Current Affairs January 05, 2024: Antibiotic Resistance, Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme, Hasdeo Arand, Prerana Programme, Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), Cybercrimes, Blasts in Iran

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Table of contents

{GS1 – Geo – EG – Mineral Resources} Graphene

  • Context (LM): Researchers created a functional semiconductor from graphene.
  • Graphene is a single layer (monolayer) of pure carbon, tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. It is an allotrope of carbon.
  • It is extracted from graphite. Graphite is arranged in a 3D crystalline manner, whereas, graphene is a 2D crystal, only an atom thick.

Properties

  • Graphene is the thinnest (one atom thick) compound known.
  • It is the lightest material known and the strongest compound discovered (between 100-300 times stronger than steel, and harder than diamond).
  • It is an excellent conductor of electricity and has high thermal conductivity.
  • It is flexible, transparent, and has a large surface area.

General 4

Applications

  • Electronics industry: It is used in applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices due to its thin composition and high conductivity.
  • Biomedical industry: It can be used for targeted drug delivery, ‘smart’ implants, etc.
  • Automobile industry: Graphene is highly inert and so can act as a corrosion barrier between oxygen and water diffusion.
  • Potential alternative to lithium-ion batteries: It can be used to develop smaller, slimmer batteries with higher capacity, faster charging, and increased longevity than traditional batteries.

For details on Semiconductor >Semiconductor Manufacturing in India

{GS2 – IR – Middle East} Iran Blasts

  • Context (IE): Two blasts struck the city of Kerman in Iran, leading to the deaths of at least 103 people.
  • A crowd was present to mark four years since the 2020 US-ordered killing of General Soleimani.
  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi blamed the Israeli government for the explosions.

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Qassem Soleimani

  • Qassem Soleimani led the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
  • Soleimani was known to have participated in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty and the establishment of a theocratic state in Iran.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

  • The IRGC is a wing of the Iranian military and is believed to undertake foreign missions.
  • It was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US in 2019.
  • The US alleges it provides guidance, training, funding, and weapons to Shia militant partners and proxies in other Middle Eastern countries.

Recent situation in the Middle East

{GS2 – MeitY – Initiatives} ERNET India

  • Context(PIB): MeitY introduces ERNET India’s web portal, providing domain registration, DNS, and additional services for educational institutions.

ERNET India, or the Education and Research Network

  • It is a not-for-profit scientific society operating under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • It provides advanced networking and communication infrastructure to educational and research institutions nationwide.
  • It serves as the exclusive domain registrar for educational and research institutions, managing domain names with extensions such as ‘ac. in,’ ‘edu. in,’ and ‘res.in.
  • ERNET India also helps with web accessibility, campus Wi-Fi, smart classrooms, and internet connections for schools and research centres.

{GS2 – MoE – Schemes} Prerana Programme

  • Context (PIB): Ministry of Education launches PRERANA: An Experiential Learning program.
  • The program will run from a Vernacular School, established in 1888, in Vadnagar, Gujarat.
  • The curriculum of Prerana School is prepared by IIT Gandhi Nagar.
  • Students can register through the portal forth where the registered applicants will go through a selection process, conducted at the School/block level, on designated ‘Prerana Utsav’ day.
  • It is a week-long residential program for selected students of class IX to XII.
  • A batch of 20 selected students (10 boys and 10 girls) will attend the program, every week from various parts of the country.
  • The curriculum is rooted in nine value-based themes: Swabhiman and Vinay, Shaurya and Sahas, Parishram and Samarpan, Karuna and Sewa, Vividhta and Ekta, Satyanishtha and Shuchita, Navachar and Jigyasa, Shraddha aur Vishwas, and Swatantrata and Kartavya.

