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Current Affairs 22 November 2023

  1. Tantalum
  2. India and Australia 2+2 talks
  3. Fraudulent Loan Apps
  4. GI Recognition and Cultivation Expansion Initiatives for Unique Agricultural Products
  5. Debating Class 1 Admission Age in India
  6. E prime layer
  7. Nitrogen-9 nucleus


Context:

A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar has found the presence of tantalum, a rare metal, in the Sutlej River sand in Punjab.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Tantalum
  2. Uses of tantalum
  3. Significance of the discovery of tantalum in the Sutlej River

Tantalum: A Rare and Versatile Metal

Atomic Number and Characteristics:

  • Rare metal with the atomic number 73.
  • Grey, heavy, very hard, and exceptionally corrosion-resistant.

Exceptional Melting Point:

  • Possesses an extremely high melting point, surpassed only by tungsten and rhenium.
Properties of Tantalum
  • Corrosion Resistance:
    • Exhibits high corrosion resistance.
    • Forms a tenacious oxide layer when exposed to air, challenging to remove even in harsh acid environments.
  • Ductility:
    • Ductile when pure, allowing it to be stretched into a thin wire without breaking.
  • Chemical Immunity:
    • Almost completely immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C.
    • Attacked only by hydrofluoric acid.
Discovery of Tantalum
  • Discovered by Swedish chemist Anders Gustaf Ekenberg in 1802.
  • Found in minerals obtained from Ytterby, Sweden.

Uses of Tantalum

  • Electronics Sector:
    • Prominently used in capacitors for electronics.
    • Capacitors made from tantalum store more electricity in smaller sizes, ideal for portable electronic devices.
  • Substitute for Platinum:
    • High melting point makes it a substitute for platinum in various applications.
  • Medical Applications:
    • Used in surgical equipment and implants due to its non-reactivity with bodily fluids.
  • Hard Materials and Cutting Edges:
    • Tantalum carbide (TaC) and graphite composite is one of the hardest materials, used on cutting edges of high-speed machine tools.
  • Industrial Components:
    • Utilized in components for chemical plants, nuclear power plants, airplanes, and missiles.

Significance of Tantalum Discovery in the Sutlej River

Boost to Electronics and Semiconductors Industry
  • Strategic Value:
    • Tantalum’s discovery in the Sutlej River holds strategic importance for India, given its vital role in electronics and semiconductors.
  • Government Initiatives:
    • Aligns with recent government initiatives to enhance semiconductor manufacturing in India.
    • Supports the country’s efforts to establish a robust electronics industry.
Addressing Mineral Dependency Issues
  • Critical Mineral Policy:
    • Tantalum is listed among 10 minerals crucial for various sectors, including renewables, defence, electronics, telecommunications, and transportation.
    • Aims to reduce India’s reliance on imports for these critical minerals.
  • Reducing Dependence on China:
    • Counters India’s dependency on China for critical minerals.
    • Aligns with the goal of diversifying mineral sources to enhance national security.
Contributions to Renewable Energy Targets
  • Renewable Energy Goals:
    • Supports India’s ambition to increase the share of renewables in the grid to 500 GW by 2030.
  • Electric Mobility Targets:
    • Complements the target of transitioning 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial vehicles, and 80% of two- and three-wheelers to electric by 2030.
Economic Benefits for the State
  • Potential Economic Boost:
    • The discovery of tantalum holds economic potential for the state by promoting mining activities for these valuable metals.
  • Diversification and Growth:
    • Diversifies the state’s economic portfolio by tapping into the mining sector.
    • Creates opportunities for economic growth and job creation.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh engaged in bilateral talks with Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles in New Delhi.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. 2+2 Talks: Strengthening Strategic Alliances
  2. India-Australia 2+2 Talks: Strengthening Defence Cooperation

2+2 Talks: Strengthening Strategic Alliances

The 2+2 dialogue serves as a crucial format for meetings between the foreign and defense ministers of India and its allies. These discussions primarily focus on strategic and security issues, fostering a deeper understanding of each other’s concerns and sensitivities.

