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Current Affairs 26 May 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Recusal of Judges
  2. People’s Biodiversity Register
  3. Census in India
  4. India will unveil 18 new petaFLOP supercomputers
  5. Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023
  6. AIRAWAT
  7. NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System)

Recusal of Judges


Context:

Recently, former Supreme Court judge Justice M.R. Shah refused to recuse himself from hearing a plea by former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt to submit additional evidence to back his Gujarat High Court appeal against his conviction in a 1990 custodial death case. 

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Recusal
  2. What is the Process of Recusal?
  3. Issues with recusal

About Recusal

  • It is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.
  • Recusals are not subject to any official regulations, but the topic has been addressed in a number of SC decisions.
  • In Ranjit Thakur v Union of India (1987), the SC held that the test of the likelihood of bias is the reasonableness of the apprehension in the mind of the party.
    • The judge must consider the perspective of the party in front of him and determine whether or not he is biassed.
Reason for Recusal:
  • A judge can decline to consider a case when there is a conflict of interest in order to avoid giving the impression that he was biassed in his decision.
  • Conflicts of interest can arise in a variety of ways, including:
    • Being previously or personally associated with one of the parties in the case.
    • Participated in a case on behalf of one of the parties.
    • Interpersonal conversations with other lawyers or non-lawyers.
    • A High Court (HC) decision that the SC judge may have issued while serving on the HC is the subject of an appeal filed with the SC.
    • In a matter of a company in which he holds shares unless he has disclosed his interest and there is no objection to it.
  • The practice stems from the cardinal principle of due process of law that nobody can be a judge in her own case.

What is the Process of Recusal?

  • Since it is up to the judge’s conscience and discretion to reveal any potential conflicts of interest, the decision to recuse usually comes from him or her.
  • Many judges do not explain their reasons for recusing themselves orally to the attorneys involved in the case. Some give the causes in chronological order.
  • In some cases, the judge is informed about it by the attorneys or parties involved. The judge has the discretion to withdraw himself or herself after receiving a request for it.
  • While there have been occasions where courts have refused to withdraw from a case even though they do not see a conflict but only because such a suspicion was raised, there have also been cases where judges have done so in some cases.
  • If a judge recuses, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to a fresh Bench.

Issues with recusal

  • Recusal is also regarded as the abdication of duty. Maintaining institutional civilities are distinct from the fiercely independent role of the judge as an adjudicator.
  • In his separate opinion in the NJAC judgment in 2015, Justice Kurian Joseph highlighted the need for judges to give reasons for recusal as a measure to build transparency.
    • It is the constitutional duty, as reflected in one’s oath, to be transparent and accountable, and hence, a judge is required to indicate reasons for his recusal from a particular case.
  • Some requests for recusal are made with the intent to intimidate the court or to get better of an ‘inconvenient’ judge or to obfuscate the issues or to cause obstruction and delay the proceedings or in any other way frustrate or obstruct the course of justice.

-Source: The Hindu


People’s Biodiversity Register


Context:    

The Goa launch of the National Campaign for Updating and Verifying the People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) represents a noteworthy achievement in documenting and safeguarding India’s abundant biological diversity. The event, hosted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, marks a significant milestone in this endeavor.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR)
  2. Status of Biodiversity Management in India
  3. Challenges related to Biodiversity Conservation
  4. About Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

About People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR)

  • The PBR is a comprehensive record of biodiversity, encompassing conservation of habitats, preservation of land races, folk varieties, cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals, and micro-organisms.
  • Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) are established under the Biological Diversity Act 2002 to promote conservation, sustainable use, and documentation of biological diversity.
  • BMCs, formed by local bodies in states and union territories, are responsible for creating PBRs in consultation with local communities.
Importance and Objectives:
  • Conservation of biodiversity: The PBR contributes to the preservation of biodiversity, crucial for maintaining ecological balance.
  • Benefit sharing: It enables local communities to share the benefits derived from genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.
  • Implementation of regulations: The PBR supports the implementation of the Biological Diversity Act 2002, which regulates access to biological resources and ensures fair and equitable benefit sharing.
  • Cultural and natural overlap: By being a bottom-up exercise, the PBR facilitates understanding the intersection of cultural and natural biodiversity.
  • Decentralized and inclusive approach: The PBR follows a decentralized approach, involving local communities and institutions, promoting inclusivity in biodiversity conservation.
  • LiFE concept: The PBR aligns with the “Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE)” concept introduced by the Indian Prime Minister at COP26 in Glasgow. It calls for mindful and deliberate resource utilization to protect and preserve the environment.

