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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – July 07-08, 2024

{GS1 – A&C – Art} Project PARI

  • Context (PIB): The Ministry of Culture has launched Project PARI (Public Art of India), an ambitious initiative to showcase the country’s rich artistic legacy.
  • The first phase of Project PARI is taking place in Delhi (to uplift the city’s aesthetic and cultural outlook), coinciding with the 46th session of the World Heritage Committee.

About the Project

  • It aims to create public art that blends ancient traditions with contemporary themes and techniques.
  • It will be executed by Lalit Kala Akademi and the National Gallery of Modern Art.
  • The artworks draw inspiration from various Indian art styles such as Phad paintings (Rajasthan), Thangka paintings (Sikkim/Ladakh), Gond art (Madhya Pradesh), and many more regional artistic traditions.
  • Some sculptures also draw inspiration from World Heritage Sites like Bimbetka, with special emphasis on India’s seven natural World Heritage Sites.
  • The sculptures created for Project PARI pay homage to nature, Indian concepts like Natyashastra, figures like Gandhi and ancient knowledge systems.
  • Project PARI strongly emphasises the participation of women artists, highlighting India’s commitment to empowering its NARI SHAKTI (women’s power).
  • Project PARI transforms urban areas into public art galleries, making art accessible to all citizens. This initiative stimulates dialogue, reflection, and inspiration, enriching the nation’s cultural fabric.

Lalit Kala Academi

  • The Lalit Kala Akademi is an autonomous body registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
  • It is the Government’s apex cultural body in the field of visual arts in India.
  • The Akademi is fully funded by the Ministry of Culture.
  • The academy promotes Indian arts both within India and outside India.
  • It conducts an international exhibition on contemporary art in New Delhi every three years.
  • HQ: New Delhi and regional centres at Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Shimla.
  • It publishes bi-annual art journals, Lalit Kala Contemporary (English), Lalit Kala Ancient (English) and Samkaleen Kala (Hindi).
  • The Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) was the first of the three to be established in 1953, followed shortly by Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) and Sahitya Akademi (SA).

{GS1 – Geo – PG – Geomorphology} Polar Rain Aurora

  • Context (WION): For the first time, a rare aurora named polar rain aurora or Christmas Day aurora was witnessed in the Arctic in 2022.

Aurora

  • Aurora is a luminous glow that occurs when the charged particles from the Sun collide with gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • Auroras are powered by electrons from the solar wind (a stream of charged particles that flow from the sun), trapped in Earth’s magnetic field extension called the magnetotail.
  • When space weather becomes extreme, such as when a coronal mass ejection (a large ejection of plasma and magnetic field from the sun) is released, the magnetotail can be pinched off.
  • The electrons trapped there flow down Earth’s magnetic field lines to the poles.
  • As they do so, they collide with molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, prompting them to glow in auroral colours (blue for nitrogen and green or red for oxygen, depending on altitude).
  • Normally, the aurora displays, moves and pulsates with clearly discernible shapes in the sky.

Northern Lights or Auroras - PMF IAS

For details on Aurora, visit > Solar Storms and Northern Lights and Aurora Lights

How is Polar Rain Aurora different from Normal Aurora?

  • Polar rain aurora was a faint, featureless glow that spanned 4,000 km in extent. It had no structure, no pulsing or varying brightness.
  • It occurred when the solar wind gusts had greatly diminished, creating a calm region around Earth.

{GS2 – Governance – Initiatives} Digital Bharat Nidhi

  • Context (IE): The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) released draft rules to operationalise the Digital Bharat Nidhi
  • Digital Bharat Nidhi would replace the erstwhile Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
  • Contributions made by telecom companies towards the Digital Bharat Nidhi will first be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India. The Centre will deposit the collected funds to the DBN from time to time.
  • Operationalisation: The Centre will appoint an “administrator” who will select “DBN implementers” through “bidding” or invitation of applications from eligible persons.
    • S/He will determine modalities of providing funding to DBN implementers on a case-by-case basis.
  • Funds collected under the DBN will be used to:
    • Support universal service through promoting access to and delivery of telecommunication services in underserved rural, remote and urban areas;
    • Fund research and development of telecommunication services, technologies, and products;
    • Support pilot projects, consultancy assistance and advisory support for improving connectivity; and
    • For the introduction of telecommunication services, technologies, and products.
  • Projects and schemes must meet one or more specific criteria to qualify for DBN funding, such as
    • Provisioning telecommunication services in underserved rural,
    • Introducing next-generation technologies,
    • Promoting sustainable and green technologies,
    • Fostering R&D towards Atmanirbhar Bharat, etc.
  • Telecommunication networks established with DBN funding must be shared on an open and non-discriminatory basis, in line with the administrator’s instructions.
  • USOF is a pool of funds generated by a 5 per cent Universal Service Levy charged upon all the telecom fund operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR).

