

  • India has geological potential for mining, but there are significant challenges to enable sustainable extraction.
  • Four challenges include:
    • Atomic minerals reserved only for public sector undertakings,
    • Imperative need to create a new list of critical and strategic minerals,
    • Encouraging reconnaissance and exploration of minerals, particularly deep-seated minerals, and
    • Innovative regime to allocate critical mineral mining assets.
  • India needs to determine how and where processing of minerals and assembly of critical minerals-embedded equipment will occur, as domestic sources are limited.
  • India requires a critical minerals strategy to make the country self-reliant in critical minerals needed for sustainable economic growth and green technologies.
  • The strategy should prioritize supply risks, domestic policy regimes, and sustainability, and engage in bilateral and plurilateral arrangements for building assured and resilient critical mineral supply chains.
  • The assessment of critical minerals for India needs to be updated every three years to keep pace with changing domestic and global scenarios.

-Source: Indian Express


Galapagos Islands


Context:

Recently, a scientific expedition has discovered a previously unknown coral reef with abundant marine life off Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

Relevance:

Places in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Galapagos Island – A Unique Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean
  2. What are corals and how do they live?
  3. Key facts about Coral Reefs

Galapagos Island – A Unique Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean

Location:

  • Situated in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km from the Ecuadorian coast.
  • It is distributed on either side of the Equator.

Geology of the Island:

  • Begins at the sea floor and emerges above sea level where biological processes continue.
  • Three major tectonic plates Nazca, Cocos, and Pacific meet at the basis of the ocean.
  • Galapagos Island is very young compared to other oceanic archipelagos.
  • Isabela and Fernandina are the largest and youngest islands with less than one million years of existence.
  • Española and San Cristóbal are the oldest islands somewhere between three to five million years.
  • Mount Azul at 5,541 feet is the highest point of the Galapagos Islands.

Unique Features:

  • Galapagos Island is a wildlife spectacle with abundant life.
  • The island has a unique biodiversity with many species that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Galapagos is known for its giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies.
  • It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.

What are corals and how do they live?

Corals are a type of marine invertebrate, meaning they are animals without spines. They live in colonies made up of thousands of individual polyps.

Polyps:

  • Each coral is called a polyp.
  • Thousands of polyps live together to form a colony.
  • Colonies grow as polyps multiply and make copies of themselves.

Symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae:

  • Corals have a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The algae provide the coral with food and nutrients, made through photosynthesis using the sun’s light.
  • Corals provide the algae with a home and key nutrients.
  • The zooxanthellae also give corals their bright color.

Key facts about Coral Reefs

  • Indonesia has the largest coral reef area in the world and the Great Barrier Reef of the Queensland coast of Australia is the largest aggregation of coral reefs.
  • India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Chagos have the maximum coral reefs in South Asia.
  • Coral Reefs protect humanity from natural calamities acting as a barrier, provide revenue and employment through tourism and recreation and also provide habitats for fishes, starfish and sea anemones.
  • Coral blocks are used for buildings and road construction, the lime supplied by corals is used in cement industries and coral reefs may also be used in jewellery.

India has four coral reef areas:

  • Gulf of Mannar,
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
  • Lakshadweep islands
  • Gulf of Kutch.
Risks and threats to coral reefs
  • Due to anthropogenic activities such as coastal development, destructive fishing methods and pollution from domestic and industrial sewage.
  • Due to increased sedimentation, over-exploitation and recurring cyclones.
  • Coral diseases such as black band and white band due to infectious microorganisms introduced by the human population that live on the coastal regions.

-Source: Indian Express


Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam


Context:

Nearly 3,000 people are expected to attend Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam. The festival aims to showcase “age-old ties” and cultural links between two coastal States of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Relevance:

GS I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam?
  2. Significance of Sangamam
  3. About Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat

What is Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam?

Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam is a festival that celebrates the cultural connections between Saurashtra in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Here are some key points about the festival:

  • The festival is held to showcase the cultural diversity and strength of India and to reconnect people with pilgrimage destinations and cultural heritage.
  • The festival highlights the migration of people from Saurashtra in Gujarat to Tamil Nadu’s districts around Madurai between 600 and 1000 years ago.
  • The people of Gujarati origin have settled in various places in Tamil Nadu, creating cultural connections between Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
  • The festival will take place at multiple locations in Gujarat, including Somnath, Dwarka, and the Statue of Unity at Kevadia.
Significance of Sangamam:
  • Equally important as other forms of security, such as border security, economic security, food security, social security, and cybersecurity.
  • Protects cultural links and heritage, which is essential for maintaining a nation’s identity and has witnessed a cultural revival of India.
  • Promotes community building and social cohesion by providing a platform for the community to come together, socialize, and build a sense of community.
  • Fosters mutual respect, understanding, and harmony among people from different walks of life, fostering a sense of unity and togetherness.

About Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat

  • “Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat” was announced by Hon’ble Prime Minister on 31st October, 2015 on the occasion of the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • Through this innovative measure, the knowledge of the culture, traditions and practices of different States & UTs will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between the States, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India.
  • All States and UTs will be covered under the programme.
  • There will be pairing of States/UTs at national level and these pairings will be in effect for one year, or till the next round of pairings. 
  •  The activity will be very useful to link various States and Districts in annual programmes that will connect people through exchanges in areas of culture, tourism, language, education trade etc. and citizens will be able to experience the cultural diversity of a much larger number of States/UTs while realizing that India is one.
Objectives:
  • To CELEBRATE the Unity in Diversity of our Nation and to maintain and strengthen the fabric of traditionally existing emotional bonds between the people of our Country;
  • To PROMOTE the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between all Indian States and Union Territories through a year-long planned engagement between States;
  • To SHOWCASE the rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either State for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus fostering a sense of common identity;
  • TO ESTABLISH long-term engagements and
  • TO CREATE an environment which promotes learning between States by sharing best practices and experiences.

-Source: The Hindu


N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)


Context:

The Gujarat High Court recently issued a notice to the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking immediate removal of drugs and medicines containing “cancerous impurities” such as NDMA from the Indian market

Relevance:

Facts for prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  2. About Drug Controller General of India

About N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)

  • NDMA is a volatile organic chemical that occurs widely in the environment due to its formation from common precursors.
  • It is classified as a probable human carcinogen based on animal studies.
  • NDMA is a yellow, odourless liquid chemical once used to make rocket fuel.
  • It is a byproduct of several manufacturing processes and water chlorination.
  • NDMA breaks down when exposed to sunlight.
  • Exposure to NDMA can occur through food and water, as chemicals found in them can turn into NDMA in the stomach.
  • Foods such as cured meats, beer, fish, cheese, and vegetables may contain NDMA.
  • Some people may have had exposure to NDMA through the use of contaminated medications.

About Drug Controller General of India

The position of DCGI was established in 1962 under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of drugs and cosmetics in India.

Responsibilities: The DCGI is responsible for the following tasks:
  • Granting licenses to manufacture drugs and cosmetics
  • Regulating the import and export of drugs and cosmetics
  • Monitoring and enforcing compliance with drug safety and efficacy standards
  • Approving clinical trials of drugs and vaccines
  • Issuing guidelines and regulations related to drugs and cosmetics
  • Coordinating with other government agencies on matters related to drug regulation
Structure:
  • The DCGI is part of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), which is under the purview of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The CDSCO consists of several departments, including the Drug Control Department, the Medical Device Department, and the Biological Division, all of which work together to regulate drugs and medical devices in India.

-Source: Indian Express


Hakki-Pikki Tribe


Context:

Thirty-one tribals belonging to ‘Hakki-Pikki’ are stranded in Sudan, where violent clashes between a powerful paramilitary force and the country’s armed forces are going on.

Relevance:

Facts for prelims

About Hakki-Pikki tribe

  • The Hakki-Pikki tribe is a semi-nomadic tribal group that belongs to the state of Karnataka in India.
  • Name and Occupation: The name ‘Hakki’ means ‘bird’ in Kannada, while ‘Pikki’ means the verb ‘to catch.’ Therefore, the community is known as the ‘bird catcher,’ which is their traditional occupation.
  • Location: The population of the Hakki-Pikki tribe is predominantly found in the Shivamogga, Davanagere, and Mysuru districts of Karnataka.
  • Language: The Hakki-Pikki tribe’s mother tongue was designated as ‘Vaagri’ by scholars, and UNESCO has listed ‘Vaagri’ as one of the endangered languages.
  • Traditional Medical Knowledge: The Hakki-Pikki tribe has traditional medical knowledge that is in demand in several African countries. They have resided in the dense jungles for a long time and created their plant and herb-based medicine systems.

-Source: The Hindu


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