Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Government’s projects on border infrastructure and connectivity
- Earth quake
- FATF Mutual Evaluations
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Government’s Projects on Border Infrastructure and Connectivity
Context: At an unscheduled briefing during a Parliament session, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar released details of the government’s projects on border infrastructure and connectivity.
Projects on Border infrastructure and connectivity
- Projects on Border infrastructure and connectivity are focused on initiatives in the north and east along India’s 3,488 km border with China (Line of Actual Control or LAC), including ramping up infrastructure on the Indian side in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as projects connecting India to “friendly” neighbouring states such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.
What are the initiatives undertaken?
- A multi-pronged approach has taken place under this includes
- Improving connectivity to the LAC through roads,
- Bridges and tunnels,
- Improving cross-border connectivity to neighbouring countries via highways, bridges, inland waterways, railroads, electricity lines and fuel pipelines,
- Modernising and constructing integrated check posts (ICPs) at all the border crossings to smooth trade, and
- Funding and constructing infrastructure projects in neighbouring countries.
- While many of these projects have commenced or been in the pipeline for several decades, the government claimed that it has accelerated them and completed execution. For example, the government said that the length of roads constructed in the China border areas in the period from 2014 to 2022 (6,806 km) “is almost double the length” constructed from 2008-2014 (3,610 km), and cited a similar case for bridges built.
What are the infrastructure projects in the neighbourhood countries?
- There are dozens of projects in the neighbourhood that have been planned, financed or constructed — They are
- Major outlays like the railway links to Nepal and Bangladesh, the Mahakali motorable bridge and the Maitri Setu between Tripura and Bangladesh,
- The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) which includes a 158 km waterway,
- The Sittwe port project and road to Mizoram.
- “South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline” between Motihari in India and Amlekhgunj in Nepal,
- High Speed Diesel pipeline with Bangladesh that will reduce petrol prices and road congestion, and
- A Bhutanese dry port in Pasakha bordering West Bengal being developed under an Indian government grant.
2 . Quasicrystals
Context: Scientists have discovered a new type of quasicrystal, one with 12-fold symmetry, in the Sand Hills of north central Nebraska, USA, according to a recent study.
What is Quasicrystal?
- Quasicrystal is essentially a crystal-like substance. However, unlike a crystal, in which atoms are arranged in a repeating pattern, a quasicrystal consists of atoms that are arranged in a pattern that doesn’t repeat itself regularly.
Discovery of Quasicrystals
- For the longest time, physicists believed every crystalline arrangement of atoms must have a pattern that repeats itself perfectly over and over again.
- However in 1982, when material scientist Dan Shechtman discovered crystal structures that are mathematically regular, but that do not repeat themselves.
- While studying diffraction patterns, which occur when X-rays are passed through the crystals, Shechtman noted “a regular diffraction pattern that did not match any periodically repeated structure” and concluded that he has come across what are now known as quasicrystals. For his discovery, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011
- Since their discovery, quasicrystals have been widely created in labs.
- In solids, the constituent atoms are confined to a fixed arrangement.
- In crystals, the atoms are arranged in a pattern that periodically repeats itself.
- In quasicrystals, the atoms are arranged in a pattern that repeats itself at irregular, yet predictable, intervals.
What are the Uses of Quasicrystals?
- It is known to possess novel electrical, photonic, and mechanical properties that aren’t found in other materials, making them an attractive prospect for materials scientists
- They are used in manufacturing non-stick frying pans, needles for acupuncture and surgery, dental instruments and razor blades
What are the findings of the new study?
- Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study, ‘Electrical discharge triggers quasicrystal formation in an eolian dune,’ has been done by Luca Bindi of the University of Florence (Italy), Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University (USA) and others.
- The study found that although quasicrystals can be easily produced, they are rarely found outside of the laboratory. The first one was identified in a meteorite, found in 2009 near the Khatyrka River in Chukhotka, Russia. The second one was discovered in 2021 during the study of debris from the site of the world’s first nuclear explosion, which took place in 1945 in New Mexico.
- Scientists suggest that in both instances, for the formations of quasicrystals, materials were subjected to extremely high-pressure and high-temperature shock events.
- According to the APS report, an “analysis of the meteorite (found in 2009) sample revealed the temperature reached at least 1200 degree Celsius and the pressure 5 GPa, while the New Mexico sample reached 1500 degrees Celsius and closer to 8 GPa. These transient, intense conditions contorted the materials’ atoms, forcing them to arrange into patterns unseen for usual laboratory conditions.”
- The latest discovery is only the third time that scientists have come across a quasicrystal in nature. As per the study, the quasicrystal was created by a lightning strike or a downed power line in a wind-created dune in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
- “The discharge produced extreme temperatures (more than 1,710 degree Celsius) that led to the formation of a fulgurite, a tube of fused and melted sand along with traces of melted conductor metal from the power line”, the study said. The new quasicrystal was found inside a tubular piece of fulgurite.