Learn in detail about the Telecom Bill 2023.

{GS2 – MoCAFPD – Initiative} Right to Repair Portal

  • Context (IE): GoI asked the automobile companies to join the unified Right to Repair Portal India.
  • On National Consumer Rights Day 2022, the Department of Consumer Affairs launched the Right to Repair Portal to help consumers easily access information and services for repairing and reusing their products.

Objectives/Advantage of Right to Repair Portal

  • Reduce E-waste
  • Safeguard the rights of consumers (like reduce the financial burden of consumers)
  • Forward Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for the Environment)
  • Mission LiFE aims to replace a ‘use-and-dispose’ economy with a ‘circular economy’. It incorporates the R3 concept, i.e., Reduce, Reuse (repair) and Recycle.

For details on the Right to Repair Portal, visit > Right to Repair Portal

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Issues} Biodosimetry **

  • Context (TH): Following a radiological event, like a nuclear reactor accident or a dirty bomb detonation, identifying individuals with significant radiation exposure is crucial for timely medical intervention.

What is Biodosimetry?

  • Biodosimetry determines radiation exposure by analysing biological changes in blood, urine, or hair samples. It is useful when exposed individuals don’t have personal radiation monitoring devices.

Traditional Biodosimetry Techniques

Dicentric Chromosome Assay (DCA)

  • Considered the “gold standard,” this method measures chromosomal aberrations in white blood cells.
  • It is specific and sensitive but labour-intensive, limiting its use in large-scale events.

Cytokinesis-Block Micronucleus Assay (CBMN)

  • It detects micronuclei formed due to DNA ejection during cell division after radiation exposure.
  • While faster than DCA, it also requires longer cell culturing and takes about three days for results.

Gamma-H2AX assay

  • It measures phosphorylated histone proteins and provides results within 6-8 hours without cell culturing. It must be performed within 24 hours of exposure due to the dynamics of histone phosphorylation.

High-Throughput Biodosimetry with Automation

Rapid Automated Biodosimetry Tool (RABiT)

  • Columbia University developed RABiT, Which automates biodosimetry assays using 96-well plates, significantly increasing sample processing compared to manual methods.

High Throughput Screening (HTS) Platforms

  • RABiT-II utilises commercially available HTS platforms for automating CBMN and DCA assays.
  • These platforms offer:
    • Increased Throughput: Each machine can analyse thousands of samples per day.
    • Improved Reliability: Rigorous quality control ensures reliable data generation.
    • Wider Availability: Existing personnel and infrastructure facilitate deployment during a crisis.
  • Premature Chromosome Condensation (PCC): This technique condenses chromosomes without culturing, potentially providing same-day dose estimates using the DCA assay.

Biodosimetry in a Two-Tier Triage System

  • To manage the high volume of people requiring testing, a two-tier triage system is envisioned
    • A rapid Point-of-Care (POC) biodosimetry assay at the CRC, providing a binary (exposed/not exposed) result within 30 minutes.
    • A hospital- or lab-based biodosimetry assay, such as DCA or CBMN on an HTS platform, for individuals identified as exposed by the POC test. This more precise test determines specific dose levels and assigns individuals to appropriate treatment categories.

{GS3 – DM – Issues} Stampede and Crowd Management

  • Context (IE | IE): Stampede occurred during a religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district.

What is a Stampede?

  • Stampede is disruption of the orderly movement of crowds leading to injuries & fatalities”, often “in response to a perceived danger, loss of physical space”, or “to attain something seen as gratifying”.
  • 79% of all stampedes in India from 1954-2012 took place in religious mass gatherings.

A map of india with red dots and white text Description automatically generated

Credits: TOI

Triggers of Crowd Disasters

A diagram of a disaster Description automatically generated

Credits: NDMA

  • Structural Causes: Collapse of makeshift bridges, railings, temporary structures, narrow streets with few entry/exits, absence of emergency exits, etc.
  • Fire/Electricity: Fires at illegal and unauthorised structures, the non-availability of fire extinguishers in working conditions, and Building and fire code violations.
  • Inefficient Crowd Control: More than the anticipated crowds at stores/malls/political rallies/ examinations/ religious gatherings/ public celebrations, closed/locked exits, and sudden entry door opening.
  • Crowd Behaviour: Unruly and irresponsible crowd behaviour, such as crowds forcing entrance/exit a venue after the start/closing time, etc.
  • Lack of Coordination between Stakeholders: Coordination gap between agencies (e.g., Police and District Magistrate; PWD, Fire Service, Forest officials, Revenue officials, medical officers etc.

Impact of Crowd Disasters

  • Loss of life and injuries
  • Damage to infrastructure and loss of property
  • Psychological trauma, anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.
  • Erodes public confidence and trust in authorities
  • Temporary or permanent closures of businesses, public facilities, or transportation networks impacting local economies and livelihoods.

