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Current Affairs December 03-04, 2023: INTERPOL, Anthrobots, Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), Tuberculosis, Guidelines on Dark Patterns

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{GS2 – IR – India-Maldives} India’s Withdrawal of Troops from Maldives

  • Context (TH): India has agreed to withdraw Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives.

India-Maldives Ties: Convergences

Recent Connectivity Measures

  • $500 million Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP): The largest civilian infrastructure project in the Maldives, connecting Malé with 3 neighbouring islands.
  • Direct cargo ferry service between Cochin to Male: To provide predictability in supplies for importers in Maldives and exporters in India.
  • Air travel bubble: To facilitate people’s movement for employment, tourism & medical emergencies.

Political and Strategic Front

  • Both countries have reaffirmed their commitment towards “India first policy”.
  • Both countries are part of UN, Commonwealth, NAM, and SAARC.
  • Maldives extends its full support to India’s entry into the UNSC as a permanent member, while India supports Maldives entry as non-permanent member.

Defence and Security Cooperation

  • A comprehensive Action Plan for Defence was signed in 2016 to consolidate defence partnership.
  • India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements.
  • The joint military exercise ‘Ex Ekuverin between the Indian Army and the Maldives National Defence Force is conducted annually.

Economic and Trade

  • India and Maldives signed a trade agreement in 1981, which provides for export of essential commodities.
  • India emerged as Maldives’ 3rd largest trade partner in 2021. India‐Maldives bilateral trade crossed the $300 MN mark for the first time in 2021.
  • A Bilateral USD Currency Swap Agreement between RBI and Maldives Monetary Authority in 2019.

Tourism

  • The tourism sector of Maldives is the major source of foreign exchange earnings and accounts for about 75% of the government’s revenue.
  • India was the 5th largest source of tourists in 2018, which raised to the top-most source in 2022.

Education and Capacity Building

  • India has traditionally offered a substantial number of scholarships to Maldivian youth under ICCR, “India Science and Research Fellowship (ISRF) Programme and ITEC programme.

India-Maldives Ties: Divergences

  • Political volatility: Continued fluctuation between “India First” policy, and the ‘India Out’ campaign.
  • Territorial security: Combined impact of Political instability, Economic crises, Islamic Radicalization (in Maldives) has led to threat of Terrorism, jeopardising security & development within India and its neighbourhood.
    • Rising influence of Pakistan-based madrassas and Al Qaeda, recent attack on Md. Nasheed, a      pro-democracy & pro-India leader.
  • Non-traditional challenges: Including piracy, maritime terrorism, smuggling, human trafficking etc.
  • China’s rising assertiveness in IOR: for e.g., Belt & Road initiative, infrastructure projects, port development, military cooperation etc.

Way Forward

  • Strengthen bilateral relations: Both the countries need to strengthen cooperation on common agendas – trade & development, maritime security, climate change, capacity development, people-to-people relations, defense cooperation, Islamic extremism etc.
  • Increase Investment: India can maintain its political influence in South Asia only if with a strong economic presence must quickly move to conclude pending FTAs with neighbouring nations.
    • Promoting Maldives’ “Blue Economy” can be a key to booting economic ties & island development.
    • Timely execution of developmental projects may serve to improve India’s credibility vis a vis China.
  • Policy Change: India’s “wait and watch” policy needs a re-look and proactive responses must be crafted to support development and stability in Maldives.

{GS2 – IR – International Organisations} INTERPOL

  • Context (PIB): The 91st General Assembly of the Interpol was held in Vienna.
  • It is an international organisation that facilitates cooperation and collaboration among law enforcement agencies from different countries to combat transnational crime.
  • It is the world’s largest international police organisation, established in 1923.
  • It is headquartered in Lyon, France.
  • It has 196 member countries (including India).
  • It is headed by the Secretary-General, appointed by the General Assembly.

Organisational Structure

General Assembly

  • It is Interpol’s highest decision-making body, with one delegate from each member nation.

