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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – May 12-13, 2024

{GS2 – IR – India-China} India’s growing trade dependence on China **

  • Context (IE): China has become India’s largest trading partner, surpassing the US in FY24, according to the Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI).
  • India’s bilateral trade with China in FY24 reached $118.4 billion.
  • The US was India’s top trading partner during FY22 and FY23.

Trade Balances of India with Various Countries in FY 2024

  • India has a trade surplus with the U.S.
  • India has a trade deficit in FY 2024 with China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Concern

  • India is heavily dependent on critical products from China, such as telecom and smartphone parts, pharmaceuticals, and advanced technology components.
    • Telecom and smartphone parts account for 44% of the total imports in this category (GTRI report).
    • China supplies lithium-ion batteries for EVs, which make up 75% of such imports.

Steps taken

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Initiatives} CDSCO sole authority for issuing licenses for drugs manufacturing

  • Context (TH): Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has withdrawn powers delegated to State licensing authorities to issue NOCs (no objection certificates) for the manufacture of unapproved, banned or new drugs for export purposes.
  • CDSCO is now the sole authority for issuing manufacturing licences for drugs meant for export.
  • The new order is aimed at ensuring that the CDSCO has a database of all the drugs being supplied outside India.
  • This will improve the overall process efficiency and bolster pharmaceutical exports to key international markets. It will also help uniform protocols and achieve the target of reaching $450 billion by 2047.

About CDSCO

  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is the National Regulatory Authority responsible for the regulation and control of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics.
  • It was established under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940.
  • Nodal ministry: Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • Headed by: Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.

Functions of CDSCO

  • Approval of New Drugs, Clinical Trials in the country.
  • Laying down the standards for Drugs.
  • Control over the quality of imported Drugs.
  • Coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organisations
  • Providing expert advice with a view to bringing about uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

Learn in detail about India’s Medical Device Sector.

{GS3 – S&T – AI} DeadBots

  • Context (DTE): A new study urges caution in the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots designed to mimic deceased loved ones, known as ‘deadbots’.
  • Deadbots, also known as griefbots, are AI-enabled digital representations of departed loved ones.
  • These chatbots simulate their language patterns and personality traits using their digital footprint, like emails, social media posts etc, to create a conversational AI that reflects their personality.
  • Ethical concerns: People might develop strong emotional bonds with such simulations, which will make them particularly vulnerable to manipulation.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Magpies

  • Context (TH): Blue Magpies species are a common sight from the Himalayas to Myanmar.

Magpies - PMF IAS

Credit: iNaturalist

  • Magpies belong to the Corvidae family of birds that includes crows, jays and ravens.
  • They belong to the group of songbirds. However, their voices are rather harsh sounding.
  • Physical description: They have black and white feathers, a long tail, and a purplish-blue iridescent sheen on their wing feathers.
  • Distribution: It is found in Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe.
  • Habitat: Areas with scattered trees and scrub, including cultivated land and suburban areas.
  • Diet: They are omnivores. They feed on animal matter, insects, small mammals, small wild birds and their hatchlings and eggs.
  • Significance: Magpies help control pest insects such as grasshoppers and tent caterpillars, and also “clean up” dead animals and garbage scattered by other animals.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Peregrine Falcons

  • Context (TH): Members of Project Raptor Watch (PRW) from the Madras Naturalist’s Society have been tracking peregrines in Chennai for two years.

Peregrine Falcons - PMF IAS

Credit: Gnanaskandan, Project Raptor Watch

  • Peregrine Falcons are found on all continents except Antarctica and many oceanic islands.
  • They can reach speeds of up to 389 kmph during stoops.
  • They were in decline in the late 1970s due to pesticides like DDT weakening their eggshells.
    • Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is an insecticide used in agriculture.
  • They don’t build nests and prefer skyscrapers, bridges, spires, and electrical pylons as nesting sites.
  • They are high-level predators & play an important role in controlling pigeon populations in urban areas.
    • Pigeons negatively affect local biodiversity by reducing sparrow and mynah populations.
  • India’s local variant is known as Shaheen falcons.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Sea Anemones *

  • Context (TH): Scientists at the ICAR-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR) observed mass anemone bleaching off Agatti island in Lakshadweep.
  • While coral bleaching is common in the Lakshadweep, sea anemone bleaching is seen for the 1st time.
  • NBFGR scientists have been studying sea anemones to propagate them under captive conditions.
  • This research is part of a project funded by the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology under the Ministry of Earth Sciences to promote livelihoods for island women.
  • Concern: Loss of symbiotic algae deprives sea anemones of their main energy source, making them more vulnerable to diseases and increasing mortality rates.