{GS2 – MoPNG – Initiatives} Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP)

  • Context (PIB): The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas initiated the 9th bidding round under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP).
  • OALP was launched in 2016 under Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP).
  • Under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy, Companies can put in an Expression of Interest (EoI) for any area throughout the year but such interests are accumulated thrice in a year.
  • The Government will examine the interest and if it is suitable for award, then the government will call for competitive bids after obtaining necessary environmental and other clearances.
  • Successful implementation of OALP requires building of National Data Repository.

National Data Repository (NDR)

  • Operational since 2017, it is a centralized database of geological and hydrocarbon information.
  • It provides reliable exploration and production data allowing potential investors to make informed decisions.
  • It functions under Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy

  • Approved in 2016, it replaced the erstwhile New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).

Main aspects of HELP

  • Open Acreages: Freedom to investors for carving out blocks of their interest (OLAP).
  • Single, uniform licensing system to cover all hydrocarbons (ie. Conventional and Unconventional hydrocarbons) under a single licensing framework, instead of the present system of issuing separate licenses for each kind of hydrocarbons.
  • Shift to Revenue sharing model from profit sharing model/production sharing contract model (PSC).
  • Marketing and Pricing Freedom: Only subject to a ceiling price limit.
  • Conventional hydrocarbons: oil, gas.
  • Unconventional hydrocarbons: Coal bed methane, Gas Hydrates, Oil sands, shale oil etc.
Revenue Sharing Contracts Model
  • It is seen as a better alternative to OALP and NELP.
  • The government gets a share in revenue from the very beginning.
  • In contrast, PSC (Production Sharing Contracts) allows the government to have revenue share only after costs are recovered by the explorer.
    • In PSC, explorers inflate investment by classifying revenue expenditure (salaries, maintenance etc.) as capital expenditure (equipment, technology, etc.).
    • This resulted in a lower government share & delays revenue to the government by decades.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Issues} Antibiotic Resistance

  • Context (DTE|DTE ): Roche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company, has discovered a new class of antibiotics (Zosurabalpin) effective against gram-negative bacteria.
  • Zosurabalpin exhibits strong activity against various species of Acinetobacter that cause pneumonia and sepsis, particularly Carbapenem-resistant A baumannii (CRAB).
  • It is considered a significant development since no antibiotic has been introduced in the last 50 years against gram-negative bacteria.

About Gram-negative bacteria

A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated

Acinetobacter

  • Acinetobacter belongs to the Gram-negative group of bacteria.
  • These bacteria are ubiquitous in nature and can be found in soil, water, and various environments.
  • it causes a variety of diseases, including lung infections (“pneumonia”), sepsis and blood, wound, or urinary tract infections.

Carbapenem-resistant A. baumannii (CRAB)

  • An example of harmful Acinetobacter strain is CRAB.
  • It has gained attention due to its ability to develop resistance to multiple antibiotics.
  • CRAB is classified as a priority 1 (critical) pathogen by the WHO. Other drug-resistant forms of bacteria are Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacteriaceae.
  • According to the 2019 report of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on antibiotic resistance, CRAB was responsible for killing 700 people in 2017 and added about $281 million in healthcare costs.

Sepsis

  • Sepsis is a life-threatening condition arising from the body’s overreactive response to an infection, leading it to injure its own tissues and organs.
  • Bacterial infections cause most cases of sepsis. Sepsis can also result from other infections, including viral infections, such as COVID-19 or influenza, or fungal infections.

National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

  • The Institute is under the administrative control of the Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The Institute has its headquarters in Delhi.
  • It functions as the nodal agency in the country for disease surveillance, facilitating prevention and control of communicable diseases.
  • It also deals with Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR).

Global Point Prevalence Survey (PPS)

  • It is developed by WHO.
  • Global-PPS creates global awareness about antibiotic use and resistance.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} Hasdeo Arand

  • Context (TOI): Tribal rights activists condemn large scale tree-felling in Hasdeo.
  • Called as lungs of Chhattisgarh, Hasdeo Arand is a 1,70,000-hectare forest.
  • The forest falls under Korba, Sujapur and Sarguja districts with a sizeable tribal population.
  • The Hasdeo River, the largest tributary of Mahanadi River, flows through it.
  • It is the largest unfragmented forest in Central India consisting of pristine Sal and teak forests.
  • The forest is a catchment area of Hasdeo Bango Dam, which helps in the irrigation of around 3,00,000 hectares for crops.
  • It is home to animals like sloth bears, elephants, bird species, and endangered butterfly species.
  • The forests are ecologically sensitive and are part of the elephant corridor.
  • The Aranya region is home to 22 coal mines.