Executive Committee

  • It is the governing body overseeing the implementation of General Assembly decisions as well as the administration and activities of the General Secretariat.

General Secretariat

  • It is the organisation in charge of coordinating the policing and administrative functions.
  • It manages Interpol’s day-to-day operations to assist member nations with international policing.

National Central Bureau (NCB)

  • The National Central Bureau is the focal point for all Interpol activity in a nation.
  • It helps investigate crime in their own country and share criminal data to assist another country.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is designated as the National Central Bureau of India.

Functions

  • Facilitates cross-border police cooperation.
  • Prevents and combats transnational crime.
  • Provides support through information sharing, coordination, and collaboration.
  • Serves as a global communication hub for law enforcement agencies by providing secure platform for sharing information, intelligence, and alerts related to criminal activities.
  • It maintains several global databases containing information on various types of crimes, including terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime, etc.
  • It issues color-coded notices to alert member countries about individuals wanted internationally, missing persons, and threats.

Major Interpol Notices

 Interpol Notices

{GS2 – MoE – Schemes} Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN)

  • Context (TH): The Centre approved the fourth phase rollout of the GIAN Scheme.
  • The scheme was launched in 2015.
  • Nodal ministry: Ministry of Education.
  • It enables the interaction of students and faculty with the best academic and industry experts worldwide and also share their experiences and expertise to motivate people to work on Indian problems.
  • It is a system of Guest Lectures by internationally and nationally renowned experts targeted towards a comprehensive Faculty Development Programme.
  • The duration of the courses differs for different courses. While the minimum duration is one week, the maximum is 3 weeks.

Objective

  • It aims to tap the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India.
  • To augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India’s scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.

{GS2 – MoEFCC – Organisation} Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education

  • Context (ET): IFS Kanchan Devi has become the first female officer appointed as the Director General (DG) of the Indian Council of Forestry Research Education (ICFRE).
  • ICFRE was established in 1986 to provide direction and management to forestry research and education in India.
  • In 1991, it was declared an autonomous council under the then Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEFCC) and registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act of 1860.
  • It is headquartered in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
  • Aim: To achieve long-term ecological stability, sustainable development and economic security through conservation and scientific management of forest ecosystems.
  • ICFRE is administering the Green Credits Programme (GCP).

Green Credits Programme (GCP)

  • The MoEFCC launched GCP as an initiative within the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) Movement.
  • It is an effort to create a market-based incentive for various environment-positive actions, not just for carbon emission reductions.
  • It incentivises voluntary environmental actions of individuals, communities, and private industries.
  • Mirroring GCP, Green Credit Initiative at COP-28 summit.

For details on Green Credits Programme and Green Credit Initiative > 2nd December 2023 CA

{GS2 – MoHUA – Initiatives} GOBARdhan Scheme

  • Context (PIB | PIB): The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) is organising the SBM-GOBARdhan Biogas Conference.
  • Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBARdhan) is an umbrella initiative of GoI.
  • It is based on the whole of government’s approach.
  • It aims to convert waste to wealth towards promoting a circular economy.
  • It was launched by the Ministry of Jal Shakti in 2018 as a part of the biodegradable waste management component under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen).
  • GOBARdhan is executed in partnership with state governments and the private sector.

Ambit of GOBARdhan Scheme

  • It covers all schemes/programmes/policies promoting the conversion of organic waste (like cattle dung and agri-residue) to biogas/Compressed Biogas (CBG)/Bio-Compressed Natural gas (Bio-CNG).
  • It includes schemes and programs from various ministries and departments, such as:
    1. Waste to Energy Scheme by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
    2. SATAT (Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation) Scheme by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
    3. SBM(G) Phase II programme by the Ministry of Jal Shakti
    4. Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) Phase II by MoHUA
    5. Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF) by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
    6. Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying

Objectives of the GOBARdhan Scheme

  • Support villages in managing cattle and agricultural waste and enhance village cleanliness.
  • Support communities in converting cattle and organic waste into wealth through treatment systems.
  • Convert organic waste, especially cattle waste, into biogas and organic manure for rural use.
  • Promote environmental sanitation and prevent vector-borne diseases through effective waste disposal in rural areas.
  • Promote rural employment and income generation by involving entrepreneurs, Self Help Groups, and youth groups in setting up and managing GOBARdhan units.

