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Current Affairs 25 October 2023

CONTENTS

  1. China to build the world’s largest ghost particle detector
  2. Marine Cloud Brightening
  3. Agnipath Scheme
  4. India’s Growing Contribution to Global Economic Growth
  5. Large Language Models
  6. International Migration Outlook 2023

China to Build the World’s Largest Ghost particle Detector


Context:

China is constructing an immense neutrino telescope known as Trident in the South China Sea. With a vast size spanning 7.5 cubic kilometers, Trident is designed to detect elusive “ghost particles” called neutrinos. This underwater telescope is expected to be 10,000 times more sensitive than existing instruments, enabling the study of these elusive particles in unprecedented detail.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Neutrinos
  2. Detecting Ghost Particles
  3. Significance of Detecting Ghost Particles
  4. India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Mission

Neutrinos

Atoms and Subatomic Particles:
  • Initially, scientists believed that atoms were the smallest particles.
  • Later discoveries revealed that atoms consist of subatomic components, including protons, electrons, and neutrons.
About Neutrinos
  • Neutrinos are subatomic particles resembling electrons but possess negligible electric charge and minimal mass, potentially even zero.
  • While previously considered massless, research has shown that neutrinos indeed possess a minute mass.
  • Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe.
  • They behave similarly to electrons in terms of nuclear forces.
  • Neutrinos and electrons both participate in the weak nuclear force but not the strong nuclear force.
  • Neutrinos are generated when atomic nuclei combine (as in the sun) or break apart (as in a nuclear reactor).
  • These elusive particles are often referred to as “ghost particles” due to their weak charge and near-zero mass.
  • Detecting neutrinos is exceptionally challenging as they only become visible when interacting with other particles.
  • Their infrequent interactions with other particles make tracking them nearly impossible, earning them the nickname “ghost particles.”

Detecting Ghost Particles

  • Rare Interactions: Ghost particles, or neutrinos, infrequently interact with other particles, although these interactions are not impossible.
  • Interaction with Water: Occasionally, they interact with water molecules, and this is the basis for China’s underwater ghost molecule telescope.
  • Observation: Scientists have managed to observe neutrinos in brief moments when these particles generate byproducts after traversing water or ice.
  • Current Largest Telescope: Presently, the largest neutrino-detecting telescope is the “IceCube” telescope at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. It is located deep in the Antarctic and covers a sensor area of approximately 1 cubic kilometer.

Significance of Detecting Ghost Particles

  • Unusual Behavior: Neutrinos, despite being highly abundant, exhibit behavior that challenges established principles of physics.
  • Origins: The source of these particles remains unclear, although scientists speculate they might have played a role in the early universe shortly after the big bang.
  • Scientific Mysteries: Understanding neutrinos could aid in solving various scientific enigmas, such as the origin of cosmic rays, which are known to contain neutrinos.
  • Crucial for Universe Origins: There is evidence suggesting that neutrinos are crucial to unraveling the mysteries of our universe’s origins.

India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Mission

  • INO, initiated in 2015, is a significant particle physics research project in India.
  • Aim: To investigate neutrinos in a deep cave located 1,200 meters underground.
  • Neutrino detectors are typically situated underground to shield them from cosmic rays and other background radiation.
Goals
  • The first phase involves the study of atmospheric neutrinos created by cosmic ray interactions in Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Both neutrinos and antineutrinos of various flavors are generated.
  • The project has long-term prospects, including future applications in solar and supernova research.
Institutions Involved
  • INO is managed by seven primary and 13 participatory research institutes, with leadership from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Indian Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IIMSc).
  • Joint funding is provided by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Location
  • To minimize signal interference from other particles, the detector is situated within a mountain.
  • Neutrinos can easily pass through the mountain and reach the detector while being filtered out by the surrounding rock.

