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Current Affairs 26 April 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Current Crisis in Sudan
  2. LockBit ransomware
  3. Genome India Project
  4. Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
  5. PM CARES – Fund 
  6. Safe City Project
  7. Zero Shadow Day
  8. Kochi Water Metro

Current Crisis in Sudan


Context:

India has started ‘Operation Kaveri’ to evacuate its nationals owing to the Current Crisis in Sudan.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Operation Kaveri:
  2. Current Crisis in Sudan
  3. Impact of the Current Crisis in Sudan

About Operation Kaveri:

  • Indian Government undertaking rescue operation to bring back Indian citizens stranded in Sudan
  • Official data suggests approximately 4,000 Indians currently in Sudan
  • Two C-130 aircraft and navy ship INS Sumedha on standby for evacuation
Reason for Evacuation:
  • Deadly fighting between Sudanese army and paramilitary group, Rapid Support Forces (RSF)
  • Conflict reportedly resulted in several hundred deaths

Current Crisis in Sudan

Background:
  • President Omar al-Bashir overthrown by military generals in April 2019 after widespread protests.
  • Power-sharing body called Sovereignty Council established to lead Sudan to elections by end of 2023.
  • Military overthrew transitional government led by Abdalla Hamdok in October 2021.
Recent Developments:
  • General Burhan and General Dagalo became de-facto leaders of Sudan.
  • Power struggle between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) generals.
  • Preliminary deal reached in December 2021 for political transition, but negotiations hit a roadblock over RSF integration with SAF.
  • Disagreements over timetable and security sector reforms led to tensions and clashes.
  • Dagalo wanted to delay RSF integration for 10 years, while army said it should take place in the next two years.
About RSF
  • RSF stands for Rapid Support Forces
  • It is a group that evolved from Janjaweed militias which fought in the conflict in the 2000s in the Darfur region in West Sudan.
  • The RSF was created in 2013 and its forces were initially used as border guards.
  • In 2015, the RSF began sending troops to fight in the war in Yemen alongside Saudi and Emirati forces.
  • It has been accused of committing human rights abuses in various states including South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.
  • In a 2015 report, Human Rights Watch described its forces as “men with no mercy”.

Impact of the Current Crisis in Sudan

  • The conflict between the army and RSF may make Sudan’s transition to democracy more difficult.
  • There is a risk that the tussle could escalate into a wider conflict leading to the country’s collapse.
  • Sudan’s struggling economy, battered by hyperinflation and massive foreign debt, has been further impacted by the crisis.
  • Billions of dollars in international support and debt relief were frozen after the ouster of the Hamdok government.
  • The conflict may spill over into neighboring countries and destabilize the region, particularly Chad and South Sudan.
  • There is a risk of major external intervention if the fighting continues, and refugees from Sudan’s contested areas have already fled to Chad.

-Source: The Hindu


LockBit Ransomware


Context:

Recent reports emerged that for the first time, the LockBit Ransomware was found to be targeting Mac devices.

Relevance:

GS III: Cyber Security

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About LockBit Ransomware:
  2. How does LockBit ransomware work?
  3. Why is LockBit targeting macOS?

About LockBit Ransomware:

  • LockBit is a type of malicious software designed to block user access to computer systems in exchange for a ransom payment.
  • Formerly known as “ABCD” ransomware, it has since evolved into a unique threat within the scope of extortion tools.
  • It belongs to the subclass of ransomware known as “crypto virus” as it forms its ransom requests around financial payment in exchange for decryption.
  • LockBit primarily targets enterprises and government organizations rather than individuals.
  • It operates as ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), where willing parties put down a deposit for the use of custom for-hire attacks and profit under an affiliate framework.

How does LockBit ransomware work?

