Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Transformer in Chat Gpt
- Indian Law on Sexual Harassment in workplace
- Aadhaar enabled payment service
- Indigenous Dengue Vaccine
- Onset of monsoon
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Transformer in Chat GPT
Context: Machine learning (ML), a subfield of artificial intelligence, teaches computers to solve tasks based on structured data, language, audio, or images, by providing examples of inputs and the desired outputs. This is different from traditional computer programming, where programmers write a sequence of specific instructions. The ML model learns to generate desirable outputs by adjusting its many knobs – often in the millions.
What is ChatGPT?
- Chat GPT is an artificial intelligence-powered language model developed by AI research company: OpenAI.
- The name “GPT” stands for “Generative Pretrained Transformer”. The model has been trained on a huge range of text data, allowing it to generate human-like responses to a wide variety of questions and prompts.
- Chat GPT-3 works by pre-training a deep neural network on a massive dataset of text and then fine-tuning it on specific tasks, such as answering questions or generating text. The network is made up of a series of interconnected layers, or “transformer blocks,” that process the input text and generate a prediction for the output.
What are Deep Neural Networks?
- ML has a history of developing methods with hand-crafted features that may work only for specific, narrow problems. Such hand-crafted features are combined with simple, or shallow, learning classifiers that typically have up to tens of thousands of knobs. In technical parlance, these knobs are called parameters.
- In the first part of the 2010s, deep neural networks (DNNs) took over ML by storm, replacing the classic pipeline of hand-crafted features and simple classifiers.
- A deep neural network (DNN) is an artificial neural network (ANN) with multiple layers between the input and output layers.
- DNNs ingest a complete document or image and generate a final output, without the need to specify a particular way of extracting features. While these deep and large models have existed in the past, their large size – millions of parameters – hindered their use.
- The resurgence of DNNs in the 2010s is attributed to the availability of large-scale data and fast parallel computing chips called graphics processing units.
Transformer architecture in ChatGPT
- In a pioneering paper entitled ‘Attention Is All You Need’ that appeared in 2017, a team at Google proposed transformers – a DNN architecture that has gained popularity across all modalities: image, audio, and language.
- Transformers are a type of deep learning algorithm that is commonly used in the field of natural language processing (NLP).
- They are designed to process sequences of data, such as text, and learn patterns in that data that can be used for various NLP tasks, such as text generation or question answering.
- How it works?– It is a two-part neural network. The first part is an ‘encoder’ that ingests the input sentence in the source language (e.g. English); the second is a ‘decoder’ that generates the translated sentence in the target language (Hindi).
- The encoder converts each word in the source sentence to an abstract numerical form that captures the meaning of the word within the context of the sentence, and stores it in a memory bank. Just like a person would write or speak, the decoder generates one word at a time referring to what has been generated so far and by looking back at the memory bank to find the appropriate word. Both these processes use a mechanism called ‘attention’, hence the name of the paper.
- A key improvement over previous methods is the ability of a transformer to translate long sentences or paragraphs correctly.
- Application of Transformers- Transformers have also become popular in computer vision: they simply cut an image into small square patches and line them up, just like words in a sentence. By doing so, and after training on large amounts of data, a transformer can provide better performance than CNNs.
- Transformer models constitute the best approach for image classification, object detection and segmentation, action recognition, and a host of other tasks.
- Transformers’ ability to ingest anything has been exploited to create joint vision-and-language models that allow users to search for an image (e.g. Google Image Search), describe one, and even answer questions regarding the image.
What is attention?
- Attention in ML allows a model to learn how much importance should be given to different inputs. A fascinating aspect of attention-based models is their ability for self-discovery, by parsing a lot of data.
- In the last year, transformer models have become larger and train on more data than before. When these colossuses train on written text, they are called large language models (LLMs). ChatGPT uses hundreds of billions of parameters whereas GPT-4 uses hundreds of trillions.