- The scientists behind the latest research also mentioned that the discovered quasicrystal has a dodecagonal or 12-sided atomic structure, which is quite unusual because the previously found quasicrystals, as well as the lab-grown ones, have five-fold symmetric patterns, according to the APS report.
3 . Earthquake
Context: Two large earthquakes, one of magnitude 7.8 and closely followed by a magnitude 7.5, hit south-eastern Turkey, claiming at least 17,000 lives and counting, wreaking considerable damage in Turkey as well as Syria. Nearly 200 aftershocks have followed with earthquakes of magnitude 6 being reported in the region three days after the first tremblor.
What causes earthquakes?
- The earth’s crust is made up of roughly 15 massive, segmented slabs called tectonic plates which are constantly in motion. The land on which buildings are built rests on these plates. The plates continually collide, push and grate against each other and the meeting points of these plates are made up of a series of ‘faults.’
- The pent-up energy from the nestling plates, along fault lines, is often released when an imbalance in pressure causes rocks on either side of the fault to re-adjust.
- One set of rocks rising up relative to the other is a ‘normal’ fault, andOne sliding down relative to the other is a ‘reverse’ fault.
- When they grate or move past one another, it’s a ‘strike-slip.’
- The energy released travels as waves that cause the ground to shake.
What kind of earthquake occurred in Turkey and Syria?
- Turkey and Syria lie at the confluence of three plates — the Arabian Plate, the Anatolian Plate and the Eurasian Plate, making the region an extremely seismically active zone.
- The Arabian Plate is inching north into Europe, causing the Anatolian Plate (which Turkey sits on) to be pushed out west.
- The bulk of Turkey sits on the Anatolian Plate between two major faults: the North Anatolian Fault and the East Anatolian Fault.
- Geologists say that the earthquakes were from a ‘strike-slip’ which is typical of the earthquakes in the region
Why were these earthquakes so devastating and deadly?
- As this region hosts many fault systems, there are many earthquakes being recorded in the region.
- Only those that result in a release of energy above a certain threshold are captured by seismological instruments.
- The impact of the earthquakes was so far-ranging because the fault system runs along nearly 190 km
Earthquakes in India
- The Indian Plate, colliding into the Eurasian plate and tilting upwards, created the Himalayas.
- The most common type of earthquake in the Himalayan region is due to reverse faults because of the compressive forces between the two plates
- Scientists have longed warned of a massive, overdue earthquake in the Garhwal-Kumaon range
How much does the magnitude of earthquakes correlate to the damage they inflict?
- It is only broadly true that the magnitude of earthquakes corresponds to death and devastation.
- But Chile, a country with a long history of devastating earthquakes (over 9), is a model for earthquake preparedness. Despite experiencing earthquakes with magnitudes over 8 in 2014 and 2015 casualties are extremely minimal due to years of strictly enforcing building codes.
- A lack of enforcement of building codes in Turkey and the timing of the earthquake in the early morning are believed to be major factors for the death and devastation inflicted.
- India, which have lots of rules (on building codes) but there is limited enforcement. For example, the 1993 Latur earthquake was a little over 6 magnitude but caused enormous damage because building codes are not enforceable there.
4 . FATF Mutual Evaluations
Context: Government agencies have expedited efforts to further strengthen the anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing frameworks in view of the coming Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessment of India in the fourth round of mutual evaluations expected later this year.
What is FATF Mutual Evaluations?
- FATF mutual evaluations are in-depth country reports analysing the implementation and effectiveness of measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
- Mutual evaluations are peer reviews, where members from different countries assess another country.
- A mutual evaluation report provides an in-depth description and analysis of a country’s system for preventing criminal abuse of the financial system as well as focused recommendations to the country to further strengthen its system.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessment of India
- According to the FATF, the possible onsite assessment of India is due in November 2023, whereas the findings may be discussed at its June 2024 plenary. The mutual evaluation of India was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Earlier In its 2010 review, the FATF had highlighted two shortcomings in the Indian legal framework. While the confiscation of assets was based on convictions, which was subsequently addressed by amending Section 8(5) of the PMLA, money laundering was not a standalone offence — it was dependent on scheduled/predicated offences under other penal laws.
What are the Scope of the Mutual Evaluations?
- The scope of mutual evaluations involves two aspects:
- Technical compliance, for assessment of whether the necessary legal framework and other associated measures are in force and whether the supporting institutional framework is in place; and
- Effectiveness, to determine if the systems are working towards achieving the defined set of outcomes
- Technical Compliance- On the legal front, India has one of the most stringent anti-money laundering/terrorist financing laws in the world.