Purpose and Benefits
  • Mutual Appreciation:
    • Facilitates a better understanding and appreciation of strategic concerns and sensitivities among partners.
  • Political Considerations:
    • Allows dialogue partners to consider political factors on both sides, contributing to the development of a stronger and more integrated strategic relationship.
India’s 2+2 Dialogues with Key Allies
  • India engages in 2+2 dialogues with five key strategic partners, each holding significance in the global geopolitical landscape:
    • United States
    • Australia
    • Japan
    • Russia
    • United Kingdom
Quad Partnership

Three of India’s 2+2 dialogue partners— the US, Australia, and Japan— are also part of the Quad, showcasing collaborative efforts in addressing shared strategic interests.

Chronology of 2+2 Dialogues
  • Australia:
    • Inaugural 2+2 dialogue held in September 2021 in New Delhi.
  • Russia:
    • First 2+2 dialogue with Russia took place in December 2021 during the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister and Defence Minister to India.
  • Japan:
    • Inaugural India-Japan talks in the 2+2 format occurred in November 2019 in New Delhi.
  • United Kingdom:
    • The first India-UK 2+2 Foreign and Defence Dialogue was convened in New Delhi in October 2023.

India-Australia 2+2 Dialogue: Background

  • The initiation of the India-Australia 2+2 dialogue was a result of decisions made during the leaders’ virtual summit in June 2020.
  • This summit aimed to elevate bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership, with the agreement to hold Foreign and Defence Ministers’ meetings in a ‘2+2’ format at least every two years.

India-Australia 2+2 Talks: Strengthening Defence Cooperation

India and Australia recently conducted the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, focusing on enhancing their defense collaboration and deepening their strategic ties. The talks explored various sectors, including critical minerals, trade, and investment.

Key Highlights

Critical Areas Covered

  • Anti-submarine warfare and air-to-air refueling discussed.
  • Security concerns in the vast Indo-Pacific region addressed amid China’s increasing influence.
  • Emphasis on hydrography cooperation.
  • Strengthening ties in critical sectors such as minerals, space, education, and science and technology.

Ongoing Discussions

  • Advanced discussions on implementing arrangements for hydrography cooperation and air-to-air refueling.
Indo-Pacific Security

The security of the expansive Indo-Pacific region gained prominence during the talks, particularly in response to China’s growing influence and military base establishment in the area.

Significance of Defence Partnership

A robust India-Australia defense partnership is seen as beneficial not only for both nations but also for bolstering overall security in the Indo-Pacific.

Areas of Cooperation Proposed by India
  • Niche Training Areas
    • Collaboration in specialized training areas like artificial intelligence, anti-submarine warfare, anti-drone warfare, and the cyber domain.
  • Potential Collaborative Fields
    • Shipbuilding, ship repair, and maintenance.
    • Aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul suggested as potential areas of collaboration.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The increasing prevalence of fraudulent loan apps on social media platforms is becoming a major threat to borrowers, characterized by exorbitant interest rates and rising incidents of mental harassment. The swift expansion of digital lending is contributing to this issue, as a regulatory vacuum enables scam apps to flourish, taking advantage of unsuspecting users.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fraudulent Loan Apps
  2. Concerns Regarding Fraudulent Loan Apps
  3. Way Forward: Addressing Concerns and Mitigating Risks

Fraudulent Loan Apps

Definition of Fraudulent Loan Apps

  • Unauthorized and illegal digital lending platforms.
  • Offer loans ranging from Rs.1,000 to Rs.1 lakh, targeting financially vulnerable individuals.
  • Claim to provide instant loans without credit checks, documentation, or collateral.

Deceptive Tactics

  • Present themselves as legitimate financial tools, such as loan calculators or aggregators.
  • Advertise on popular social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp).
  • Exploit users’ trust and lack of careful investigation.

User Exploitation

  • False claims attract users to deceptive apps.
  • Users exposed to exorbitant interest rates and harassment.
  • Abusive messages, calls, and emails if borrowers fail to repay on time.
  • Apps may access personal content, create morphed images, and resort to blackmail.
  • Physical violence and harassment by hiring recovery agents in extreme cases.