Significance of the GOBARdhan Scheme

  • This scheme is conceived to substantially contribute to India’s climate action objectives, particularly achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
  • It aligns with national efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including
    • SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing)
    • SDG 6 (Clean Water & Sanitation)
    • SDG 7 (Affordable & Clean Energy)
    • SDG 13 (Climate Action)
  • It significantly contributes to the circular economy and the GoI’s Mission LiFE.
  • Biogas: It is a renewable fuel produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic matter. It mainly comprises methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Compressed Biogas (CBG): Biogas is purified to eliminate hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water vapour and then compressed into CBG. It has a methane content of more than 90%.
  • Bio-compressed natural gas (Bio-CNG): It is biogas-derived biomethane compressed to CNG. Bio-CNG has equivalent performance characteristics when compared to fossil CNG.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Disease} Tuberculosis

  • Context (TH | TH | IE): According to WHO Global TB Report 2023, India has the highest burden of TB in the world (27%).

Tuberculosis (TB)

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.
  • Though TB mainly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB), it can also impact other body parts (extra-pulmonary TB).
  • Transmission: It spreads from person to person through the air. However, people with latent TB (when the infections do not show any symptoms) do not spread the disease.
  • Symptoms of active TB: Chronic cough with blood in mucus, fever, chest pain and weight loss.
  • It is a treatable and curable disease. Its treatment requires the use of antibiotics for a long period.
  • Leprosy-causing bacteria Mycobacterium Leprae and TB-causing bacteria belong to the same family.

World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Global TB Report 2023

  • Severity: TB remained the world’s 2nd leading cause of death from a single infectious agent in 2022, after COVID-19. India reported a case fatality ratio of 12%.
  • High-burden countries: 30 countries with a high TB burden make up 87% of global incident cases.
    • Top 8 countries contribute 2/3rd of total cases: India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the DR of the Congo.
  • High reduction: 13 high-burden countries have registered major reductions in TB cases. These include India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • TB diagnosis and treatment: Though wide gaps persist, there was a major global recovery in the number of people diagnosed with TB and treated in 2022 after 2 years of COVID-related disruptions.
  • High mortality without treatment: Without treatment, the death rate from TB is high (about 50%).
    • Though with the WHO-recommended treatment, around 85% of TB patients can be cured.

Issues with TB Prevention and Treatment in India

Inadequate access to quality diagnosis

  • WHO recommends molecular diagnostics as the initial test due to high accuracy, drug resistance detection, cost-effectiveness, and minimised treatment delays.
  • But, last year in India, only 23% of suspected TB patients underwent these recommended tests.
  • The remaining 77% underwent microscopy, a century-old tool that cannot detect drug resistance and detects only half of all people.

Emergence of drug-resistant TB

  • Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is caused by TB bacteria that are resistant to the two most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin.
  • Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a rare form of MDR-TB caused by TB bacteria that are resistant to several of the most effective anti-TB drugs.
  • MDR-TB is caused due to mismanagement of treatment and person-to-person transmission.
  • India recorded 1.1 lakh MDR-TB cases in 2022.

Non-adherence to treatment

  • The treatment for TB is long and complex and even longer for MDR-TB.
  • This discourages the patients from adhering to the complete treatment.
  • The stigma associated with TB discourages patients from seeking care and completing treatment.

Shortage of drugs

  • There have been reports of a shortage of TB treatment drugs in different states.
  • After the rollout of a shorter TB Preventive Treatment (TPT) called the 3HP, states are yet to receive the 3HP combination drug from the Central TB Division.