About Sea anemones

sea anemones - PMF IAS

Credit: The Guardian

  • They are invertebrate aquatic animals known for their soft bodies and stinging ability.
  • They are often found living closely with corals and live rocks.
  • They are known to form symbiotic relationships with green algae, clownfish and Hermit crabs.
  • Many rarely move; a few might slowly creep at times.
  • Nematocysts (microscopic stinging structures in the tentacles) are used to capture and paralyse prey.
  • They are in high demand in the aquarium trade.

Learn in detail about Lakshadweep

{Prelims – In News} Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans)

  • Context (TH): Researchers found that the habit of Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) worms eating disease-causing bacteria is inherited by its children.
  • C. elegans is a free-living nematode.
  • It was the first multicellular organism to have its full genome sequenced and neural wiring mapped.
  • It is used as a “model organism.” A model organism is a non-human that is used in the lab to help scientists understand biological processes.
  • Discoveries based on studying C. elegans were recognised by Nobel Prizes in 2002, 2006, and 2008.
  • Nematodes are multicellular, worm-like animals that are different from most other organisms in the soil, such as bacteria and fungi, which are single-celled.

{Prelims – In News} History Sheets

  • Context (IE): The Supreme Court has asked all states and Union Territories to ensure ‘history sheets’ drawn up by their police do not reflect caste prejudices.

What is a history sheet, and against whom is the process of ‘history sheeting’ initiated?

  • The term history sheet appeared for the first time in the Punjab Police Rules of 1934.
  • In police parlance and procedure, a ‘history sheeter is an individual with a significant criminal history — someone who has been implicated in multiple offences.
  • A person can also be ‘history sheeted’ based on an ongoing assessment by police of the danger that they pose to society.
  • The process of opening a ‘history sheet’ is governed by the police rules of respective states, for e.g. the Punjab Police Rules, 1934, applicable in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, and Chandigarh.

Details included in a history sheet

  • According to the Punjab Police Rules, 1934, a history sheet must mention “relations and connections” (associates, relatives etc.) to give clues regarding those persons “with whom the criminal is likely to harbour when wanted by the police”.
  • Moreover, any property owned by the criminal and her mode of earning a livelihood should also be entered to “facilitate a judgment as to whether the criminal is at any time living beyond his means, etc”.

Are all kinds of crimes and criminals clubbed together in a single history sheet?

  • Depending on the police assessment, there are multiple kinds of history sheets, including ‘KD (Known Depredators) sheets’, ‘suspect sheets’, ‘rowdy sheets’, ‘members of organised crime sheets’, and ‘budding criminal sheets’.
    • KD sheets are made for criminals convicted of crimes such as dacoity, robbery, or burglary.
    • Rowdy sheeters are those who habitually commit or abet the commission of offences involving breach of the peace.
    • Suspect sheeters are those who have been convicted once for an offence of burglary or theft.
  • The exact procedure for opening history sheets and the conditions in which they are opened varies, depending on the state or UT’s standing orders and police manuals.

{Prelims – In News} Sickouts **

  • Context (IE): Vistara pilots and Air India Express cabin crew called in sick en masse (sickout).

What is sickout?

  • It involves employees taking coordinated sick leaves to disrupt operations.
  • It is a form of industrial action without formal strikes.
  • It surprises management as there’s no prior notice or formal procedure.
  • Unlike strikes, sickouts are informal, swift, and lack legal constraints.
    • Strikes involve formal processes with notices, procedures, and union involvement.