Grave Consequences

  • Some borrowers driven to suicide due to extreme pressure and humiliation.
Digital Lending Landscape and Frauds

Market Growth

  • Digital lending market estimated to reach USD 350 billion by 2023.
  • Compounded annual growth rate of almost 40% over the last 11 years.

Opportunity for Fraudsters

  • Growth also provides an opportunity for fraudulent activities.
  • Illegal lending market potentially reaching USD 700-800 million.

Legitimate Players

  • Genuine fintech companies, backed by NBFCs and banks, contribute to market growth.
  • Digital lending, led by banks, NBFCs, and fintech firms, expected to reach 80 billion in 2023.
  • Collaboration between banks, NBFCs, and fintech firms drives sector expansion.

Concerns Regarding Fraudulent Loan Apps

Absence of Government and Regulatory Norms

  • Online platforms conduct minimal due diligence due to the lack of established norms.

Regulatory Fragmentation

  • Different regulators (RBI, MeitY, TRAI, state governments) lack coordination and supervision.
  • Lack of unified efforts contributes to challenges in detecting and taking action against fraudulent apps.

Evasion Strategies of Fraudulent Apps

  • Illegal loan apps use fake or foreign identities.
  • Frequent changes in names and logos.
  • Operation through multiple channels and intermediaries to evade detection.

Limited Applicability of RBI Guidelines

  • RBI guidelines released in September 2022 apply only to regulated entities like banks and NBFCs.
  • Unregulated fraudulent apps escape scrutiny.

Social Media Companies’ Role

  • Criticism of social media companies for not actively monitoring fake loan app advertisements.
  • Corporate greed accused of contributing to weak oversight.

Impact of Regulatory Crackdowns

  • Legitimate lending apps sometimes affected, causing uncertainty.
  • Ban on certain apps in 2021 impacted genuine lending companies, highlighting regulatory challenges.

Misrepresentation of Legitimate NBFCs

  • Concerns raised by legitimate NBFCs about being misrepresented by illegal lending apps.
  • A few fraudulent apps can tarnish the reputation of the entire sector.

Lack of Consumer Awareness and Protection

  • Borrowers often fail to verify credentials and terms of loan apps.
  • Lack of awareness exposes consumers to deceptive and coercive practices.

Way Forward: Addressing Concerns and Mitigating Risks

Legal Framework and Guidelines
  • Comprehensive Legal Guidelines:
    • Establish comprehensive legal guidelines specifically for digital lending platforms, with a focus on those operating through mobile apps.
  • Extension of RBI Guidelines:
    • Extend the scope of RBI guidelines to encompass a broader spectrum of digital lending entities, including unregulated platforms.
  • Strict Due Diligence:
    • Enforce stringent due diligence procedures for online platforms to prevent the exploitation of regulatory gaps by fraudulent loan apps.
Collaboration with Social Media Companies
  • Active Monitoring:
    • Collaborate with social media companies to actively monitor and regulate advertisements related to loan apps.
  • Stricter Screening Processes:
    • Encourage social media platforms to implement stricter screening processes to identify and promptly remove fraudulent apps.
  • Penalties for Non-Compliance:
    • Establish penalties for social media companies that fail to address the proliferation of fake loan apps on their platforms, fostering accountability.
Consumer Awareness Campaigns
  • Awareness Initiatives:
    • Launch awareness campaigns to educate consumers about the risks associated with fraudulent loan apps.
  • Promotion of Responsible Borrowing:
    • Promote responsible borrowing habits by encouraging individuals to verify the legitimacy of lending platforms before engaging with them.
Regulatory Measures
  • Coordination Among Regulators:
    • Facilitate coordination among various regulators, including RBI, MeitY, TRAI, and state governments, to enhance regulatory effectiveness.
  • Enforcement and Penalties:
    • Strengthen enforcement mechanisms and impose penalties on illegal loan apps using evasion tactics, ensuring accountability.
  • Regular Updates to Guidelines:
    • Establish a mechanism for regular updates and revisions to guidelines, keeping pace with the evolving landscape of digital lending.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Geographical Indication (GI) Registry, under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, has granted the GI tag to the Department of Industries & Commerce, Ladakh, for ‘Ladakh Sea Buckthorn.’ Simultaneously, in Kerala, the Onattukara Vikasana Agency (OVA), the GI-tag owner for Onattukara sesame, is proactively undertaking efforts to expand the cultivation of this distinctive sesame variety.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Facts About Sea Buckthorn
  2. Key Facts About Onattukara Sesame
  3. Geographical Indications (GI) Tag