- Transformers are attention models on steroids. They feature several attention layers both within the encoder, to provide meaningful context across the input sentence or image, and from the decoder to the encoder when generating a translated sentence or describing an image. Their utility in diverse domains makes transformers a very powerful and universal model.
What are the concerns?
- There are some concerns. The scientific community is yet to figure out how to evaluate these models rigorously. There are also instances of “hallucination”, whereby models make confident but wrong claims.
- One must urgently address societal concerns, such as data privacy and attribution to creative work, that arise as a result of their use.
2 . Indian Law on Sexual Harassment in workplace
Context: Ten years after the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH) came into force, the Supreme Court Bench of India has said there are “serious lapses” and “uncertainty” regarding its implementation, issuing directions to the Union, States, and Union Territories to verify if all government bodies had formed Internal Complaint Committees and to ensure that the composition of such panels is in strict adherence with the Act.
How was the PoSH Act formed?
- Background – In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, a social worker with the Women’s Development Project of the Rajasthan government was gang-raped by five men after she tried to prevent the marriage of a one-year-old girl.
- While hearing pleas filed by activist groups against the crime, the SC, noting the absence of any law “enacted to provide for effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality” guarantee against “sexual harassment at workplaces”, laid down a set of guidelines in 1997, christened the Vishakha Guidelines, to fill the statutory vacuum till a law could be enacted. These were to be “strictly observed in all workplaces” and were binding and enforceable in law.
- The Court drew its strength from several provisions of the Constitution including Article 15 (against discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth), also drawing from relevant International Conventions and norms such as the General Recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which India ratified in 1993.
- After this, the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill was introduced by then Women and Child Development Minister, Krishna Tirath, in 2007.
- It was later tabled in Parliament and went through amendments. The amended Bill came into force on December 9, 2013, as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) or PoSH Act.
How are sexual harassment, the workplace, and an employee defined under the PoSH Act?
- Definition of Sexual Harassment: The PoSH Act defines sexual harassment to include unwelcome acts such as physical contact and sexual advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
- It also lists down five circumstances that would constitute sexual harassment if they are connected to the above-mentioned acts-
- (i) Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment
- (ii) Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in employment
- (iii) Implied or explicit threat about present or future employment status
- (iv) Interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment and
- (v) Humiliating treatment likely to affect health or safety.
- Definition of Employee– Under the Act, an employee is defined not just in accordance with the company law. All women employees, whether employed regularly, temporarily, contractually, on an ad hoc or daily wage basis, as apprentices or interns or even employed without the knowledge of the principal employer, can seek redressal to sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Definition of Workplace- The law expands the definition of ‘workplace’ beyond traditional offices to include all kinds of organisations across sectors, even non-traditional workplaces (for example those that involve telecommuting) and places visited by employees for work. It applies to all public and private sector organisations throughout India.
What are the requirements imposed on employers?
- Constitution of Internal Complaints Committee: The law requires any employer with more than 10 employees to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) which can be approached by any woman employee to file a formal sexual harassment complaint.
- It has to be headed by a woman, have at least two women employees, another employee, and, to pre-empt any undue pressure from senior levels, to include a third party such as an NGO worker with five years of experience, familiar with the challenges of sexual harassment.
- Besides, the Act mandates every district in the country to create a local committee (LC) to receive complaints from women working in firms with less than 10 employees and from the informal sector, including domestic workers, home-based workers, voluntary government social workers and so on.
- These two bodies have to conduct inquiries in line with the POSH Act and comply with the “principles of natural justice” stated in the Rules of the Act. A woman can file a written complaint either to the internal or local complaints committee within three to six months of the sexual harassment incident.
- There are two ways to resolve the issue by the committee- “through conciliation” between the complainant and the respondent (which cannot be a financial settlement), or committees could initiate an inquiry, taking appropriate action based on what it finds.
What are the hurdles to the Act’s implementation?
- The Supreme Court in its recent judgment called out the lacunae in the constitution of ICCs, citing a newspaper report that 16 out of the 30 national sports federations in the country had not constituted an ICC to date.