Why do stampedes kill?

  • Most stampede casualties are caused by traumatic asphyxia — there is partial or complete cessation of respiration due to external compression of the thorax and/or upper abdomen.
  • Other possible reasons for stampede-related deaths include myocardial infarction (heart attack caused by decreased or complete cessation of blood flow to a portion of the heart), direct crushing injury to internal organs, head injuries, and neck compression.

Crowd Management

  • Crowd management is the process of planning, organising, and monitoring people’s gatherings to maintain a safe and secure environment.
  • It involves planning, organising, and implementing strategies to handle large gatherings, events, or public spaces where crowd control is necessary.
  • Fruin, a renowned theorist in crowd behaviour, suggested the FIST model:
    • F: Crowd Force
    • I: Information upon which the crowd acts;
    • S: Physical Space involved, both in terms of individual density and larger-scale architectural features;
    • T: Time the duration of the incident.
  • This model is useful for venue operators and event organisers when developing proactive strategies during event risk management planning.

NDMA Guidelines on Crowd Management

  • Understanding Visitors and Stakeholders: This is determined by the type of event (religious, youth festival, etc.), the season in which it is conducted, and the type and location of the venue.
  • Capacity planning: Long-term Perspectives for infrastructure development depending on popularity, periodicity of event, weather, terrain, local population, etc.
    • Multiple routes (normal, express, emergency) should be encouraged with varying “route gradients” to easily move typically vulnerable groups.
  • Understanding Crowd Behaviour: Since individual behaviour in a crowd is influenced by the behaviour of others, it is essential to identify and separate miscreants as soon as possible.
    • Understanding crowd behaviour can lead to a community-based approach to crowd control instead of force-based control.
  • Crowd control: Managing the demand-supply gap by controlling the crowd inflow, regulating the crowd at the venue, and controlling the outflow, if needed.
  • Risk Analysis and Preparedness: All event organisers/planners conduct Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), i.e. rating every possible hazard on the dimensions of severity, frequency of occurrence, and difficulty of detection on a scale of 1-10 to arrive at an overall Risk Priority Number (RPN).
  • Timely information exchange between various stakeholders.
  • Safety and security measures: CCTV monitoring of the entire crowd sector-wise, ensuring emergency exits are not barricaded/blocked.

{GS3 – IE – Trade} Balance of Payments

  • Context (IE): India’s current account registered a surplus in the fourth quarter (January-March) of the 2023-24 financial year, marking the first surplus in 11 quarters.

Q4 (2023-24)

  • India’s current account showed a surplus, but the full-year data reflects a deficit.
  • The deficit is likely due to India importing capital goods to boost exports.
  • In Q4, India experienced a deficit in the trade of goods and a surplus in invisible transactions such as services, transfers, and income.
  • The capital account showed a net surplus of $25 bn in Q4, reflecting inflows from foreign investments.

Balance of Payments (BoP)

  • The Balance of Payments (BoP) is a comprehensive ledger that records a country’s financial transactions with the rest of the world, showing inflows and outflows of money.
  • It shows the flow of money coming in (positive) and going out (negative) of the country.
  • The BoP reflects the relative demand for rupees compared to foreign currencies.
  • It helps determine the exchange rate of the rupee.
  • RBI manages the BoP by adjusting foreign exchange reserves to maintain the rupee’s competitiveness.

Components of the BoP

  • Current Account: Records ongoing transactions like trade in goods and services.
    • Trade Account: Tracks physical goods imports and exports (e.g., cars, wheat). A trade deficit occurs when imports exceed exports.
    • Services Account: Tracks trade in services like banking, IT, and tourism. This includes money sent home by Indians working abroad (remittances).
  • Capital Account: Records investment flows like FDI and FII.
  • The current account deficit (CAD) is not always negative for a developing economy like India, as it can indicate strong domestic demand and investment in capital goods.
  • CAD of 1.5%-2% of GDP is consistent with India’s target GDP growth rate of 7%-8%.

{GS3 – S&T – BioTech} Jumping Genes (Transposons) and RNA Bridges

  • Context (TH): Research found that RNA bridges can be used to resurrect inactive jumping genes.

Jumping Genes (Transposons)

  • In 1948, Barbara McClintock, a scientist working on the genetics of maize plants, challenged the prevailing notion that genes were stable and arranged in an orderly manner on chromosomes.
  • She found that some genes could move within the genome and reversibly alter gene expression. These genes were called mobile elements/transposons/jumping genes.
  • This earned her the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983.
  • Transposons are found in various life forms, including bacteriophages, bacteria, plants, worms, fruit flies, mosquitoes, mice, and humans.
  • More than 45% of the human genome consists of transposable elements. They are essential for genetic diversity but can lead to mutations and diseases.
  • However, most transposons have themselves inherited mutations and become inactive (cannot move within the genome).