Key Facts About Sea Buckthorn

  • Botanical Identity: Sea Buckthorn is a shrub scientifically known as Hippophae L, known for its orange-yellow edible berries.
  • Flavor Profile and Nutrition: The berries are sour in taste but are rich in vitamins, particularly Vitamin C.
  • Significance in Ladakh: Ladakh Sea Buckthorn is a crucial crop in the Union Territory of Ladakh, with 90% of its production originating from the region.
  • Popular Names: Referred to as the ‘Wonder Plant,’ “Ladakh Gold,” “Golden Bush,” or “Gold Mine.”
  • Habitat in India: Found above the tree line in the Himalayan region, specifically in dry areas like the cold deserts of Ladakh and Spiti.
Environmental Benefits:
  • Acts as a soil-binding plant, preventing soil erosion.
  • Helps check siltation in rivers.
  • Contributes to preserving floral biodiversity.

Key Facts About Onattukara Sesame

  • Origin and Cultivation: Onattukara sesame is a variety of sesame grown in Kerala, India.
  • Cultivation Expansion Plans: The Onattukara Vayalrakshana Agency (OVA) aims to increase the cultivation area of sesame from 600 hectares to 2,000 hectares.
  • Health Benefits: Onattukara sesame and its oil are renowned for unique health benefits.
  • Antioxidant Content: Notable for a relatively higher antioxidant content, aiding in combating free radicals that can damage body cells.
  • Heart Health: High content of unsaturated fat makes it beneficial for individuals with heart conditions.
Traditional Medicinal Use:
  • Traditional Ayurvedic doctors in the region have been using Onattukara sesame oil since the 18th century.
  • Specifically used for treating rheumatism, which encompasses arthritis and related joint, tendon, and muscle conditions.
  • Known for its skin protection properties.

Geographical Indications (GI) Tag

Definition and Importance:
  • Geographical Indications of Goods indicate the country or place of origin of a product.
  • They assure consumers of the product’s quality and distinctiveness derived from its specific geographical locality.
  • GI tags are an essential component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and are protected under international agreements like the Paris Convention and TRIPS.
Administration and Registration:
  • Geographical Indications registration in India is governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
  • The registration and protection are administered by the Geographical Indication Registry under the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade (DIPIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The registration is valid for 10 years, and it can be renewed for further periods of 10 years each.
Significance and Examples:
  • GI tags provide a unique identity and reputation to products based on their geographical origin.
  • The first product in India to receive a GI tag was Darjeeling tea.
  • Karnataka has the highest number of GI tags with 47 registered products, followed by Tamil Nadu with 39.
Ownership and Proprietorship:
  • Any association, organization, or authority established by law can be a registered proprietor of a GI tag.
  • The registered proprietor’s name is entered in the Register of Geographical Indication for the applied product.
  • Protection and Enforcement:
  • Geographical Indications protect the interests of producers and prevent unauthorized use of the product’s name or origin.
  • Enforcement of GI rights helps maintain the quality and reputation of the products associated with their specific geographical regions.
Location of the Geographical Indications Registry:
  • The Geographical Indications Registry is located in Chennai, India.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The appropriate age for admission to Class 1 has long been a subject of debate in India. As of March 2022, 14 States and Union Territories permitted Class 1 admission for children under six years. However, the Union government, in alignment with the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, has mandated that all states and UTs establish six years as the minimum age for Class 1 admission.