    India Is Pulling Back on Coal. For Many, the Damage Is Done | TIME

Protest Against Mining in Hasdeo

  • In 2010, GoI designates Hasdeo Arand a “no-go” area for mining because of its rich forest cover.
  • In 2011, the ‘No-Go’ policy circumvented. The Go, No-Go classification of forests was replaced and Parse East Kente Basab coal mine project was given a go ahead as part of Phase I.
  • In 2022, Chhattisgarh government gave green light to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam for coal mining as part of coal block’s Phase II.
  • The tribal community has been protesting against the coal mining projects in the region to protect the ecologically sensitive region.

{GS3 – Envi – Species} Tigers

Efforts taken to improve Tiger habitat

  • Reduced human interference due to efforts taken to curb infiltration and trespassing.
  • Increase in grassland coverage and creation of watering holes.
  • Introduced 200 chital to increase the prey base.
  • Introduction of “Tiger augmentation and monitoring project” in 2018.

What is Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE)?

  • MEE is a tool used by governments and international bodies to understand how well National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are being managed.
  • There are 30 Headline Indicators developed under six elements of the MEE framework.
  • The ratings are assigned in four categories, as
    • Poor up to 40%
    • Fair: 41 to 59%.
    • Good: 60 to 74%.
    • Very Good: 75% and above.

2 IUCN Framework for evaluating Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME)  

IUCN Framework for evaluating Protected Area Management Effectiveness

What was the need of this tool?

  • India has a network of 903 protected areas.
  • India also has 70% of the global tiger population 70% of Asiatic lions and more than 60% of leopard’s global population.
  • Hence, to assess the efficacy of protected areas, an evaluation of management effectiveness is required.

{GS3 – IE – Banking} Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme

  • Context (IE): The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested a Delhi resident concerning a Bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme.
  • In this case, bitcoins were invested instead of money. This case also questioned crypto exchanges as they converted bitcoins to Indian currency without any accounting trail.

Ponzi schemes

  • Ponzi schemes are fraudulent investment schemes promising high rates of return without much risk to investors.
  • Fraudulent schemes run by Charles Ponzi in the US in 1882 led to the popular term ” Ponzi Scheme”.
  • It works like a multi-level pyramid scheme.
  • A Ponzi scheme pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors.
  • As the flow of fresh investments runs out, the scheme falls apart.
  • However, multi-level marketing itself is not illegal in India if a product is being sold.
  • However, direct marketing companies cannot promote pyramid or money circulation schemes.

A diagram of people's organization Description automatically generated

  • Non-clear jurisdiction of regulatory bodies on Ponzi schemes led to their popularity.
  • Prize Chit and Money Circulation (Banning) Act, 1978, bans Ponzi schemes in India.
  • It empowers state governments to enforce the law.
  • The Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 also investigates similar cases.
  • The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Act 2019 has been enacted to prevent fraudulent schemes.

{GS3 – Infra – Initiatives} Indus Water Treaty | Ratle Hydro Electric (HE) Project

  • Context (PIB): Ratle Hydro Electric Power Corporation Limited (RHPCL) signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Rajasthan for forty years.
  • A PPA allows the customer to receive stable and often low-cost electricity with no upfront cost while also enabling the generating company to take advantage of tax credits and stable, certain income.
  • The “Run of River” Ratle HE project is on River Chenab in Kishtwar (Jammu & Kashmir).
  • With a generation capacity of 850 MW, it also has a gravity dam.
  • Pakistan alleged in 2013 that the Project breached the Indus Water Treaty, but the World Bank approved the Project.