-Source: The Hindu


Marine Cloud Brightening


Context:

The concept of marine cloud brightening is gaining prominence recently as a tactic for addressing extreme ocean heat and as a way to reduce coral bleaching and safeguard marine ecosystems.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Marine Cloud Brightening
  2. Challenges and Risks Associated with MCB
  3. What is Coral Bleaching?
  4. Conclusion

About Marine Cloud Brightening:

  • The concept of marine cloud brightening (MCB) was introduced by British cloud physicist John Latham in 1990. It aims to combat global warming by modifying the Earth’s energy balance.
  • Latham’s calculations suggested that by brightening clouds over specific ocean regions, it might be possible to offset the warming effects resulting from a doubling of pre-industrial atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Mechanism of Marine Cloud Brightening:
  • In regions of clean maritime air, clouds predominantly form from sulfates and sea salt crystals, which are relatively scarce. This leads to the creation of larger cloud droplets with lower light reflectivity.
  • MCB seeks to enhance the reflectivity (albedo) of marine clouds, making them whiter and brighter.
  • It involves the use of water cannons or specialized vessels to release fine sea water droplets into the atmosphere.
  • As these droplets evaporate, they leave behind salt particles that act as cloud condensation nuclei, promoting the formation of denser and brighter clouds.
Potential Benefits:
  • MCB holds the potential to reduce sea surface temperatures in specific areas, potentially mitigating the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events.
  • This technology could offer a lifeline for coral reefs, aiding in their survival and recovery while the world transitions away from fossil fuels.
  • Researchers are investigating the feasibility of implementing MCB for the Great Barrier Reef through modeling studies and small-scale experiments.
  • The Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been highly susceptible to coral bleaching, experiencing numerous bleaching events in recent years.

Challenges and Risks Associated with MCB:

  • Marine cloud brightening (MCB) involves the large-scale spraying of seawater into the atmosphere at significant altitudes, which poses engineering challenges in terms of designing, funding, maintaining, and operating the spraying mechanisms.
  • Modifications in cloud patterns and precipitation patterns caused by MCB may influence regional climate and hydrological cycles, potentially resulting in unintended consequences such as droughts or floods.
  • MCB raises ethical concerns regarding human intervention in natural processes, and questions surrounding governance and decision-making related to its implementation.
  • There is a risk that MCB could lead to complacency among policymakers and the public, potentially reducing their commitment to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change through other means.

What is Coral Bleaching?

  • Coral bleaching is a phenomenon characterized by the loss of color in corals, which are typically vibrant and colorful. It occurs due to stress, often induced by elevated sea temperatures.
  • Coral bleaching takes place when corals expel the symbiotic algae residing within their tissues. These algae provide nutrients and color to the corals.
  • Coral bleaching weakens the corals, rendering them more vulnerable to diseases and potentially leading to their death if the stressful conditions persist.

Conclusion:

  • Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) is still in its early stages of research and development, necessitating further studies to assess its feasibility, effectiveness, impacts, risks, and governance.
  • It’s crucial to understand that MCB is not a standalone solution but a potential complementary measure to help coral reefs cope with extreme heat stress in the short term.
  • MCB should be incorporated into a comprehensive approach that encompasses conservation, restoration, adaptation, and innovation, aimed at protecting coral reefs from the adverse effects of climate change.

-Source: The Hindu


Agnipath Scheme


Context:

Recently, an Agniveer passed away on duty at the Siachen glacier, which sparked a controversy regarding the entitlement of pensions and Compensation for the families of Agniveers.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Compensation Promised After the Demise of an Agniveer
  2. What is the Agnipath scheme?
  3. What is the eligibility criteria?
  4. What happens after selection?
  5. When will the recruitment actually begin?
  6. How will the scheme benefit the armed forces and the recruits?