Status of Biodiversity Management in India

  • Despite occupying only 2.4% of the world’s land area, India is home to 7-8% of the world’s recorded species.
  • India boasts four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots: The Himalayas, Western Ghats, Indo-Burma area, and Sundaland.
  • Two of these hotspots, the Indo-Burma area and Sundaland, extend beyond India’s formal borders and are spread throughout South Asia.
Legislative Framework:
  • The Biological Diversity Act (BDA) of 2002 in India aligns closely with the Nagoya Protocol and aims to implement the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • The Nagoya Protocol aims to ensure that the commercial and research utilization of genetic resources results in the sharing of benefits with the government and the community responsible for conserving those resources.
  • The BDA is a significant step toward preserving India’s extensive biodiversity as it recognizes the sovereign rights of countries over their natural resources.
  • The BDA promotes the decentralized management of bio-resources and establishes a three-layered structure:
    • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) operates at the national level.
    • The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) function at the state level.
    • Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) operate at the local level.
  • The act also strengthens India’s position regarding intellectual property rights related to biodiversity knowledge, preventing unauthorized claims.

Challenges related to Biodiversity Conservation:

Invasive Alien Species:

  • Invasive alien species, including non-native plants, animals, and pathogens, pose a significant challenge to biodiversity conservation.
  • These species can cause environmental harm and disrupt the ecological balance of ecosystems.
  • Reports from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) indicate that invasive alien species have contributed to nearly 40% of all animal extinctions.

Global Warming and Climate Change:

  • Global warming and climate change pose threats to plant and animal species.
  • Many organisms are sensitive to changes in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, which can lead to their disappearance.
  • The use of pesticides and the release of tropospheric ozone, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides from industries further contribute to the degradation of natural ecosystems.

Plastic Pollution:

  • Inefficient management of plastic waste leads to the dumping of microplastics into oceans.
  • This pollution chokes and starves marine life, causing liver, reproductive, and gastrointestinal damage in animals.
  • Marine biodiversity is directly impacted by the presence of microplastics, affecting the overall health and balance of marine ecosystems.

Genetic Modification:

  • Genetically modified plants carry risks of disrupting ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Engineering genes for desirable traits can favor certain organisms over others, leading to imbalances.
  • Disruptions in the natural process of gene flow can eventually impact the sustainability of indigenous varieties and disrupt overall ecological processes.

About Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international treaty that was negotiated and signed by nations during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 1992. The convention officially came into force on December 29, 1993. India became a party to the convention on February 18, 1994, and currently, there are 196 Parties to the CBD.
  • The CBD is a legally binding treaty with three primary objectives:
    • Conservation of biodiversity: The convention aims to promote the conservation and sustainable management of biological diversity, including ecosystems, species, and genetic resources.
    • Sustainable use of biodiversity components: It encourages the sustainable utilization of biological resources while ensuring the preservation of biodiversity and ecological balance.
    • Fair and equitable sharing of benefits: The CBD emphasizes the fair and equitable sharing of benefits that arise from the utilization of genetic resources, ensuring that the benefits reach both the providers of those resources and the communities involved.
  • The Secretariat of the CBD is located in Montreal, Canada, and serves as the administrative hub for coordinating and supporting the implementation of the convention’s objectives.

-Source: PIB, Indian Express


Census in India


Context:

The decennial Census of 2021 has been pushed forward yet again and is unlikely to start till September 2023, at least.

Relevance

GS I: Population and Related issues

Dimensions  of the Article:

  1. About the Census
  2. Key facts about India’s census
  3. Significance of census:
  4. What are implications of the delay?