- The judgment also flagged the improper constitution in cases where the ICCs were established — pointing out that they either had an inadequate number of members or lacked a mandatory external member.
- Lack of accountability- One of the concerns is that the Act does not satisfactorily address accountability, not specifying who is in charge of ensuring that workplaces comply with the Act, and who can be held responsible if its provisions are not followed.
- the law is largely inaccessible to women workers in the informal sector as more than 80% of India’s women workers are employed in the informal sector.
- In workplaces sexual harassment cases are hugely underreported in India for a number of reasons. The framers of the law had recognised that complaints could be more effectively addressed within civil institutions (workplaces) so that women did not have to go through the daunting processes of the criminal justice system related to accessibility and timeliness. However, the inefficient functioning and the lack of clarity in the law about how to conduct such inquiries, and lack of awareness in women employees about such committees and who to approach in case of facing harassment, have ended up duplicating the access barriers associated with the justice system.
- Most importantly, the power dynamics of organisations and fear of professional repercussions also stand in the way of women for filing complaints.
- Women have even been penalised and lost their employment. While the law says that inquiries conducted by ICCs/LCs should follow principles of “natural justice” as done in the judiciary, stakeholders, as well as the Saksham Committee report (2010), have pointed out that the due process requirement for ICs should be distinct from the that employed by the legal system, keeping in mind the nature of sexual harassment as a form of gender-discrimination, where women are disproportionately affected in patriarchal systems.
What are the SC’s recent concerns and directions?
- The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and A.S. Bopanna give its 62-page verdict in an appeal filed against a March 15, 2012 judgment of the Bombay High Court dismissing a Goa University employee’s writ petition against a disciplinary authority’s decision to dismiss him from service on the basis of complaints of sexual harassment.
- The court directed the Union, States and UTs to undertake a time-bound exercise to verify whether Ministries, Departments, government organisations, authorities, public sector undertakings, institutions, bodies, etc. had constituted Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs), Local Committees (LCs) and Internal Committees (ICs) under the Act.
- These bodies have been ordered to publish the details of their respective committees in their websites. They were given eight weeks to comply and file affidavits in the apex court.
3 . Aadhar enabled payment System
Context: Not sharing One Time Passwords (OTPs) or revealing bank account details may sound like a foolproof idea to avoid falling into the trap of scammers. However, cybercriminals have now taken to using silicone thumbs to operate biometric POS devices and biometric ATMs to drain users’ bank accounts.
What is Aadhar enabled Payment System and how does it remove the need for an OTP?
- Aadhaar-enabled Payment Services (AePS) is a bank-led model which allows online financial transactions at Point-of-Sale (PoS) and Micro ATMs through the business correspondent of any bank using Aadhaar authentication.
- The model removes the need for OTPs, bank account details, and other financial details. It allows fund transfers using only the bank name, Aadhaar number, and fingerprint captured during Aadhaar enrolment, according to the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI).
- For AePs, these are the only inputs required for certain types of transactions, including cash deposit, cash withdrawal, balance inquiry, mini statement, Aadhaar to Aadhaar fund transfer, authentication, and BHIM Aadhaar pay.
What are the Objectives of AePS?
- To ensure that bank customer is empowered to use their Aadhaar as proof of identity to conduct basic banking transactions like cash withdrawal, cash deposit, fund transfer, balance enquiry, and also avail the mini statement facility through a business correspondent.
- To help meet the goal of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Central Government of India of enabling financial inclusion for all.
- To help RBI meet the goal of electronification of retail payments.
- Enabling banks to direct Aadhaar-initiated interbank transactions through a centralised switching and clearing organisation.
- To enable the government to facilitate the disbursing of government schemes such as NREGA, social security pension, etc where Aadhaar is used as a valid document to authenticate such availing of schemes.
- To enable inter-operability across banks in a safe and secure way.
- To establish a foundation for services related to Aadhaar-enabled banking.
Are AePS transactions enabled by default?