  • Self-spreading malware: LockBit is a type of self-spreading malware that can infiltrate a single device with access to an organizational intranet, and then spread to other connected devices without requiring additional instructions.
  • Hiding files: The ransomware can hide executable encryption files by disguising them in the .PNG format, which helps to avoid detection by system defenses.
  • Phishing tactics: Attackers use various social engineering methods, including phishing tactics, to impersonate trusted personnel or authorities to lure victims into sharing their login credentials or other sensitive information.
  • Encryption payload: Once LockBit has gained access to a system, it prepares to release its encryption payload across as many devices as possible, encrypting files and demanding a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key.
  • Disabling recovery options: LockBit also disables security programs and other infrastructures that could permit system data recovery, making it difficult or impossible for victims to regain access to their files without paying the ransom.

Why is LockBit targeting macOS?

  • LockBit is aiming to broaden the reach of their attacks and potentially increase their profits by targeting macOS systems. Historically, ransomware has primarily targeted Windows, Linux, and VMware ESXi servers, but the gang is now testing encryptors for macOS.
  • The current encryptors for macOS have not been found to be fully operational, but it is believed that the group is actively developing tools to target macOS.
  • The primary objective of targeting macOS is likely to generate more money from their ransomware operation by expanding the range of systems targeted.

-Source: The Hindu


Genome India Project


Context:

The Department of Biotechnology recently said that the exercise to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes and create a database under the Centre-backed Genome India Project is about two-thirds complete. About 7,000 Indian genomes have already been sequenced of which 3,000 are available for public access to researchers.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Genome
  2. Genome India Project
  3. Significance of the Genome India Project
  4. Challenges of the Genome India Project

About Genome:

  • It refers to the complete set of genetic instructions or information that an organism possesses.
  • It is made up of DNA, which carries the instructions for the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of all living organisms.
  • The study of genomics involves the analysis of genomes and has led to many breakthroughs in various fields, including medicine and biotechnology.
Genome Sequencing
  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G), that make up an organism’s DNA.

Genome India Project

  • India’s population consists of over 4,600 diverse population groups, many of which are endogamous.
  • These groups have unique genetic variations and disease-causing mutations that cannot be compared to other populations.
  • The Genome India Project aims to create a database of Indian genomes to learn about these unique genetic variants and use the information to create personalized drugs and therapies.
  • The project was started in 2020 and is inspired by the successful decoding of the entire human genome in the Human Genome Project (HGP).
  • The project seeks to better understand the genetic variations and disease-causing mutations specific to the Indian population, which is one of the most genetically diverse in the world.
  • By sequencing and analyzing these genomes, researchers hope to gain insights into the underlying genetic causes of diseases and develop more effective personalized therapies.
  • The project involves the collaboration of 20 institutions across India and is being led by the Centre for Brain Research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
  • Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, China, and the United States, also have similar programs to sequence their genomes.

Significance of the Genome India Project:

The Genome India Project (GIP) has significant implications in various fields, including healthcare, agriculture, and global science. Here are the key points of its significance:

  • Personalized Medicine: The GIP aims to develop personalized medicine based on patients’ genomes to anticipate and modulate diseases. By mapping disease propensities to genetic variations, interventions can be targeted more effectively, and diseases can be anticipated before they develop.
  • Understanding Disease Propensities: GIP can help understand the genetic basis of disease propensities in different populations. For example, variations across genomes may explain why cardiovascular disease leads to heart attacks in South Asians but to strokes in most parts of Africa.
  • Agriculture: The GIP can benefit agriculture by understanding the genetic basis of the susceptibility of plants to pests, insects, and other issues hampering productivity. This can reduce dependence on chemicals.
  • Global Science: The project is said to be among the most significant of its kind in the world because of its scale and the diversity it would bring to genetic studies. Global science will also benefit from a mapping project in one of the world’s most diverse gene pools.

Challenges of the Genome India Project

Potential for scientific racism and reinforcement of stereotypes: There are concerns that genetic mapping could be used to promote ideas of racial purity and justify discrimination.

  • Deepening of social divisions: In a country already divided by identity politics, genetic mapping may further deepen existing social divisions.
  • Data privacy and storage concerns: In the absence of a comprehensive data privacy bill in India, there are concerns about the possible misuse of genetic information collected by the GIP.
  • Ethical questions about gene modification and selective breeding: The project raises ethical questions about the potential for doctors to privately perform gene modification or selective breeding, which have always been controversial.
  • Risk of misuse of genetic information: There is a risk that genetic information collected by the GIP could be misused, either intentionally or unintentionally. The 2018 sentencing of a Chinese scientist who created the world’s first gene-edited babies highlights the seriousness of these concerns.

