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16th March 2024 (14 Topics)

16th March 2024

QUIZ - 16th March 2024

5 Questions

5 Minutes

Context

The first phase of India’s Atmospheric Research Testbed in Central India (ART-CI) was inaugurated at Silkheda in Sehore district, located about 50 km northwest of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

1: Dimension- Significance of Atmospheric Research Testbed (ART)

  • The ART is an open-field, focused observational and analytical research programme at Silkheda
  • The facility aims to conduct ground-based observations of weather parameters like temperature, wind speeds, etc. and in-situ (on-site) observations of the transient synoptic systems – like low-pressure areas and depressions that form in the Bay of Bengal – during the southwest monsoon season from June to September.
  • Studying these systems and their associated cloud parameters will be used to generate high volumes of data over a long period.
  • It can then be compared with the existing weather models so that improvements can be made to obtain accurate rainfall predictions.

2: Dimension-Need of having an Atmospheric Research Testbed

  • At present, 45% of India’s labour force is employed in the agriculture sector. Much of Indian agriculture is rain-fed, as is cultivation along the Monsoon Core Zone (MCZ), which spans the central India region from Gujarat to West Bengal.
  • The southwest monsoon season accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s annual average rainfall (880mm). Throughout India, the majority of Kharif cultivation is undertaken between July and August, which see an average monthly rainfall of 280.4mm and 254.9mm (1971–2020 average), respectively.
  • During this four-month-long season, several rain-bearing synoptic systems, namely the low pressures or depressions, develop in the Bay of Bengal. Inherently, these systems move westwards/northwestwards over to the Indian mainland and pass through the MCZ, causing bountiful rainfall.
  • Though IMD issues rainfall forecasts, there is still limited understanding about the role of these synoptic systems, their associated cloud physics, cloud properties and their overall role in enhancing the monsoon rainfall.

3: Dimension-Reason for choosing Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal)

  • The location Silkheda, falls directly in line with the path of major rain-bearing synoptic systems. This will facilitate direct monitoring and tracking.
  • Besides, the locality is pristine and free of anthropogenic and other pollutants, making it the best site in central India for setting up sensitive, high-end meteorological instruments and observatories for recording data.

Fact Box: Important Details of the Mission

  • Developed and Funded by: Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
  • The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, is in charge of the operations.
  • The facility will house 25 high-end meteorological instruments for studying vital cloud processes associated with the monsoons over central India’s Monsoon Core Zone (MCZ).

Context

A wind power project being executed by Adani Green Energy in northern Sri Lanka has run into controversy, with locals and environmentalists raising concern over its possible impact on the coastal region and livelihoods.

1: Dimension- Issues highlighted in the Project

  • Threat to biodiversity: The Adani wind energy project could spell danger to the biodiversity of the area and impact people’s livelihoods that are tied to the coastal environment.  Fishermen worry that changes in the coastal landscape may affect marine biodiversity and therefore their catch
  • Avian habitat protection: Mannar is part of the Central Asian Flyway, an important migration route for many waterbird species around the world. 
  • The Central Asia Flyway covers Eastern Europe all the way to far Eastern Russia. Mannar is in fact one of the main entry points and around a million birds remain there.

Impact on human lives: Scores of families in the island’s Tamil-majority north and east, are still struggling to rebuild their lives, this project can hinder their progress.

2: Dimension-India’s interests in Sri Lanka’s renewable sector

  • Sri Lanka’s north and east have significant potential for renewable energy.
  • This renewable energy deal is the third India-backed energy project coming up in Sri Lanka’s north and east. 
  • India has an interest in maintaining a foothold and dominating the two provinces given the proximity to India as well as Trincomalee harbor, which is located in a strategic area.

Fact Box:

Power plant profile: Mannar Wind Farm-Adani Green

  • Mannar Wind Farm-Adani Green is a 250MW onshore wind power project.

Mannar, Sri Lanka

  • Mannar is the largest island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, linked to the mainland by a causeway.
  • It lies at the eastern end of Adam’s Bridge, a chain of shoals.
  • It is a dry and barren island; the area is sandy.

Context

India's foreign exchange reserves jumped by USD 10.47 billion to USD 636.1 billion, as per the latest data by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This is the biggest surge since the week ended July 14, 2023.

1: Dimension- Impact of Indian Forex Reserve on the Economy

Positive Impact

  • Stabilisation of Currency: The Indian forex reserves help stabilise the native currency by allowing the government to intervene in the foreign exchange market.
  • Enhanced Creditworthiness: Having substantial reserves improves India's credit rating, attracting foreign investments.

Negative Impact

  • Opportunity Cost: Holding large reserves means funds are not invested elsewhere, leading to potential opportunity costs.
  • Inflationary Pressures: Excessive resources can lead to inflationary pressures within the economy.