- Neither Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) nor NPCI mentions clearly whether AePS is enabled by default.
- Users who wish to receive any benefit or subsidy under schemes notified under section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, have to mandatorily submit their Aadhaar number to the banking service provider, according to UIDAI. Aadhaar is also the preferred method of KYC for banking institutions, thus enabling AePS by default for most bank account holders.
How is biometric information leaked?
- Aadhaar numbers are readily available in the form of photocopies, and soft copies, and criminals are using Aadhaar-enabled payment systems to breach user information.
- Scammers have, in the past, made use of silicone to trick devices into initiating transactions. But UIDAI said that Aadhaar data, including biometric information, is fully safe and secure.
How to secure Aadhaar biometric information?
- The UIDAI is proposing an amendment to the Aadhaar (Sharing of Information) Regulations, 2016, which will require entities in possession of an Aadhaar number to not share details unless the Aadhaar numbers have been redacted or blacked out through appropriate means, both in print and electronic form.
- The UIDAI has also implemented a new two-factor authentication mechanism that uses a machine-learning-based security system, combining finger minutiae and finger image capture to check the liveness of a fingerprint.
- Additionally, users are also advised to ensure that they lock their Aadhaar information by visiting the UIDAI website or using the mobile app. This will ensure that their biometric information, even if compromised, cannot be used to initiate financial transactions.
- Aadhaar can be unlocked when the need for biometric authentication arises, such as for property registration and passport renewals, after which it can again be locked.
What can be done in case of a financial scam using Aadhaar?
- If users have not already locked their Aadhaar biometric information, they should do so immediately in case of any suspicious activity in their bank accounts. Users are also advised to inform their banks and the concerned authorities as soon as possible. Timely reporting can ensure that any money transferred using fraudulent means is returned to the victim.
4 . Indigenous Dengue Vaccine
Context: Moving closer to being able to develop the country’s first vaccine against dengue, drug-makers Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotec have applied to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) call for ‘Expression of Interest’ for collaborative Phase-III clinical trials for indigenous manufacturers.
Dengue – Global Health Threat
- Dengue or break-bone fever is a viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to people, causing a significant number of deaths across the world. The global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically with about half of the world’s population now at risk.
- Although an estimated 100-400 million infections occur each year, over 80% are generally mild and asymptomatic. Hence, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified dengue to be one among the top ten global health threats in 2019.
- According to the National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control, 1,93,245 cases of dengue and 346 deaths were reported across the country in 2021. Last year, more than 30,000 people contracted dengue with the numbers rising during the peak monsoon season.
- Every year, from July to November, an upsurge in cases of dengue disease can be observed mainly because of water logging, and unhygienic areas. The disease has a seasonal pattern, which means that the peak comes after the monsoon.
- As of now, there is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue. Hence there is an urgent need to develop effective vaccines against dengue viral disease
Vaccine development for dengue virus
- In September last year, Phase-1 trials of the vaccine were conducted. Also, phase 1/2 pediatric trials are underway for another dengue vaccine for which ICMR has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SII
- Phase-III protocol has been approved by Drugs Controller General of India (January 2023) and the company is trying to upscale vaccine production with the trials expected to start in August-September this year.
- CMR has noted that the desirable characteristics of a dengue vaccine includes acceptable short- and long-term safety profile (no antibody dependent enhancement), inducing protection against all four serotypes of dengue, reducing risk of severe diseases and deaths, inducing a sustained immune response and effectiveness irrespective of the earlier sero-status and age of the individual.
- Dengue virus is transmitted through the bite of a female Aedes mosquito. Aedes is a daytime feeder and can fly up to a limited distance of 400 meters. Dengue mosquitoes can’t breed once the temperature falls below 16 degrees.
5 . Onset of Monsoon
Context: The arrival of monsoon over the Kerala coast will likely be delayed by a few days, the India Meteorological Department
- The onset of monsoon over the Kerala coast is just a marker of the official beginning of the four-month monsoon season that brings more than 75 per cent of India’s annual rainfall. An early or delayed onset over Kerala does not in any way dictate monsoon performance over the rest of the season.