About the Census

  • The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
  • The first synchronous census in India was held in 1881, and since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.
  • India’s last census was carried out in 2011 when the country’s population stood at 121 crores.
  • The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under 8th schedule) and English, and the option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
  • For the first time data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators and they will receive an additional payment as an incentive.
  • The last caste-based census was conducted by the British in 1931.
  • Arthashastra by ‘Kautilya’ written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation.
  • In India, a census is conducted every decade and Census 2021 will be the 16th national census of the country.

Key facts about India’s census

  • In India, the census was first started under British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872 and the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. 
  • It is being conducted at an interval of 10 years. 
  • The decennial Census is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Census is conducted under the provisions of the Census Act, of 1948.
  • The population census is a Union subject under Article 246 of the Indian Constitution.
  • It is listed as serial number 69 of the seventh schedule of the constitution.

Significance of census:

  • Foundation of Statistical Analyses: A census generates primary and authentic data that forms the foundation for various statistical analyses. This data is crucial for planning, decision-making, and development initiatives across sectors like administration, economy, and social welfare.
  • Planning and Development: Census data provides essential information for planning and development initiatives in various sectors. It helps policymakers, government agencies, and organizations to understand demographic patterns, population trends, and distribution of resources, enabling them to formulate effective strategies and allocate resources efficiently.
  • Constituency Delimitation and Representation: Census data plays a vital role in demarcating constituencies and determining representation in government bodies. It helps in deciding the number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Parliament, State legislatures, local bodies, and government services. This ensures proportional representation and promotes inclusivity in the political and administrative systems.
  • Business and Industry Planning: Census data is valuable for business houses and industries as it helps them strengthen and plan their operations, especially for expanding into areas that were previously underserved. The data provides insights into population characteristics, consumer demographics, and market potential, facilitating business decisions and market penetration strategies.
  • Grants and Resource Allocation: The Finance Commission utilizes population figures from census data to provide grants to states. The allocation of resources, funding, and development assistance is often based on the population data available from the census.

What are implications of the delay?

  • The Census data is important for various administrative functions, welfare schemes, and other surveys.
  • The Finance Commission uses Census figures to allocate funds to states, and a delay could put them at a disadvantage.
  • Outdated Census data (such as the data from the 2011 Census) can become unreliable and affect those who do and do not receive the benefits of welfare schemes.
  • Census data is also used as a “frame” or list for selecting representative samples for other sample surveys conducted in the country.
  • The Census is crucial for determining the population of migrants and migration patterns.
  • The National Population Register (NPR) exercise, which was to happen with the first phase of the Census, should now be delinked due to its politically sensitive nature and the urgency of the Census, according to former bureaucrats.

-Source: The Hindu


India will Unveil 18 New PetaFLOP Supercomputers


Context:

Recently  Union Earth Sciences Minister said that, India will unveil its new 18 petaFLOP supercomputer for weather forecasting institutes later this year.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significant Advancements from New Supercomputer
  2. What are FLOPs in computing?
  3. What is PetaFLOP?
  4. The Role of FLOPs in Assessing Computer Performance

Significant Advancements from New Supercomputer

The new supercomputer is expected to bring significant advancements in weather forecasting capabilities. Here are the key improvements it aims to achieve:

  • Improved Weather Forecasts at Block Level: The supercomputer is anticipated to enhance weather forecasts at a more localized level, allowing for better accuracy and precision in predicting weather conditions at the block level.
  • Higher Resolution Ranges: Weather scientists will be able to provide forecasts with higher resolution ranges, offering more detailed and fine-grained information about weather patterns and variations.
  • Cyclone Prediction with Greater Accuracy and Lead Time: The supercomputer is expected to enhance the accuracy of cyclone predictions and provide better lead time, allowing authorities and communities to take necessary precautions and mitigate the impact of cyclonic events.
  • Ocean State Forecasts: In addition to weather forecasts, the supercomputer will also enable ocean state forecasts, including predictions related to marine water quality. This will be valuable for various sectors, such as marine industries and coastal management.
Other Details:
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary mentioned that the current weather forecasts have a resolution of 12 kilometers, and the new supercomputer aims to improve it to a resolution of 6 kilometers.
  • The long-term goal is to achieve even higher resolution forecasts, aiming for a resolution as fine as one kilometer.
  • The supercomputer is estimated to cost Rs 900 crore.