2: Dimension- Reason for surge

  • Over the years, India's forex reserves have been driven by various factors, including a surge in foreign direct investments, growth in IT and service exports, and prudent economic policies.
  • The Indian government and Reserve Bank of India utilise reserves to manage exchange rates and monetary policies effectively.

Components of Forex Reserve

Foreign Currency

  • Major Currencies Held: USD, EUR, GBP
  • Purpose: Facilitate international trade, provide liquidity
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Maintains the value of the local currency and ensuring that the country can meet its foreign obligations.

Gold

  • Gold is a hedge against inflation and provides a safety net during economic uncertainties.
  • Purpose: Hedge against inflation and safety during economic downturns
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: An extra layer of protection and value, reflecting the traditional importance of gold in the Indian economy.

Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)

  • They are international reserve assets the IMF has created. They supplement the foreign exchange reserves of the member countries.
  • Purpose: Supplement foreign exchange reserves
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Enhances international liquidity

Reserve portion in the IMF

  • The reserve portion in the IMF represents India's quota in the International Monetary Fund. It reflects India's position and voting power within this global financial institution.
  • Purpose: Reflects India's position in the IMF
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Strengthens international standing

Context

The Indian Railways will create mega railway terminals with multi-modal connectivity in aspirational cities with population of more than 10 lakh across the country.

About

About the Programme

  • The programme is part of the infrastructure being developed for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Viksit Bharat’ initiative. 
  • At present, the project will be implemented in cities with more than 10 lakh population
  • However, the project could also be extended to cities where sizeable population was expected.

Significance of multi-modal transit system

  • A multi-modal transit system is a network that connects multiple public transport modes by making provision for transit hubs.
    • A transit hub is a junction where people and cargo can switch between multiple transport vehicles.
  • This eases the transportation effort while saving time and improving the speed of movement.
  • Transit hubs integrate transportation with allied passenger services such as ticketing, waiting areas, and canteens to assist in effective crowd management during transit.

Context

The Indian Army raised its first squadron of Apache attack helicopters in Rajasthan's Jodhpur with the aim of supporting ground operations near the Pakistan border.

About

About Apache

  • Developed by the US aviation giant Boeing, Apache choppers are known as the 'tanks in the air'.
  • They are advanced multi-mission helicopters with the latest technology and have come to be known the best attack helicopters in the world.
  • The Army Aviation Corps, which currently operates utility helicopters such as the Dhruv and Chetak, previously inducted the indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) Prachand at Assam's Missamari last year.
  • Notably, the IAF already operates a fleet of 22 Apache helicopters which have been deployed on the eastern and western fronts.

Context

A pair of Chinese satellites (DRO-A and DRO-B) failed to reach a planned orbit on their way to the moon after experiencing abnormalities, a rare setback for Beijing's high-profile space programme.

About

  • The satellites, DRO-A and DRO-B, were carried by A Yuanzheng-1S (Expedition-1S) upper-stage aircraft, attached to a Long March-2C carrier rocket.
  • The first and second stages of the rocket operated normally, while the upper stage encountered an abnormality during flight, causing the satellites to fail to enter the preset orbit accurately.

Context

The government has withdrawn its mandate for artificial intelligence (AI) models, LLMs (large language models), and algorithms having to mandatorily seek explicit permission before deploying it for Indian users.

The new advisory

  • In a fresh advisory, the ministry of electronics and information technology said that unreliable AI foundational models, LLMs, generative AI software or algorithm or any such model should be made available to Indian users only after “appropriately labelling the possible inherent fallibility or unreliability of the output generated,”.
  • The IT ministry has, while doing away with the mandate for explicit permission, retained the “consent popup” need and said that such mechanisms should be used by intermediaries, AI models, LLMS, and generative AI softwares, among others to inform the users of the output being false or unreliable.
  • The intermediaries and platforms were often ‘negligent’ when it came to undertaking due diligence obligations.
  • All intermediaries and platforms should ensure that the use of AI models, LLMs, Gen AI, software or algorithms on their platforms does not allow users to share any unlawful content as outlined in Rule 3(1)(b) of the Information Technology (IT) Rules.
    • Rule 3 (1)(b) of the IT Rules prohibits displaying, hosting, transfer or generation of certain kinds of content such as pornography, child sexual abuse material, obscene, grossly defamatory or unlawful in any manner.