Compensation Promised After the Demise of an Agniveer:

Seva Nidhi:
  • An Agniveer’s family is eligible for various forms of compensation, which include:
    • A non-contributory insurance sum of Rs 48 lakh.
    • Compensation of Rs 44 lakh.
    • 30% of Seva Nidhi contributed by the Agniveer, matched by an equal contribution from the government.
  • These amounts also accrue interest.
Armed Forces Battle Casualty Fund:
  • The family receives pay for the remaining tenure from the date of death, totaling over Rs 13 lakh.
  • Additionally, they receive a contribution of Rs 8 lakh from the Armed Forces Battle Casualty Fund.
Army Wives Welfare Association:
  • To offer immediate financial assistance, the Army Wives Welfare Association provides Rs 30,000 to the next of kin.

What is the Agnipath scheme?

  • Under the new scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years.
  • Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
  • The move will make the permanent force levels much leaner for the over 13-lakh strong armed forces in the country.
  • This will, in turn, considerably reduce the defence pension bill, which has been a major concern for governments for many years.

What is the eligibility criteria?

  • The new system is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers).
  • Under the Agnipath scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 23 years will be eligible to apply.
  • The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.

What happens after selection?

  • Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then will be deployed for three and a half years.
  • During this period, they will get a starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
  • Importantly, during this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest.
  • At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free.
  • They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years.
  • In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
  • However, after four years, only 25 per cent of the batch will be recruited back into their respective services, for a period of 15 years.
  • For those who are re-selected, the initial four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits.

When will the recruitment actually begin?

  • Recruitment will begin within 90 days under the scheme which will bring “all India, all class” recruitment to the services.
  • This is especially significant for the Army, where the regiment system has region and caste bases, and with time that will be eliminated to allow anybody from any caste, region, class or religious background to become part of existing regiments.

How will the scheme benefit the armed forces and the recruits?

  • The average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years, the scheme envisions.
  • It will create “future-ready” soldiers.
  •  A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies.
  • It will increase employment opportunities and because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields.
  • This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth.
  • The government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses. The impetus will be to create entrepreneurs.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s Growing Contribution to Global Economic Growth


Context:

According to the IMF, India’s contribution to global economic growth is forecasted to increase by 2%. India’s current 16% contribution is projected to grow to 18% over the next five years. This expected growth is attributed to India’s faster economic expansion.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Factors Contributing to India’s Projected Growth
  2. Challenges Faced by India in Achieving Projected Growth
  3. Way Forward for India’s Economic Growth

Factors Contributing to India’s Projected Growth:

Monsoon Season and SBI Monsoon Impact Index:
  • Overall, the monsoon season saw 6% below-expected rainfall, with a significant 36% rainfall deficit in August.
  • However, the spatial distribution was relatively even, with 29 out of 36 states/union territories receiving normal or above-normal rains.
  • The SBI Monsoon Impact Index, which considers spatial distribution, scored 89.5, a significant improvement over the 2022 full season index value of 60.2.
Capital Expenditure Focus:
  • In the first five months of 2023, states achieved 25% of their budgeted capital expenditure targets, while the Centre reached 37%.
  • This reflects an emphasis on capital generation and investment, surpassing previous years.
Robust New Company Registrations:
  • The registration of new companies signals strong growth intentions, with around 93,000 companies registered in the first half of 2023-24, compared to 59,000 five years ago.
  • Daily registration of new companies increased by 58% from 395 in 2018-19 to 622 in 2023-24.
Accelerated Credit Growth:
  • Scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) have seen increasing credit growth since early 2022.
  • Aggregate deposits grew by 13.2%, and credit expanded by 20% until September.
  • The Government expects robust credit demand in the upcoming months, especially during the festive season.
Formalization of the Economy:
  • The growth in credit can be attributed to the formalization of India’s economy over the past decade.
  • Individuals with no prior credit history are now becoming integrated into the banking system.
  • Around 40% of new credit accounts added in the last nine years are from individuals who previously had no credit history, contributing significantly to incremental credit growth.