How IMD predicts the Onset of the monsoon?
- Rainfall : If after 10th May, 60% of the available 14 stations enlisted, viz. Minicoy, Amini, Thiruvananthapuram, Punalur, Kollam, Allapuzha, Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Thalassery, Kannur, Kudulu and Mangalore report rainfall of 2.5 mm or more for two consecutive days, the onset over Kerala be declared on the 2nd day, provided the following criteria are also in concurrence.
- Wind field : Depth of westerlies should be maintained upto 600 hPa, in the box equator to Lat. 10ºN and Long. 55ºE to 80ºE. The zonal wind speed over the area bounded by Lat. 5-10ºN, Long. 70-80ºE should be of the order of 15 – 20 Kts. at 925 hPa. The source of data can be RSMC wind analysis/satellite derived winds.
- Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) : INSAT derived OLR value should be below 200 wm-2 in the box confined by Lat. 5-10ºN and Long. 70-75ºE.
- Northern Limit of Monsoon (NLM) : Southwest monsoon normally sets in over Kerala around 1st June. It advances northwards, usually in surges, and covers the entire country around 15th July. The NLM is the northern most limit of monsoon upto which it has advanced on any given day.
Factors influencing Onset of Monsoon
- There are several factors that influence the onset as well as the progress of Monsoon.
- The first one is the low-pressure area or a depression in the Bay of Bengal which forms in the Bay during the last few days of May or the beginning of June.
- Similarly, there are low pressure areas in the Arabian Sea which can pull the Monsoon current forcing it to Kerala ushering Monsoon into the region.
- The third factor is the cyclonic vortex which is more closely marked than the usual cyclonic circulation off the Kerala coast and is associated with cloud mass.
- The fourth factor is the trough along the West Coast due to which rain is seen increasing and the intensity of winds also sees a rising trend.
- Lastly, the cross-equatorial flow of winds is another factor which is responsible for the onset of Monsoon. Significant cross equatorial flow of winds wherein winds from the Southern Hemisphere cross to the Equator becoming south westerly. A significant cross equatorial wind pattern is quite capable of bringing a strong Monsoon surge towards the Indian mainland.
6 . Facts for Prelims
- Spurious liquor is characterised by the liquid mixture containing methanol as well.
- The methanol molecule (CH 3OH) consists of one carbon atom bonded with three hydrogen atoms and one hydroxyl group.
- Production- The most common way to produce methanol is to combine carbon monoxide and hydrogen in the presence of copper and zinc oxides as catalysts at 50-100 atm of pressure and 250° C.
- In the pre-industrial era, but going back to ancient Egypt, people also made methanol (together with several other byproducts) by heating wood to a very high temperature.
- Applications– Methanol has several industrial applications, including as a precursor to acetic acid, formaldehyde, and aromatic hydrocarbons. It is also used as a solvent and as antifreeze. In Tamil Nadu, the manufacture, export, import, storage, and sale of methanol requires licences under the 1959 Rules.
- How does spurious liquor kill?- The deadliness of spurious liquor arises from methanol. The human body contains infinitesimal quantities of methanol (4.5 ppm in the breath of healthy individuals, per a 2006 study) as a result of eating some fruits. But even for an adult, more than 0.1 ml of pure methanol per kilogram of body-weight can be devastating.
- Once ingested, methanol is metabolised in the liver by ADH enzymes to form formaldehyde (H-CHO). Then, ALDH enzymes convert formaldehyde to formic acid (HCOOH).
- The accumulation of formic acid over time leads to a baneful condition called metabolic acidosis. Acidosis can lead to acidemia: when the blood’s pH drops below its normal value of 7.35, becoming increasingly acidic.
- The blood’s pH is normally maintained by a balance between an acid, like carbon dioxide, and a base, like the bicarbonate ion (HCO 3–). The ‘metabolic’ means the concentration of the bicarbonate ion is dropping, leading to the acid gaining the upper hand.