Fact Box:

  • AI Model: An AI model is a program that has been trained on a set of data to recognize certain patterns or make certain decisions without further human intervention. Artificial intelligence models apply different algorithms to relevant data inputs to achieve the tasks, or output, they've been programmed for.
  • Large language model (LLM): It is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) program that can recognize and generate text, among other tasks. LLMs are built on machine learning: specifically, a type of neural network called a transformer model.
  • AI algorithms: They are instructions that enable machines to analyze data, perform tasks, and make decisions. It's a subset of machine learning that tells computers to learn and operate independently. All the tasks that AI performs work on specific algorithms.

Context

India will lower import taxes on certain electric vehicles for companies committing to invest at least USD 500 million and setting up a local manufacturing facility within three years, a policy shift that could potentially bolster Tesla’s plans to enter the South Asian market.

Impact of the move

  • India currently levies a tax of 70% to 100% on imported cars depending on their value. The policy change is likely going to pave the way for Tesla to enter India.
  • The move also aligns with India’s goal to boost the adoption of EVs and reduce its dependence on oil imports, with the country setting a target of achieving 30% electric car sales by 2030.
  • The new policy will:
  • provide Indian consumers with access to latest technology
  • boost the Make in India initiative
  • strengthen the EV ecosystem by promoting healthy competition among EV players leading to high volume of production, economies of scale, lower cost of production, reduce imports of crude oil, lower trade deficit, reduce air pollution, particularly in cities

Fact Box: Import Duty

  • Import duty is a type of tax levied on the import and specific exports of a nation's customs authorities.
  • The value of goods will generally decide the amount of import duty that will be imposed.
  • Sometimes, import duty is also referred to as customs duty, import tax, import tariff, or tariff.
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Context

A study of researchers has discovered four new species of spiders from the Western Ghats region of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The new species

  • Total: Indopadilla kanniyakumari, Tetragnatha jaculator, Tetragnatha lauta and Tetragnatha serra
  • Jumping spiders: Indopadilla kanniyakumari mimicks spider belongs to the group of jumping spiders.
  • Long-jawed spiders: Three species of long-jawed spiders were identified as their first report from the country. These three species of web-building spiders, Tetragnatha jaculator, Tetragnatha lauta and Tetragnatha serra, possess very long jaws which are used for handling the prey, so the name Tetragnatha (long-jaw).
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Context

National Panda Day is celebrated annually on 16 March to save the species (only 1,864 Panda remaining in the wild).

About

  • Pandas are unique bears that are native to China and are easily identifiable by their white face and black eyes and body. There are two sub-species of

Panda-Giant Panda (Ailuridae)

    • The giant panda belongs to the Ursidae family (Bears)
    • The giant panda inhabits the six major mountain ranges in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of China.
    • IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

    • The red panda belongs to its own taxonomically unique Family: Ailuridae.
    • Nearly 50 percent of the red panda's habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas, including Nepal, Tibet, India, Bhutan, and Myanmar.
    • IUCN Status: Endangered 
  • Convergent evolution: The giant panda and the red panda do however share some of the same characteristics and a common ancestor. This is called “convergent evolution”.

S.No.

Term

About

1.        

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

  • CPI is a metric that is used to measure inflation. To be specific, CPI measures retail inflation by collecting data on the prices of goods and services that are consumed by the retail population of the country.
  • CPI meaning refers to an increase in the price level of a selected basket of goods and services over a select period of time.

2.        

Core Monsoon Zone

The core monsoon zone is a region in India stretching from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the east.

3.        

Central Asian Flyway (CAF)

  • It is a geographical region within which a single or a group of migratory species completes its annual cycle.
  • It covers a large continental area of Eurasia between the Arctic and Indian Oceans and the associated island chains.

4.        

South-West Monsson

  • Monsoons always blow from cold to warm regions.
  • The summer monsoon usually happens between April and September. As winter ends, warm, moist air from the southwest Indian Ocean blows toward countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.
  • The summer monsoon brings a humid climate and torrential rainfall to these areas.

5.        

Low pressure system

A low pressure system, also known as a depression, is an area of low pressure surrounded by relatively high pressure. As per the IMD, a depression is a low pressure which has an associated wind speed of 32-50km/hour.

Context:

The retail inflation data for February highlights the persistent volatility in food prices, which not only affects broader inflation but also impacts personal consumption, a crucial driver of economic growth in India.

1. Food Prices and Inflation:

  • Volatile Food Prices: The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) data reveals that while overall inflation remained steady at 5.09% in February, the rate of food price inflation increased by 36 basis points to 8.66%.
  • Concerns: Vegetable prices, in particular, have been a major concern, with a significant year-on-year inflation rate of 30.3%, indicating a notable acceleration from the previous month's reading.
  • Importance of Understanding Food Price Dynamics: Cereal prices, another significant component of the CPI, also recorded high inflation at 7.6%, albeit marginally lower than the preceding month.