Challenges Faced by India in Achieving Projected Growth:

Stagnant or Declining Demand:
  • Factors like low income growth, high inflation, unemployment, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in stagnant or declining demand for goods and services.
  • This has adversely affected consumption and investment levels, leading to reduced tax revenue for the government.
Persistent Unemployment:
  • Despite rapid economic growth, unemployment remains a serious issue in both rural and urban areas.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, causing business closures and job losses.
  • The National Statistical Office’s report for 2021-22 indicated an unemployment rate of 4.1%.
Inadequate Infrastructure:
  • India lacks sufficient infrastructure in areas like roads, railways, ports, power, water, and sanitation, which hampers economic development and competitiveness.
  • The estimated infrastructure gap, as per the World Bank, is around $1.5 trillion.
  • Poor infrastructure also affects people’s quality of life, particularly in rural areas.
Current Account Deficit:
  • India has been running a persistent current account deficit, indicating that its imports exceed exports.
  • This dependence on foreign goods and services, including oil and gold, along with low export competitiveness, poses challenges.
  • In 2022, India witnessed a 6.59% decrease in exports and a 3.63% decrease in imports.
Geopolitical Relationships:
  • India’s geopolitical relationships, including border disputes, have the potential to impact regional stability and economic prospects.
  • The country is increasingly vulnerable to global economic uncertainties, including ongoing wars and conflicts that may lead to crude oil price inflation and supply shortages.
Trade Imbalances:
  • India faces trade imbalances with some major trading partners, which can have implications for economic growth and stability.

Way Forward for India’s Economic Growth:

Private Investment Promotion:
  • Private investment plays a crucial role in economic growth. It enhances productivity, fosters innovation, and improves competitiveness.
  • The government has already taken steps to facilitate private investment, including ease of doing business improvements, corporate tax reduction, credit guarantees, and foreign direct investment attraction.
  • Further reforms in areas such as land, labor, and logistics are necessary to reduce the cost and risk of doing business in India.
Enhancing Global Competitiveness:
  • India must boost its global competitiveness by diversifying exports, enhancing infrastructure, promoting innovation, and digitalization.
  • Integrating with regional and global value chains is vital for global market access.
  • Existing schemes like Production Linked Incentive (PLI), Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP), and Make in India should be accompanied by trade liberalization and regulatory simplification for a level playing field.
Environmental Challenges and Sustainability:
  • India’s commitment to reducing carbon intensity and expanding renewable energy capacity aligns with climate change goals.
  • Green bonds have been introduced for green infrastructure projects, but more actions are needed to address environmental challenges like air pollution, water scarcity, waste management, and biodiversity loss.
Macroeconomic Stability:
  • Maintaining a stable and low inflation rate can instill confidence and encourage investment.
  • Ensuring adequate liquidity and credit availability, especially for small and medium enterprises, is crucial.
  • The development of financial markets and institutions can further support savings and investment in the country.

-Source: The Hindu


Large Language Models


Context:

As per Principal Scientific Advisor, India will set up a “high powered committee” to explore the development of Large Language Models (LLMs), tools that harness Artificial Intelligence to create applications that can understand and process human language.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Large Language Models (LLMs)
  2. Deep Tech
  3.  Draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP), 2023

Large Language Models (LLMs):

  • LLMs are a distinct category of generative AI models designed to understand and generate human-like text.
  • They leverage deep learning techniques, particularly neural networks, in their construction.
  • LLMs are capable of producing coherent and contextually relevant text when provided with a prompt or input.

Prominent Example:

  • One of the most renowned instances of LLMs is OpenAI’s GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer).
Generative AI:
  • Generative AI is a segment of artificial intelligence that concentrates on developing systems capable of generating content resembling human-produced material.
  • These systems learn from patterns in existing data and employ that knowledge to produce fresh, original content across various forms, including text, images, music, and more.
US-India Collaboration:
  • India and the United States have forged a strong partnership, particularly in the domain of deep tech collaboration.
  • India’s draft policy on deep tech highlights the significant presence of over 10,000 startups across various deep tech sectors in its Startup India database, aligning well with the collaborative potential of the U.S.-India relationship.