Relevance:

GS III: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. NEP 2020 Guidelines for Class 1 Admission Age
  2. Research Insights on Entry Age for Formal Education

NEP 2020 Guidelines for Class 1 Admission Age

NEP’s Structured Framework

  • The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 advocates a “5+3+3+4” design for formal schooling.
  • Corresponds to age groups: 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 years (preparatory stage), 11-14 years (middle stage), and 14-18 years (secondary stage).

Inclusion of Early Childhood Education

  • Early childhood education (ages 3 to 5 years) is integrated into formal schooling under NEP 2020.
  • Implies that a child should be 6 years old for Class 1 admission after completing three years of early childhood education.

Research Insights on Entry Age for Formal Education

New Zealand Comparative Studies

  • Studies in New Zealand observed groups starting formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7.
  • Children commencing at age 5 exhibited less positive attitudes towards reading and poorer text comprehension compared to those starting later.

Global Perspectives on Entry Age

  • Six years is the standard age for primary school in East Asia and most European countries.
  • Scandinavian countries initiate formal education at the age of seven.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, a study by an international team of researchers revealed the formation of a new enigmatic layer – E prime layer at the outermost part of Earth’s core.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. E Prime Layer
  2. Scientific Observations and Significance
  3. Global Implications and Significance

E Prime Layer:

Initial Beliefs vs. Recent Discoveries
  • Initially believed that material exchange between the Earth’s core and mantle was minimal.
  • Recent experiments unveiled a significant interaction when water reaches the core-mantle boundary, leading to the formation of silica.
Development of E Prime Layer
  • Tectonic Plate Interaction:
    • Surface water transported by tectonic plates over billions of years.
    • Reaches the core-mantle boundary about 1,800 miles below the surface.
  • Chemical Changes Initiated:
    • Water initiates chemical changes in the core’s structure under high pressure.
    • Subducted water reacts with core materials, forming a hydrogen-rich, silicon-depleted layer resembling a film-like structure.
  • Silica Crystal Formation:
    • Silica crystals generated in the outer core ascend and blend into the mantle.
    • Impacts the overall composition, potentially resulting in reduced density and altered seismic characteristics.

Scientific Observations and Significance

  • Subducted water’s chemical reaction in the core leads to the formation of the E Prime layer.
  • Modifications in the liquid metallic layer could affect density and seismic characteristics, aligning with anomalies detected by seismologists.

Global Implications and Significance

  • Enhances researchers’ understanding of Earth’s internal mechanisms.
  • Indicates a more intricate global water cycle than previously acknowledged.
  • The transformed E Prime layer holds significant implications for interconnected geochemical processes linking surface water cycles with the deep metallic core.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Scientists discovered hints of the new isotope, called nitrogen-9, by smashing beams of oxygen isotopes into beryllium atoms in the U.S. National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Nitrogen-9 Nucleus: Unusual Characteristics and Stability

Characteristics of Nitrogen-9 Nucleus
  • Proton-to-Neutron Ratio:
    • Characterized by seven protons and two neutrons.
    • Unusually high proton-to-neutron ratio compared to conventional isotopes.
  • Impact on Stability:
    • Disparity in proton-to-neutron ratio has a critical effect on stability.
    • Influences decay processes and overall behavior of the isotope.
  • Stability Thresholds:
    • High proton content places nitrogen-9 atoms beyond conventional stability thresholds.
Isotopes: Variations in Neutron Count
  • Definition of Isotopes:
    • Atoms of the same element differing only in the number of neutrons.
    • Differences in neutron count distinguish one isotope from another.
  • Unstable Isotopes:
    • Isotopes with an imbalance of neutrons for the number of protons are often unstable.
    • Unstable isotopes are short-lived and decay, releasing energy to achieve a more stable configuration.
Nuclides: The Atomic Nucleus Table
  • Definition:
    • Analogous table for atomic nuclei characterized by a unique combination of protons and neutrons.
  • Graphical Representation:
    • A two-dimensional graph of isotopes of elements.
    • One axis represents the number of neutrons (N), and the other represents the number of protons (Z) in each atomic nucleus.
  • Denotation of Nuclides:
    • Each point on the graph denotes a nuclide, representing a specific combination of protons and neutrons.

-Source: The Hindu


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