-Source: The Hindu


Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


Context:

Recently, Azerbaijan said that it had established a checkpoint at the start of the Lachin corridor, the only land route linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, a step that was followed by claims of border shootings by both Azeri and Armenian forces.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: International Relations (Important Foreign Policies and Developments), GS-I Geography (Maps), GS-I: History (World History)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Nagorno-Karabakh begin conflict
  2. The Azeri-Armenian war of 1991
  3. The war of 2016 and 2020
  4. Current peace talks

Nagorno-Karabakh begin conflict

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked, mountainous and forested region, falling within the boundaries of Azerbaijan.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh, called Artsakh in Armenian, hosts a predominantly ethnic Armenian population with an Azeri minority.
  • It is located in the South Caucasus region and is roughly made up of modern-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh, which was once a part of the Armenian kingdom, has been ruled by several empires over the centuries — the Ottomans, the Persians, and the Russians.
  • Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia later became separate Republics, with the Azeris incorporating Nagorno-Karabakh into their Republic.
  • During the First World War, the Ottomans, aided by Azeris, attacked the south Caucasus, especially targeting ethnic Armenians.
  • As the Ottomans retreated at the end of the World War, Azerbaijan and Armenia descended into a full-blown war in 1920.

The Azeri-Armenian war of 1991

  • Soon, the Bolsheviks took over south Caucasus to expand Soviet influence and Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia became Soviet Republics.
  • The Soviets officially placed Nagorno-Karabakh as an autonomous Oblast (administrative region) in Azerbaijan’s territory, despite the chiefly Armenian population.
  • As Soviet power began to wane in the 1980s, the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh expressed a desire to be reunited with their roots and become a part of Armenia, organising a vote for the same in 1988.
    • This did not go down well with Azerbaijan and military clashes ensued.
  • The war killed nearly 30,000 people and caused numerous ethnic Azeris to flee Karabakh and Armenia.
    • Some Armenians in parts of Azerbaijan fled too.
  • By 1993, Armenia had taken control of most of Nagorno-Karabakh. The war ended in 1994 when both countries entered into a ceasefire brokered by Russia but the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were not demarcated.

Peace talks by Minsk Group:

  • Peace talks were initiated by the Minsk Group but peace treaty could not be brokered.
    • The Minsk Group, created by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in early 1990, was co-chaired by Russia, the United States, and France.
  • The Minsk Group’s proposals were continously rejected by both Yerevan and Baku.
  • The role of the Minsk Group declined during the 2020 war between the two countries, as other negotiating groups entered the scene.

The war of 2016 and 2020

  • A ceasefire signed in 1994 could not prevent multiple flare-ups between the Nagorno-Karabakh rebel armed forces backed by the Armenian military, and the Azerbaijani military.
  • Some skirmishes turned into direct clashes and the conflict has resulted in several casualties over the years.

2016

  • A clash started between Azerbaijan and Armenia which lasted for four days.
  • A ceasefire signed in Moscow put an end to the war but the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was far from resolved.
  • Fresh clashes erupted on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in September of 2020,

2020

  • It turned into a fierce six-week war in which more than 2,000 people died.
  • The fighting began after Azerbaijani President Aliyev launched an offensive vowing to take back Nagorno-Karabakh and other Armenian-occupied districts.
  • Both parties entered a ceasefire brokered by Moscow in November 2020.

Current peace talks

  • Despite the 2020 ceasefire, clashes have not stopped.
  • Recently, seven Azerbaijani and six Armenian soldiers were killed in border clashes.
  • With the efforts of the Minsk Group remaining largely unsuccessful, Baku saw an opportunity to introduce its own peace proposal, which calls for the mutual recognition of each State’s territorial integrity, meaning the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijani territory.
  • The European Union, meanwhile, has emerged as a potential peace broker.
  • European Council President spearheaded meetings between both countries for the beginning of peace talks While both countries have now agreed to formulate border security and delimitation commissions and start talks for a peace deal, a permanent solution for the Karabakh issue remains out of sight.