Social determinants of TB

  • Poverty, malnutrition, and overcrowding increase susceptibility to TB infection.
  • Marginalised communities, like tribals and migrants, are disproportionately affected by TB.

Initiatives Taken by India against TB

Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyan

  • It is an initiative launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
  • It aims to eliminate TB from India by 2025 (5 years earlier than the global target of 2030).
  • Objectives
    • Provide additional patient support to improve treatment outcomes of TB patients
    • Leverage Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities
  • The Ni-kshay Mitra shall provide additional support to all the on-treatment TB patients who have given consent for support.
    • Ni-kshay Mitra can be a cooperative, corporate, elected Representative, individual, institution, NGO, or political party.
  • The type of additional assistance that may be provided by the Ni-kshay Mitra include:
    1. Nutritional support
    2. Additional investigations for the diagnosed TB patients
    3. Vocational support
    4. Additional nutritional supplements
  • The minimum commitment period for additional support to the TB patient is one year.

Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana

  • Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana was launched by MoHFW in 2018 as part of the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP).
  • The scheme is centrally sponsored under the National Health Mission (NHM).
  • A financial incentive of Rs.500/month is provided to each notified TB patient for the duration the patient is on anti-TB treatment.
  • The incentives can be distributed in cash only via Direct Benefit Transfer (preferably through Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts) or in-kind.

Ni-kshay Portal

  • It is the web-enabled patient management system for TB control under the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP).
  • It is developed and maintained by the Central TB Division (CTD), MoHFW, in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the WHO Country Office for India.

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Revaccination

  • The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Vaccine is typically given to infants to protect them from TB.
  • However, the effectiveness of the vaccine can wane over time.
  • India now wants to implement BCG revaccination at scale; 23 states have already consented.
  • There is currently no consensus on whether or not BCG revaccination is effective.
  • WHO does not currently recommend BCG revaccination for any person.

{GS3 – Agri – Standards} Codex Alimentarious Commission

  • Context (PIB): India is elected as a member representing the Asian region in the Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).
  • CAC is an international food safety and quality standard-setting body.
  • It was established in 1963 by the FAO and the WHO.
  • It has 188 member countries; India is member to it.
  • The Codex Alimentarius (or Food Code) are globally accepted standards, guidelines, and practices to safeguard consumer health and promote fairness in the food trade.
  • They cover all foods, from raw agricultural commodities to processed foods.
  • They deal with food hygiene, additives, pesticide residues, contaminants, labelling, and presentation.
  • Codex standards are voluntary, but governments and the food industry worldwide widely adopt them.

{GS3 – IS – Defence} Self Reliance in Defence Industry

  • Context (TH): The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the procurement of Light Combat Helicopter, Anti-tank Munitions, etc.
  • AoN is the 1st step towards procurement of military equipment and hardware under the defence acquisition norm under Defence Acquisition Procedure, 2020.
  • Grant of AoN does not necessarily lead to final order. It is only the 1st step in the defence procurement process.

Need for Self-Reliance in Defence

  • Reducing import dependence: Approx. 60-70% of defence hardware is imported, making India vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and geopolitical considerations.
  • Strengthening the security of nation as imported technology may be manipulated by the original manufacturer.
  • Employment generation: A 20-25% reduction in imports could create an additional 100,000 highly skilled jobs in India.
  • Boost export potential. For eg, BRAHMOS missile exports to the Phillippines.
  • To become a ‘Net Security Provider’ in the near neighbourhood and fulfil aspirations of regional power.

Challenges in the Indigenisation of Defence

  • Absence of overarching organisation and policy framework
  • Procedural complexities: The process of selecting private sector partners and giving assurance of orders, especially to the MSMEs, is tedious in nature.
  • Inadequate Infrastructure, such as testing ranges and manufacturing facilities, etc.
  • Unstable Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)
  • Capital-intensive industry and risk-averse private sector
  • Inadequate defence research accounting for less than 1 % of GDP.
  • Bureaucratic hurdles and licensing issues.