Importance of Resurrection of Inactive Jumpings Genes (Transposons)

  • Transposons influence gene expression by turning it ‘on’ or ‘off’ using various epigenetic mechanisms.
  • They are called the tools of evolution for their ability to rearrange the genome and induce changes.
  • They may help treat chromosomal inversions or deletions, which current gene editing tools cannot do.
  • Researchers aim to revive inactive transposons for biomedical applications like genetic therapy.
  • The “sleeping beauty” transposon, which had become dormant in vertebrates millions of years ago, was reconstructed by studying fish genomes. This synthetic version was adapted for use in human cells.
  • Epigenetic mechanisms refer to modifications or changes in gene expression that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence itself.

RNA Bridges or RNA-Guided Transposons: New Gene Editing Technique

  • A new RNA-guided gene editing system has been developed, inspired by a gene from a family of bacterial transposons (IS110 family). This gene instructs cells to produce an RNA molecule with two loops.
  • Transposons contain recombinase enzymes that bind to other DNA.
  • So, this RNA with two loops can bind to two pieces of DNA, forming a bridge between them, unlike the usual binding to just one piece. This RNA bridge is used to edit the DNA.
  • Each loop has a specific job.
    • Target binding loop: It recognises and binds to the target DNA that needs to be altered.
    • Donor binding loop: It recognises and binds to a separate piece of DNA used for the editing.
  • Researchers can programme each loop independently, mixing and matching target and donor DNA sequences as needed.
  • The RNA bridge had more than 60% insertion efficiency (the ability to introduce a desired gene) and 94% specificity (the ability to target the intended location on the genome).
  • This technique is also called the bridge recombinase mechanism.
  • IS110 family bacterial transposons are found abundantly in E. Coli bacteria.

RNA Bridges vs CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing Technique

Feature CRISPR-Cas9 RNA Bridge
Established Yes No (emerging)
Gene Editing method Cuts and relies on cellular repair Precise cutting and joining
Gene Editing capabilities Limited (small insertions/deletions of DNA sequences) More versatile (insertions, deletions, and inversions of DNA sequences)
Potential for Errors Higher (leaves small bits of nucleotides added/deleted during the repair process) Lower (makes a clean cut, making the edit specific and tidy)

{GS3 – S&T – Cybersecurity} Snowblind Malware

  • Context (NDTV): A recently discovered malware called ‘Snowblind‘ targets Android users, posing a significant threat to their banking credentials.

What is Snowblind Malware?

  • Snowblind is an Android malware designed to steal banking information.
  • Cybersecurity firm Promon uncovered this malicious software, which can capture banking login details and perform unauthorised transactions on bank accounts.
  • Users typically contract this virus by unintentionally downloading malicious apps.
  • The malware expertly repackages applications to evade detection and misuse accessibility features.
  • It exploits a loophole in the Linux kernel’sseccomp” feature to bypass Android security.
  • It injects code before seccomp activates, enabling it to use accessibility services and monitor screen activity, allowing it to steal login credentials and disrupt banking app sessions.
  • It can disable biometric authentication and two-factor authentication (2FA).

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Jumping spiders

  • Context (TH): Two new species of litter-dwelling jumping spiders from the evergreen forests of the southern Western Ghats were discovered.

A close up of a spider Description automatically generatedA close-up of a spider Description automatically generated

Credits: TH

  • Habrocestum swaminathan, discovered from river Kunthi banks, named after M.S. Swaminathan.
  • Habrocestum benjamin, collected from Thusharagiri, is named after Suresh P. Benjamin, a Sri Lanka-based jumping spider specialist.
  • Significance: It can reshape the understanding of the ecological dynamics and evolutionary processes within the spider communities of the Western Ghats.
  • Jumping spiders, famed for their extraordinary visual acuity and complex behaviours, are the unsung heroes of natural pest control and vital indicators of ecosystem health.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Vampyroteuthis pseudoinfernalis

  • Context (TOI): Scientists found a rare vampire squid, the second known living species, inside the deep water off Hainan island, China.

A map of china with black text and red dots Description automatically generated19 Facts About Vampire Squid - Facts.net

Credits: NY Times, National Geographic

  • Vampire squid, also known as Vampyroteuthis infernalis, has a length of nearly 1 foot (0.3 metres). The species was, for the first time, officially recognised in 1903.
  • It grows a second set of fins near its head while it matures, and then its original fins disappear.
  • They are deep-sea scavengers, which are unlikely to harm anything.
  • Distribution: Temperate and tropical ocean environments in various areas of the world.
  • Diet: They consume small invertebrates, faeces, and dead animals
  • It uses its bioluminescent organs and unique oxygen metabolism to thrive in the parts of the ocean with the lowest oxygen concentrations.
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