-Source: Indian Express


About The PM CARES – Fund 


Context:

Alleging that the PM CARES Fund is shrouded in secrecy, the Congress  asked why it has no transparency and accountability and is not subjected to any audit or covered under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, despite 60% of its funds coming from public sector undertakings (PSUs).

Relevance:

GS II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable Sections

Dimensions of this article:

  1. About PM CARES – Fund
  2. About Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund(PMNRF)
  3. Difference between PMCARES and PMNRF in the below table

About PM CARES – Fund

  • The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was created on 28 March 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The fund will be used for combating, and containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future. 
  • Although the documentation for the constitution of the fund has not been made public, the Government of India has stated that the Prime Minister of India is the chairman of the fund, and that trustees include the Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance in the Government of India.
  • The PM CARES Fund has faced criticism for the lack of transparency and accountability in relation to its establishment, functioning, and accounts.
  • The total amount of funds donated and the names of donors have not been publicly disclosed, and the fund is privately audited.
  • The Government of India has initially claimed that the fund is a private fund, and denied that the PM CARES Fund is a public fund for the purposes of transparency laws such as the Right to Information Act 2005, even though the Fund uses government infrastructure and the national emblem of the Government of India.
  • In December 2020, the Government of India reversed its stance and admitted that the PM CARES Fund was a public fund, but still refused to disclose information regarding it under the Right to Information Act 2005.
  • There are currently several ongoing cases at the Supreme Court of India and several High Courts in relation to the Fund.

About Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund(PMNRF)

  • Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) in India is the fund raised to provide support for people affected by natural and man made disasters.
  • Natural disasters covered under this include flood, cyclone, earthquake etc. Man made disasters include major accidents, acid attacks, riots etc.
  • The fund is also allotted to the people for treatment like cancer, kidney transplantation, heart surgery etc.
  • The fund was first consolidated during the time of the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

Difference between PMCARES and PMNRF in the below table;-

PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund)PM CARES Fund [Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund]
PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund) was established in January 1948.PM CARES Fund was established on 27th March 2020.
PMNRF was established by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.The PM CARES Fund was established by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
The initial purpose of establishing PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund) was to help the people displaced due to partition of India and Pakistan.The PM CARES fund was established with the objective of helping people affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
Chairman of the Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is the Prime Minister of India. Other members are from Tata Trusts, representatives of FICCI, Congress President.Chairman of the PM-CARES fund is the Prime Minister of India. The Prime Minister has the power to nominate members. The other members of the PM CARES Fund are the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
The minimum amount one can donate in the Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is Rs 100.PM CARES Fund allows option for Micro donation, one can donate as low as Rs 10 in the PM CARES Fund.
PMNRF focuses on all kinds of natural disasters and calamities like Cyclones, Earthquakes, Floods, Tsunamis etc. The PMNRF funds are also utilized for acid attack victims, cancer treatments, kidney transplants etc.PM CARES fund is exclusively used for COVID-19 purposes.
The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), which was set up in 1948, is not audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)CARES Fund is not being audited by the CAG, and is being audited by a private party appointed directly by the Government of India instead.

-Source: The Hindu


Safe City Project In Delhi


Context:

Delhi is all set to implement the Safe City Project, which aims to provide better security for citizens, particularly women.

Relevance:

GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Safe City Project?
  2. Scope of the Delhi Safe City Project:

What is the Safe City Project?

The Safe City Project is an initiative to create a secure and empowering environment for women and girls in public spaces. It is a collaboration between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, funded under the Nirbhaya Fund.

  • Cities Involved: The project is being implemented in eight major Indian cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, and Bengaluru.
  • Features: The Safe City Project involves the installation of CCTV cameras in public spaces, along with a command-and-control center equipped with video analytics, AI, machine learning, and facial recognition technologies.
  • Funding: The cost of the project is shared between the Central government and the respective state governments in a 60:40 ratio.