Way Forward

  • Increasing the budget towards indigenisation: The Standing Committee on Defence recommended that the Ministry of Defence should be allocated a fixed budget of about 3% of GDP to ensure adequate preparedness of the armed forces.
  • Building an Export Promotion Body with participation from industry representatives.
  • Providing incentives like export credits and tax relaxation for enhanced exports.
  • Building a robust Defence Diplomacy to bring coherence with the demand and supply of defence exports by sharing new ideas and innovations.
  • Providing Financial and Administrative autonomy to DRDO in order to enhance its confidence.
  • Removal of bureaucratic hurdles, delays and provision of single window clearances.

Initiatives by GoI for Defence Indigensation

  • Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 to promote Make in India and ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence, giving preference to ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ and ‘Make’ categories of capital acquisition.
  • Increasing FDI Limit in Defence sector: Up to 74% through the Automatic Route, and up to 100% by Government Route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology.
  • Creation of innovative ecosystems: Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), by engaging MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia.
  • Launching of indigenous portals such as the SRIJAN Portal and ‘Offset portal’
  • Defence Industrial Corridors
  • Defence Investor Cell (DIC)

{GS3 – IS – Regulations} Guidelines on Dark Patterns

  • Context (TH): Central Consumer Protection Authority has notified guidelines under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 for the Prevention and Regulations of Dark Patterns, 2023.
  • The guidelines would apply to all platforms, Advertisers and Sellers offering goods & services in India.
  • CCPA would be the final authority in case of any dispute.

Dark Patterns

  • Dark patterns are unethical user interface designs that are specifically created to trick/manipulate users into taking decisions that might not be in their best interests.
  • It is a deceptive technique used to sway user behaviour in a way that is advantageous to the business implementing it.
  • Dark Patterns can also violate users’ privacy and security.

Key Dark Patterns

  • False urgency: Creates a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure consumers into making a purchase or taking an action.
  • Basket sneaking: Dark patterns are utilized to add more goods or services to the shopping basket, without the user’s knowledge.
  • Confirm shaming: Uses guilt to persuade customers to comply and criticizes or assaults customers for not adhering to a specific idea or opinion.
  • Forced action: Encourages customers to take actions they may not want to take, such as signing up for a service in order to access content.
  • Nagging: It refers to persistent, repetitive and annoyingly constant criticism, complaints, requests for action
  • Subscription traps: Easy to sign up for a service, but complex to cancel it because the option is concealed or involves several steps.
  • Bait & switch: Advertising a certain product/ service but delivering another, often of lower quality.
  • Hidden costs: Hiding additional costs until consumers are already committed to making a purchase.
  • Disguised ads: Designed to look like content, such as news articles or user-generated content.

{Prelims – Geo – PG – Climatology} Cyclone Michaung

  • Context (PIB | IE): Cyclone Michaung is the fourth tropical cyclone in 2023 over the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is likely to make landfall in the coastal districts of TN and AP.
  • The name Michaung was given by Myanmar.

For details on Tropical Cyclones > PMF IAS Physical Geography

For details on How Cyclones are Named? > {GS1 – Geo – PG – Climatology} Cyclone Midhili on 17th November 2023 CA

{Prelims– S&T – AI} Anthrobots

  • Context (IE): Researchers have created anthrobots out of human lung cells capable of moving independently and even healing damaged tissue.
  • They possess the ability to autonomously configure themselves into various forms and dimensions.
  • They can be created from adult human cells without genetic modifications.
  • They can be fused together to form a superbot.
  • They are different from xenobots developed using clumps of embryonic frog cells.
    • The medical applications of ‘xenobots‘ were limited because they weren’t derived from human cells and because they had to be manually carved into the desired shape.
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