What are FLOPs in computing?

  • FLOPs, or Floating-Point Operations per Second, is a commonly used metric to measure the computational performance – processing power and efficiency – especially in the field of high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Floating-point operations are a certain kind of mathematical calculation using real numbers with fractional parts.
How many FLOPs can a computer achieve?
  • Modern computing systems, such as CPUs (Central Processing Units) and GPUs (Graphics Processing Units), are designed to perform multiple operations simultaneously, using parallel processing techniques.
  • The parallelism significantly increases the number of FLOPs a system can achieve within a given time frame. Over the years, hardware has become more efficient, exponentially increasing computing power.
  • For instance, in 1961, the IBM 7030 Stretch, costing a whopping $ 7.8 million at the time, performed one floating-point multiplication every 2.4 microseconds, roughly performing 417,000 FLOPs.
  • A PlayStation 5 today is listed to have a peak performance of 10.28 TFLOP, i.e. 10.28 trillion FLOPs.

What is PetaFLOP?

  • A petaFLOP refers to a measure of computing speed or performance, specifically the ability to perform one quadrillion floating-point operations per second. It is a unit of measurement used to quantify the processing capacity of supercomputers and high-performance computing systems.
  • To provide context, here is a breakdown of the FLOPs metric and its various prefixes:
  • FLOPs (Floating-Point Operations per Second): This is the base unit of measurement for computing performance and represents the number of floating-point operations a computer system can perform in one second.
    • GFLOPs (GigaFLOPs): One billion FLOPs (10^9 FLOPs).
    • TFLOPs (TeraFLOPs): One trillion FLOPs (10^12 FLOPs).
    • PFLOPs (PetaFLOPs): One quadrillion FLOPs (10^15 FLOPs). A petaFLOP is equivalent to a thousand teraFLOPs or one million gigaFLOPs.

In 2008, the IBM Roadrunner supercomputer became the first system to break the petaFLOPS barrier, achieving a peak performance of 1.105 petaFLOPS. Since then, computing technology has continued to advance, and the current fastest supercomputer in terms of petaFLOPS is the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Frontier (OLCF-5), with a peak performance capability of 1,685.65 petaFLOPS.

The Role of FLOPs in Assessing Computer Performance:

  • FLOPs alone do not provide a comprehensive measure of a computer’s performance.
  • Factors like memory bandwidth, latency, and architectural features also contribute significantly.
  • However, FLOPs offer a useful baseline for comparing computational capabilities, particularly in tasks dominated by floating-point calculations.
Usage of PetaFLOPs Computers in Indian Weather Forecasting:
  • The National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) operates the ‘Mihir’ supercomputer, with a computing power of 2.8 petaFLOPs.
  • The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune houses the ‘Pratyush’ supercomputer, which has a computing power of 4.0 petaFLOPs.
  • These supercomputers were launched in 2018 but will be decommissioned upon the introduction of the new supercomputer, according to an NCMRWF official.
Allocation of Computing Power:
  • As per the ministry’s arrangement, the NCMRWF will receive eight petaFLOPs of computing power.
  • The remaining ten petaFLOPs will be allocated to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).
  • The higher power allocation to IITM is justified by their focus on seasonal weather forecasts.
  • The NCMRWF primarily handles medium-range forecasts spanning three to seven days in advance.

-Source: Indian Express


Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023


Context:

The President recently promulgated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 to make a fresh claim of power over the services in the capital.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. About Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023
  3. Role of  LG

Details:

  • The recent Supreme Court ruling granted the Delhi Government legislative and executive control over administrative services in the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD), with the exception of public order, police, and land.
  • However, the central government has introduced an ordinance that effectively cancels out the Supreme Court’s decision.

About Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023:

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 introduces the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) and redefines the roles of the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, and Principal Home Secretary in Delhi’s administration. Here are the key points:

  • NCCSA Composition: The NCCSA will consist of the Chief Minister of Delhi as the head, along with the Chief Secretary and Principal Home Secretary of Delhi as the other two members.
  • Functions of NCCSA: The NCCSA’s primary role is to make recommendations to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) regarding transfer, posting, vigilance, and other matters concerning Group ‘A’ officers and officers of DANICS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service) serving in the Government of NCTD.
  • Decision-making: All matters to be decided by the NCCSA will be determined by a majority vote of the members present and voting. This implies that the decision of the elected Chief Minister of Delhi can be overruled by the Chief Secretary and Principal Home Secretary, who are senior bureaucrats.

Role of LG:

  • Passing Orders: The LG is responsible for passing orders to implement the recommendations made by the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA).
  • Relevant Material: The LG has the authority to request the relevant material related to officers belonging to All India Services and DANICS serving in the Delhi government.
  • Difference of Opinion: If the LG disagrees with a recommendation made by the NCCSA, they can return the recommendation to the Authority for reconsideration. The LG must provide written reasons for their disagreement. However, according to the ordinance, in case of a difference of opinion, the decision of the LG shall be final.
  • Group B and Group C Officers: The ordinance does not specifically address the transfer, posting, discipline, etc., of Group B and Group C officers. This suggests that the elected government of Delhi would retain control over these officers.

-Source: Indian Express


AIRAWAT


Context:

Recently, India’s AI Supercomputer ‘AIRAWAT’ has been ranked at No. 75 in the world at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC 2023) in Germany.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1.  Supercomputer ‘AIRAWAT’
  2. About Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC):

Supercomputer ‘AIRAWAT’

  • The supercomputer ‘AIRAWAT’ has made it to the 61st edition of the Top 500 Global Supercomputing List.
  • It is an AI supercomputer installed at C-DAC, Pune, as part of the National Program on AI initiated by the Government of India.
  • The manufacturer of AIRAWAT is Netweb Technologies.

Key Features:

  • AIRAWAT PSAI is India’s largest and fastest AI supercomputing system, boasting a remarkable speed of 13,170 teraflops.
Benefits:
  • The supercomputer empowers academia, research labs, the scientific community, industries, and startups to develop indigenous AI-enabled products and solutions, specifically focused on solving India-specific grand challenges and complex real-life problems.
  • It has the potential to revolutionize various sectors, including weather forecasting, drug discovery, climate modeling, and artificial intelligence research.

Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC):

  • C-DAC is a renowned research and development organization operating under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • It specializes in conducting research and development in domains such as information technology, electronics, and supercomputing.
  • The organization was established in 1988.
  • C-DAC was established in response to the denial of import of supercomputers by the United States.
  • In 1991, C-DAC achieved a significant milestone by building India’s first indigenously developed supercomputer, Param 8000.

-Source: Indian Express, PIB


NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System)


Context:

The United States recently announced the approval of a $285 million sale of a NASAMS air defense system and related equipment to Ukraine.

Relevance

GS III: Defence

About NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System):

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) is a medium-range ground-based air defense system used by several countries. Here are the key points about NASAMS:

  • Purpose: NASAMS is designed to engage air targets at low and medium altitudes in all weather conditions. It is primarily used to defend important stationary assets like military installations, infrastructure, and cities.
  • Joint Development: NASAMS was jointly designed and developed by Raytheon (United States) and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (Norway).
  • User Countries: NASAMS is currently used by Norway, the United States, Canada, Chile, Finland, Indonesia, Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.
  • Networked Defense System: NASAMS is the world’s first networked short- and medium-range air defense system that can integrate with other equipment and air defense systems.
  • Radar and Launchers: NASAMS features an X-Band, 360-degree phased array air defense radar with a range of approximately 75 kilometers. It is armed with three launchers, each capable of carrying up to six missiles.
  • Simultaneous Engagement: The system has the capability to engage 72 targets simultaneously in active and passive modes.
  • Missiles: NASAMS uses AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, which have been modified for ground launch. These missiles have an engagement range of about 30 kilometers.
  • Integration: NASAMS has been integrated into the U.S. National Capital Region’s air defense system since 2005.

-Source: Indian Express


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