Indus Water Treaty (IWT)

  • India and Pakistan signed the IWT in September 1960.
  • The World Bank is also a signatory to the pact.
  • The treaty provides for river water sharing mechanisms and information exchange between the two sides on the use of the water of the Indus River system.
  • Western Rivers (Chenab, Jhelum, Indus) are allocated to Pakistan, while Eastern Rivers (Sutlej, Beas, Ravi) are allocated to India for unrestricted use.

  • India is left with 20% water rights, while Pakistan enjoys 80% water usage rights.
  • India can also utilise western rivers for agricultural usage and “run of river” projects.
  • A Permanent Indus Commission was also constituted as a dispute resolution body with an annual meeting requirement.
  • Unresolved disputes are referred to the World Bank-appointed Neutral Expert.

Chenab River

  • The Chenab originates near the Bara Lacha Pass in the Lahul-Spiti part of the Zanskar Range.
  • Two small streams on opposite sides of the pass, namely Chandra and Bhaga, join to form Chenab.

Hydroelectric Power

  • Hydroelectricity (HE), or hydroelectric power, is electricity generated by harnessing hydropower (waterpower) to rotate the power-generating turbine.
  • It can be Conventional dam-based, Pumped, Run of the river or Tidal based on the source’s potential and topography.

Run of the River Project

  • Water coming from upstream is utilised to rotate the turbine to generate hydropower.
  • Small or no reservoir is built on it, so any oversupply goes unutilised.
  • A constant supply of upstream water is required for it.

Other HE Projects on the Indus Basin

Kishanganga HE Project

  • It is a run-of-the-river project in Bandipora (Jammu and Kashmir).
  • It requires diverting water from the Kishanganga River through the tunnel to a power plant.
  • Pakistan objected to it, arguing it would impact water flow in the Kishanganga River (Neelum in Pakistan).
  • India won in The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (CoA) in 2013.

Kiru HE Project

  • It has a 624 MW installed capacity, proposed on river Chenab (Kishtwar district).

Pakal Dul HE Project

  • It is a reservoir-based scheme proposed on river Marusudar (right bank tributary of river Chenab) in Kishtwar (Jammu & Kashmir).

Dulhasti Power Station

  • It is run-of-the-river with an installed capacity of 390 MW to harness the hydropower potential of river Chenab (Kishtwar district).

Salal Power Station

  • It is a run-of-the-river scheme with an installed capacity of 690 MW to harness the hydropower potential of the Chenab River in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.

{GS3 – Infra – Initiatives} Kuppa Pumped Hydro Project

  • Context (PIB): Govt. of Gujarat to invest Rs. 4,000 crores in proposed 750 MW Kuppa Pumped Hydro Storage Project.
  • NHPC and the Government of Gujarat plan to develop and utilise pumped hydro storage projects as an effective solution for energy storage.
  • This project will help achieve the national objective of clean and green energy, i.e. attaining 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and a “Net Zero” target by 2070.

NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation)

  • NHPC Limited is India’s leading hydropower company with a total installed capacity of 7,097.2 MW of renewable energy.
  • Established in 1975, Headquartered in Faridabad, Haryana.
  • Hydroelectric power the company has expanded its objects to include other sources of energy like Solar, Geothermal, Tidal, Wind etc.
  • At present, NHPC is a Mini Ratna Category-I Enterprise of the Central Government.

Criteria for granting Maharatna status to CPSEs

  • CPSEs having Navaratna status.
  • Listed on the Indian stock exchange with minimum prescribed public shareholding under SEBI regulations.
  • Should have a significant global presence/international operation.
  • In the last three years, the company should have achieved,
    • Average annual turnover > Rs. 25,000 crores.
    • Average annual net worth > Rs. 15,000 crores.
    • Average annual net profit (after tax) > Rs. 5,000 crores.