Reasons for the Rise of Sickouts

  • There has been a decline in formal strikes and labour agitations globally. However, workers still feel the need to organise and use collective bargaining tools to address their grievances.
  • It is most effective for specific worker categories vital for company operations.
    • It’s hard for disgruntled employees to rally support from colleagues in other departments as they may not sympathise with the agitation, especially if grievances are not shared.
  • Punitive actions are challenging for management because they’re disguised as illness protests.
  • Identifying leaders of sickouts is difficult as they’re often informal and not led by recognised unions.
  • They have been used in different countries by workers in sectors where striking is legally prohibited.

Recent Examples

  • In 2022, a significant number of IndiGo’s aircraft technicians and cabin crew went on mass sick leave.
  • Engineers at Kingfisher Airlines staged a sickout in 2013.
  • Pilots at Air India and Kingfisher staged a sickout in 2012.
  • In 2009, over 300 pilots at Jet Airways went on mass sick leave to protest against management.
  • In April 2020, scores of Amazon workers in the US called in sick over the pandemic response.

Why are formal strikes in decline?

  • Laws and regulations in many parts of the world weaken labour unions and their bargaining power.
  • Private sector workers struggle to form unions due to unsupportive legislation.
  • Management and government may refuse to recognise or derecognise unions.
  • Competing unions with different agendas may exist, leading to internal conflicts.
  • Issues like politicisation, victimisation of union leaders, and distrust among workers arise.

{Prelims – In News} Tawaifs

  • Context (IE): Historians have pointed towards the misrepresentation of Tawaif culture in the recent Heeramandi movie.
  • The word ‘Tawaif’ comes from the Urdu word tawaf, which means circumambulation. The performers who spun in circles to the music came to be known as Tawaifs.
  • Tawaifs, the Awadhi term for highly skilled courtesans, rose to prominence between the 18th and 19th centuries in the royal courts of Awadh, part of present-day Uttar Pradesh. They were also known as devadasis in the South, baijis in Bengal, and naikins in Goa.
  • Tawaifs were highly skilled in music, dance, and other arts and were influential, refined and valued. The tawaifs reached their zenith under the Mughal rule.
  • Tawaif women were known for their power in society and their profound cultural wisdom. They were entertainers who earned a living via the patronage of rich nawabs and Kings. Their work was primarily performing mujra and reciting ghazals.
  • They were the epitome of autonomy. They were financially independent & were not forced to marry or have children. They were also the only women who were allowed to inherit property at the time.
  • Post the colonisation of India, when the British imposed their outdated 19th century Victorian morals on women, tawaifs were looked down upon.
  • Over a period of time, their status in society went from being connoisseurs of art to sex workers.

Role in the Independence Movement

  • The tawaifs had actively participated in anti-British actions behind the scenes. Their buildings, known as “kothas“, became meeting areas and hiding places for anti-British elements.
  • From 1920 to 1922, during the non-cooperation movement, a group of Varanasi courtesans formed the Tawaif Sabha to support the independence war.

{Prelims – Sci – Bio – Diseases} H5N1 Virus in dairy cattle

  • Context (TH): The H5N1 virus was recently detected in dairy cattle in Texas. Cattle were not previously thought to be susceptible to influenza A virus.

Concern: Cows can become the next “evolutionary lab for flu host-switching.”

  • Currently, Pigs are called the “evolutionary lab for flu host switching” precisely because their upper respiratory tracts contain both human-flu and avian-flu host cell receptors.
  • Currently, the cell surface receptor that influenza uses in birds is subtly different from the one in the human upper respiratory tract.
  • But when pigs are infected with human and avian influenza viruses simultaneously, the viruses can potentially undergo reassortment, wherein small segments of their genomes are swapped.
  • The swapping might sometimes help the avian flu viruses evolve and become better adapted to bind to human receptors, allowing them to spread more easily from birds to humans.
  • The H1N1 pandemic (2009) was due to the reassortment of the virus in pig populations.
  • A recent study found an abundance of human and duck receptors in cows’ mammary glands and lung alveolar cells.
  • This provides a perfect environment for the evolution of H5N1 viruses, which can easily spread from animals to humans. This makes dairy cattle to have similar potential as pigs to serve as evolutionary intermediaries between avian and human flu.
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