- Example- Fugitive Economic Offenders Act and the Black Money Act
- On the aspect of “effectiveness”, apart from the instances of attachment/seizure/freezing of assets, conviction rate in the money laundering/terror financing cases would be crucial to demonstrate effective implementation.
About Financial Action Task Force?
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering and to maintain certain interest.
- In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.
- The objectives of FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
- FATF is a “policy-making body” that works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
- FATF monitors progress in implementing its Recommendations through “peer reviews” (“mutual evaluations”) of member countries.
- Since 2000, FATF has maintained the FATF blacklist and the FATF grey list.
- The blacklist has led financial institutions to shift resources and services away from the listed. This in turn has motivated domestic economic and political actors in the listed countries to pressure their governments to introduce regulations that are compliant with the FATF
5 . Facts for Prelims
Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
- Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a statutory body under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,
- It regulates the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
- Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.
- The Board consists of non-official members and a chairman (all of whom are appointed by Central Government) and functions with headquarters at Mumbai.
- It has nine regional offices, one each at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati.
- The Regional Offices are assisted in the examination of films by Advisory Panels.
- The members of the panels are nominated by Central Government by drawing people from different walks of life for a period of 2 years.
- Free float refers to those shares which are readily available for trading in the stock market.
- It is defined as the number of outstanding shares minus the number of shares that are restricted from trading. Generally speaking, shares held by promoters and large institutional investors are normally not freely traded in the market.
- The free float of a company can sometimes give investors a rough idea about the likely liquidity of the company’s shares in the public market. It should be noted that the weightage given to a company’s stock in certain indices is based on the company’s market capitalisation.
- Any listed company has to ensure that at least 25% of its shareholding is with the public at large.
- Shares held by non-promoters — be it retail investors, mutual funds, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), and insurance companies — are called public float or public shareholding.
- A large free float is crucial for investors as it facilitates price discovery and provides them with liquidity. It denotes that there are diverse shareholders with a significant number of shares available for trading.
World Hindi Conferences
- It is a world conference on Hindi language
- It consists of several Hindi scholars, writers and laureates from different parts of the world who contribute to the language.
- The concept of World Hindi Conferences was envisaged by Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti, Wardha in 1973.
- As a result, the first World Hindi Conference was organized four and half decades back from 10-12 January 1975 in Nagpur, India.
- Till date 11 World Hindi Conferences have been organized in different parts of the world.
- The 12th World Hindi Conference is being organized in Fiji from 15-17 February 2023 by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in association with the Government of Fiji.
- During the 11th World Hindi Conference held in Mauritius in 2018, a recommendation was made to organize its next edition in Fiji.
- “The main theme of the Conference is “Hindi: From Traditional Knowledge to Artificial Intelligence”
- Agasthiyar observatory was present in Agasthyarkoodam peak in western ghats
- This 19th-century observatory established by Scottish meteorologist John Allan Broun.
- He used the facility for recording magnetic and meteorological observations in tandem with the Thiruvananthapuram astronomical observatory
- He was invited by the ruler of the erstwhile Travancore Uthram Tirunal Marthanda Varma to helm the Thiruvananthapuram observatory following the death of its first director John Caldecott in 1849.
- He took charge of the Trevandrum observatory and set about the task of finding an apt location for another since the research on terrestrial magnetism required simultaneous measurements from two different locations.
- He founded the Agasthiyar mountain at a height of 6,200 ft above sea level for his second observatory.
- His team began to record observations from the observatory in July 1855.
- A fever caused by inclement weather impaired Broun’s hearing in one ear, prompting him to relocate to Europe in 1859.
- The observatory remained dormant until his return in 1862
- It was finally closed in 1881 by the then Madras Governor Sir William Denison
- Aero India is a biennial air show and aviation exhibition held in Bengaluru, India at the Yelahanka Air Force Station.
- It is organised by the Defence Exhibition Organisation, Ministry of Defence. The Aero India is the largest air show in Asia.
- The five-day event, held on the theme ‘The runway to a billion opportunities’, will showcase India’s growth in aerospace and defence capabilities
- It will focus on Made-in-India defence products.
- Varanasi, also known as Kashi, is a major city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
- It is situated on the banks of the River Ganges, which is joined by its tributary, the River Assi, at Assi Ghat in Varanasi.
- The Assi river is a minor tributary of the Ganga that borders Varanasi on the south. The name Varanasi itself is interpreted to be derived from combination of ‘Varuna’ and ‘Asi’ on the name of rivers.
- The River Assi flows through the southern part of Varanasi and is an important part of the city’s cultural and religious heritage.
- Along with the Varuna that borders the city on its north, the Assi river is considered holy, and earlier used to join the Ganga near Assi Ghat.