Deep Tech:

  • Deep tech, short for deep technology, represents a category of startup businesses that center their innovations on substantial engineering breakthroughs, scientific discoveries, and technological advancements.
  • These startups typically operate within fields like agriculture, life sciences, chemistry, aerospace, and green energy, although their scope is not restricted to these areas.
  • Key deep tech domains encompass Artificial Intelligence, advanced materials, blockchain, biotechnology, robotics, drones, photonics, and quantum computing. These fields are transitioning rapidly from early-stage research to practical market applications.
Impact of Deep Tech:
  • Deep tech innovations are characterized by their radical nature, capable of disrupting existing markets or establishing entirely new ones.
  • These innovations often have profound effects on individuals, economies, and societies.
  • The development timeline for deep technology is significantly longer than that of shallow technology, as exemplified by mobile apps and websites.
  • Achieving market-ready maturity for deep tech innovations typically involves extensive research and development, prototyping, hypothesis validation, and technology refinement. For instance, artificial intelligence has been in development for decades and is still evolving.
Challenges Faced by Deep Tech Startups:
  • Securing funding is a primary challenge for deep tech startups, with fewer than 20% of them successfully obtaining financial support.
  • Government funds are often underutilized, and there is a shortage of domestic capital available for such startups.
  • Additional challenges encompass talent acquisition, accessing relevant markets, obtaining research guidance, enhancing investors’ understanding of deep tech, customer acquisition, and managing talent-related costs.

 Draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP), 2023

The Draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP), 2023, is a proposed policy framework with the following key objectives and measures:

Objectives:
  • Support Research and Development: The policy aims to strengthen research and development efforts in deep tech startups. These startups focus on addressing fundamental and technical challenges rather than simply commercializing existing technologies.
  • Financial Support: It seeks to identify approaches to provide financial support to deep tech startups during critical stages of their development, particularly before they introduce their products or ideas to the market.
Facilitation of Startups:
  • Intellectual Property Simplification: The NDTSP suggests simplifying the intellectual property regime for deep tech startups, making it easier for them to protect and leverage their innovations.
  • Regulatory Easing: The policy aims to reduce regulatory requirements, making it more straightforward for deep tech startups to operate and innovate.
  • Export Promotion Board: It proposes the creation of an Export Promotion Board to lower entry barriers for Indian deep tech startups in foreign markets. It also recommends including provisions in foreign trade agreements to facilitate market access for these startups.

-Source: The Hindu


International Migration Outlook 2023


Context:

Recently, the ‘International Migration Outlook 2023’ was released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key findings of the International Migration Outlook 2023
  2. Key Facts About OECD

Key findings of the International Migration Outlook 2023

Migration to OECD Countries:

  • India witnessed the highest migration flows to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in both 2021 and 2022.
  • In 2021, 0.13 million Indian citizens acquired the nationality of an OECD country.

Refugee Inflows:

  • Inflows of refugees from Ukraine reached a record high across OECD countries due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • More than 10 million people have been displaced or have become refugees in the OECD region.

Increased Worker Migration:

  • Migration flows from India increased by 172 percent, making it one of the primary countries of origin for workers in OECD countries.
  • Similarly, migration flows from Uzbekistan and Turkey also rose sharply.

Key Facts About OECD:

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization comprising 38 countries committed to democracy and the market economy.
  • Its member countries are typically democratic nations that support free-market economies.
  • Established on December 14, 1960, by 18 European nations, the United States, and Canada.
  • The goal of the OECD is to shape policies that promote prosperity, equality, opportunity, and well-being for all.
  • It publishes economic reports, statistical databases, analyses, and forecasts on global economic growth.
  • The organization works to combat bribery and financial crimes on a global scale.
  • The OECD maintains a “black list” of nations considered uncooperative tax havens.
  • In addition to its member countries, the OECD collaborates with several non-member economies, including India.
  • The organization is headquartered in Paris, France.

-Source: Down To Earth


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