Scope of the Delhi Safe City Project:

  • The project is fully funded by the Central government and will be implemented by the Delhi Police through the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
  • RailTel and NEC India will install CCTV cameras and connect them to feeders and main servers, respectively.
  • 88 Prakhar Vans equipped with mobile data terminals, body-worn cameras, and other features will be deployed across the city.
Enhancing Policing and Security through the Project:
  • The Safe City Project in Delhi aims to enhance policing and security using AI-based applications.
  • AI will be used to assess crowds in real-time, picking up behavioral traits and discrepancies.
  • AI will notify command and control centers in case of deviations that indicate impending crime.
  • The project’s goal is to prevent crime by providing real-time information to police officers and enabling them to take timely action.
  • The project is a step forward towards a safer and more secure environment for all.

-Source: The Hindu


Zero Shadow Day In Bangaluru


Context:

At 12:17 pm, Bengaluru experienced a ‘Zero Shadow Day’, when vertical objects appear to cast no shadow. This was because the sun was at its zenith, and so the shadow was directly under the object.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Zero Shadow Day:
  2. Why does it happen?

About Zero Shadow Day:

  • A phenomenon where the shadow of any vertical object disappears at local noon.
  • Occurs twice a year for every point on Earth between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  • Next Zero Shadow Day in Bengaluru is on August 18.

Why does it happen?

  • Happens because of the tilt of Earth’s rotation axis at an angle of roughly 23.5° to the axis of revolution around the Sun.
  • The Sun’s location moves from 23.5°N to 23.5°S of Earth’s equator and back, causing Uttarayan and Dakshinayan.
  • All places whose latitude equals the angle between the Sun’s location and the equator on that day experience Zero Shadow Day.
Other information:
  • Zero Shadow Day occurs on different days in places away from 130 latitude.
  • Zero Shadow Day is restricted to locations between the tropics.
  • The northernmost and southernmost points are the two solstices, and the crossing of the Sun across the equator are the two equinoxes.

-Source: Indian Express


Kochi Water Metro


Context:

Prime Minister inaugurated the first phase of the Kochi Water Metro — a first of its kind public boat service in India integrated with a metro rail network.

Relevance:

GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Kochi Water Metro
  2. Boats and Features

About Kochi Water Metro

The Kochi Water Metro is a modern boat service project being implemented by Kochi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (KMRL) with German funding. The water metro is a feeder service of the Kochi metro rail and has been designed to offer modern facilities and enhanced safety measures.

Boats and Features:

  • The Kochi Water Metro project comprises of 78 boats that are hybrid, battery-powered, air-conditioned and disabled-friendly.
  • Each boat costs Rs 7 crore and can carry 100 passengers with a seating capacity of 50.
  • These non-polluting, battery-powered boats produce low waves and can go up to a speed of eight nautical miles per hour.
  • Boats have been designed as coaches of Kochi Metro with similar facilities such as passenger entry and exit gates, ticket counters, and safety measures.
  • Boat terminals have been designed with electronic display boards about boat services, similar to the Kochi Metro.
Routes and Terminals:
  • The water metro boat service will connect 10 nearby islands with the mainland of Kochi, covering a distance of 76 km.
  • The project comprises of 38 jetties.
  • Boat re-charging facilities have been provided in all terminals.
  • The boats will operate on the backwaters of Kochi, similar to any other ferry or traditional boat service.
Existing Services:
  • The Kerala Water Transport Department operates around 200-odd boat services on different routes that mainly connect Vypin islands to Kochi.
  • These services have been criticised for poor passenger safety and being unpunctual.
  • Apart from the water transport department, private players also operate stray services.
Project Cost and Stakeholders:
  • The Kochi Water Metro project has been conceived as part of the Kochi Metro Rail service.
  • The project cost has been revised to Rs 1136 crore.
  • The boats have been constructed by Cochin Shipyard Limited.

-Source: Indian Express


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