Criteria for granting Navratna status to CPSEs

  • CPSEs should be Miniratna I, Schedule ‘A company.
  • CPSEs must have achieved an ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ rating in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for three out of the last five years.
  • Additionally, eligible CPSEs must attain a composite score of 60 or above in six selected performance indicators.

A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated

6 Performance Indicators

Criteria for granting Miniratna status to CPSEs

Miniratna Category-I status

  • Must have achieved profitability in the last three consecutive years.
  • Need to demonstrate a pre-tax profit of Rs.30 crores or more in at least one of the three years.
  • Must maintain a positive net worth.

Miniratna Category-II status

  • Requires a consistent track record of profitability for the last three consecutive years.
  • They should also have a positive net worth to be eligible for consideration.

Department of Public Enterprises, Ministry of Finance

{GS3 – IS – Cyber Security} Cybercrimes

  • Context (TH): In 2023, Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) frauds accounted for 11% of cyber-financial frauds originating in India, as per the Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C).
  • The central government’s cybercrime portal (cybercrime.gov.in) and the 1930 helpline received 1,310,329 complaints about cyber-related financial frauds. This included AePS frauds where biometrics were cloned.
  • The scams involve cloning people’s Aadhaar-linked biometrics. This is done by using silicon fingerprints and unauthorised biometric devices.

What is AePS?

  • AePS, or Aadhaar-enabled Payment System, is a financial service in India that allows customers to carry out banking transactions using only the bank name, Aadhaar number, and fingerprint.
  • It eliminates the requirement for OTPs and the necessity to input bank account information and other financial details.

Types of Services Available under AEPS

Aadhaar Enabled Payment Services and System | AEPS - FSS

  • Privacy Issues: Concerns about the potential misuse of Aadhaar data. For example, leak in biometric information.
  • Authentication Errors: leading to the exclusion of individuals from essential services.
  • Centralisation of personal data makes it a potential target for cyber-attacks.
  • Excessive Government Surveillance: Due to the extensive use of Aadhaar in public and private transactions.
  • Concerns about the involvement of foreign entities in Aadhaar-related projects and potential risks associated with international data sharing.

About Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C)

  • It is a specialized agency established by the Government of India to combat and coordinate efforts against cybercrime.
  • I4C operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in India.
  • I4C manages the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (cybercrime.gov.in), which serves as an online platform for individuals to report cybercrimes.
  • It has seven components:
    • National Cyber Crime Threat Analytics Unit
    • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal
    • National Cyber Crime Training Centre
    • Cyber Crime Ecosystem Management Unit
    • National Cyber Crime Research and Innovation Centre
    • National Cyber Crime Forensic Laboratory Ecosystem
    • Platform for Joint Cyber Crime Investigation Team.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO)

  • Context (IE): Union Cabinet approves Rs 1250 Cr for India’s participation in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO).
  • SKAO is an international project to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.
  • Headquarters: United Kingdom.
  • It is an array of antennas located in South Africa and Australia.
  • Objective: Answer key questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology like studying the universe‘s history, understanding how galaxies evolve, deciphering the nature of dark matter, etc.
  • Member countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the UK.
    • India joined in 2012 as an Associate Member. In 2022, the National Centre for Radio Astronomy, Pune, and SKAO signed cooperation agreements.
    • India is participating through the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • The SKAO will comprise a network of high and low-frequency radio telescopes:
    1. SKA-Low in Australia,
    2. SKA-Mid in South Africa.
Radio telescopes, unlike optical telescopes, can detect invisible gas and therefore can reveal areas of space that may be obstructed by cosmic dust.

The Road that leads to the Square Kilometre Array | Spaceaustralia

Square Kilometre Array Project - Rau's IAS

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)

  • It is the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope array for low frequencies.
  • Location: Khodad, 80 km north of Pune, Maharashtra.
  • It detects radio waves from celestial bodies with wavelengths of about one meter.
  • It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), which is part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.
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