- Formic acid also interferes with an enzyme called cytochrome oxidase, which in turn disrupts cells’ ability to use oxygen and leads to the build-up of lactic acid, contributing to acidosis.
- Methanol-poisoning can also cause cerebral edema, haemorrhage, and death.
- How can methanol-poisoning be treated?- Once methanol is ingested, the body takes some time to completely eliminate it. One estimate suggests that as much as 33% is still left behind after 48 hours. It is completely absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract and the blood-methanol level can reach its maximum value within 90 minutes.
- There are two immediate ways to treat methanol poisoning. One is to administer ethanol (of a pharmaceutical grade, by healthcare workers). This may sound counterintuitive but ethanol competes very well with methanol for the ADH enzymes, which metabolise ethanol around 10x faster. As a result, the methanol is kept from being metabolised to formaldehyde.
- The other option is to administer an antidote called fomepizole, which has a similar mechanism: it slows the action of the ADH enzymes, causing the body to produce formaldehyde at a rate that the body can quickly excrete, preventing the deadlier effects from kicking in.
- Both courses of action are limited by the availability of their characteristic compounds. Fomepizole is expensive whereas pharmaceutical-grade ethanol needs to be administered under supervision
- Healthcare workers may also have the individual undertake a dialysis to remove methanol and formic acid salts from the blood, and mitigate damage to the kidneys and the retina.
- They may also administer folinic acid, which encourages the formic acid to break up into carbon dioxide and water.
- Both fomepizole and folinic acid are in the WHO’s list of essential medicines.
- The formic acid would have begun accumulating in dangerous amounts around 18-24 hours after ingestion, affecting the optic nerve, kidneys, the heart, and the brain. Ophthalmic effects have been observed in 50% of those who have consumed methanol, and they become apparent within 24 hours.
Amrit Bharat Station Scheme
- Ministry of Railways has formulated a new policy for modernization of stations named “Amrit Bharat Station” scheme.
- Amrit Bharat Station scheme envisages development of stations on a continuous basis with a long term vision.
- It is based on Master Planning for long term and implementation of the elements of Master Plan as per the needs and patronage of the station.
- Presently, the scheme envisages to take-up 1275 stations for upgradation/modernisation over Indian Railway.
- Objectives:- The scheme aims at preparation of Master Plans of the Railway stations and implementation of the Master Plan in phases to enhance the facilities including and beyond the Minimum Essential Amenities (MEA) and aiming for creation of Roof Plazas and city centres at the station in long run.
- The scheme shall aim to meet the needs of the stakeholders, station usage studies as far as possible based on availability of funds and inter-se priority.
- The scheme shall cater for introduction of new amenities as well as upgradation and replacement of existing amenities.
- This scheme will also cover the stations where detailed techno-economic feasibility studies have been conducted or are being conducted but the work for construction of Roof Plazas has not been taken up yet, ensuring the phasing of Master Plan being suitably implemented and relocation of structures and utilities being given more emphasis in the phasing plans.
Innovation for Defence Excellence(iDEX)
- The iDEX initiative was launched by the Ministry of Defence in April 2018. iDEX aims to achieve self – reliance and foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia.
- iDEX has partnered with leading incubators in the country to provide handholding, technical support and guidance to the winners of iDEX challenges.
- iDEX will be funded and managed by a ‘Defence Innovation Organization (DIO)’ which has been formed as a ‘not for profit’ company as per Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 for this purpose, by the two founder members i.e. Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) – HAL & BEL. iDEX will function as the executive arm of DIO, carrying out all the required activities while DIO will provide high level policy guidance to iDEX.
- Objectives- To Facilitate rapid development of new, indigenized, and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector, to meet needs for these sectors in shorter timelines
- To Create a culture of engagement with innovative startups, to encourage co-creation for defence and aerospace sectors
- To Empower a culture of technology co-creation and co-innovation within the defence and aerospace sectors.