2. Impact of Supply-side Measures:

  • Effectiveness of Government Interventions: Despite government interventions such as the ban on onion exports, food prices, especially those of onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, continue to rise, indicating limited effectiveness of supply-side measures.
  • Outlook and Projections for Agricultural Outputs: The outlook remains concerning, with projections of lower onion and potato outputs for the current horticulture crop year, exacerbating the inflationary pressures.
  • Challenges Posed by Water Storage Levels: Water storage levels across the country, critical for summer-sown crops, are below average, particularly in the southern region, posing further challenges to agricultural production and food prices.

3. Economic Implications and Policy Challenges:

  • Risks of High Food Inflation: High food inflation poses significant risks to the economy, due to its adverse impact on private consumption, particularly in rural areas.
  • Need for Effective Policy Responses: To ensure inclusive and sustained growth, policymakers face the challenge of restraining inflation to its target levels, especially in the face of persistent food price pressures.
  • Ensuring Stability: As the country heads into elections, policymakers must address these challenges effectively to prevent discontent and ensure economic stability and growth.
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Context:

The European Parliament passed the Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act, 2024), marking the enactment of the first comprehensive regulatory regime for artificial intelligence (AI) in the European Union (EU).

Overview of the AI Act, 2024:

  • Passage of Landmark Legislation: The AI Act represents a milestone in AI regulation, setting out harmonized rules governing the development, market placement, and usage of AI systems within the EU.
  • Recognition of AI Levels: The legislation acknowledges and classifies different levels of AI, distinguishing between their utility and potential for harm, thus providing a nuanced framework for regulation.
  • Focus on Internal Market Functioning: The primary objective of the AI Act is to enhance the functioning of the internal market by establishing uniform legal standards for AI systems across the EU member states.

Key Provisions and Regulations:

  • Scope of Application: The AI Act applies to AI providers operating within the EU, irrespective of their location, ensuring that fundamental rights and European laws govern the provision and use of AI services.
  • Prohibition of Harmful AI Practices: The legislation prohibits certain AI practices, such as deploying manipulative or deceptive techniques aimed at distorting decision-making processes and causing significant harm to individuals.
  • Categorization of AI Systems: AI systems are categorized based on their risk levels, with high-risk systems subject to stringent regulations regarding risk management, transparency, and human oversight.

Implementation and Enforcement Mechanisms:

  • Establishment of Oversight Bodies: The AI Act mandates the creation of a European Artificial Intelligence Board and national supervisory authorities to monitor compliance and implementation at both EU and member state levels.
  • Phased Implementation: The legislation will be implemented in phases over a period ranging from six to 36 months, allowing AI developers and providers time to adapt to the regulatory requirements.
  • Enforcement Measures: Enforcement mechanisms include fines proportional to the severity of infringements, ensuring accountability and incentivizing compliance with the regulatory framework.
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Context:

The issue of simultaneous elections in India has gained prominence with the submission of a report by the High-Level Committee on Simultaneous Elections to the President of India, recommending the synchronization of parliamentary and state legislative assembly elections.

1. Historical Context and Disruption:

  • Historical Precedence: Elections to both the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies were conducted simultaneously from 1952 to 1967, ensuring a synchronized electoral cycle.
  • Disruption and Desynchronisation: The desynchronisation of elections occurred due to frequent dismissals of state governments using Article 356 of the Constitution, disrupting the electoral cycle and leading to prolonged periods of instability.
  • Judicial Intervention and Stability: The SC judgment in the S R Bommai case (1994) curtailed the arbitrary use of Article 356, promoting stability and adherence to constitutional norms.

2. Advantages and Concerns of Simultaneous Elections:

  • Administrative Efficiency: Holding simultaneous elections offers benefits such as significant cost savings, optimal utilization of manpower, and reduced disruption to public life, fostering long-term governance and developmental programs.
  • Voter Dilution Concerns: Critics argue that simultaneous elections may blur the distinction between national and local issues, potentially diluting voter interests and affecting electoral outcomes.
  • Voter Discernment and Examples: However, examples from past election cycles, such as in Odisha and Delhi, demonstrate that voters can distinguish between national and local issues, indicating the maturity of the electorate in weighing their interests.

3. Operational Challenges and Way Forward:

  • Phased Implementation: Operationalizing simultaneous elections may require a phased approach, including curtailment or extension of state assembly tenures to align with the synchronized electoral cycle.
  • Maintenance of Synchronicity: To maintain synchronicity, elections to the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies should be held simultaneously, with any premature dissolution resulting in elections for the remainder of the term.
  • Practical Constraints: Combining local body elections with parliamentary and state elections may not be feasible due to the diverse legal frameworks and logistical challenges, with the responsibility for local elections lying with state election commissions.
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