Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Special and Local Laws
- Draft Menstrual Hygeine Policy
- Earthquakes in Afghanistan
- First Test on Gaganyaan
- Quantum computers and algorithm
- Minimum Support Price
- Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021
- Facts for Prelims – Large Language Models
1 . Special and Local Laws
Context: The recent tabling of Bills on criminal laws has become a causa celebre. The offences and procedures outlined in the IPC or CrPC represent just one facet of a general criminal law and its vital to recognise that the most critical offences and procedures are encompassed within the Special and Local Laws (SLLs).
What are Special Laws?
- A “special law” is a legal statute designed for a specific subject or matter. These laws are tailored to address particular issues, essentially introducing new offenses where the Penal Code didn’t previously define them.
- Illustrative instances of such laws encompass the Excise Act, Opium Act, Cattle Trespass Act, Gambling Act, and Railway Act.
- In essence, they establish legal regulations for activities that were not previously considered crimes under more general laws.
What are Local Laws?
- A local law is a statutory instrument made by local governments to regulate a broad range of issues within their communities.
Need for reforms in them
- SLLs such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA) suffer from glaringly deficient, ambiguous and vague definitions of offences and terms such as ‘terrorist act’, ‘unlawful activity’, ‘organised crime’, ‘organised crime syndicate’ etc.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 is criticised for its applicability to consensual sexual activities between minors. Concerns have also been raised regarding criminalisation of such conduct through SLLs which would otherwise fall squarely within the domain of civil wrongs or at best, regulatory wrongs.
- Through SLLs, universally accepted due process values are diluted.
- The stringent provisions provided for under Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA, Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002 make the grant of bail a near impossibility.
2 . Draft Menstrual Hygeine Policy
Context: The Centre’s Menstrual Hygeine Policy recently hosted online for comments from the public.
About Menstrual Hygeine
- Menstrual hygiene refers to the practices and measures that individuals, especially women and girls, take to maintain cleanliness and well-being during their menstrual cycles. It is a critical aspect of women’s reproductive health and overall hygiene.
- It involves the use of appropriate menstrual products, such as sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, or reusable cloth pads, to absorb or collect menstrual blood.p
- It is essential to dispose of used menstrual products in a hygienic and environmentally responsible manner. Many places have guidelines for safe disposal, such as using dedicated bins or incinerators.
- Maintaining personal hygiene, including washing hands before and after changing menstrual products, is crucial to prevent infections.
- Educating women and girls about menstrual hygiene is essential. This includes understanding their bodies, managing menstrual pain, and being aware of the importance of maintaining hygiene.
Importance of it
- Health and Well-being: Proper menstrual hygiene practices, including the use of clean and appropriate menstrual products, help prevent infections, skin irritations, and other health issues that can arise from unhygienic practices during menstruation.
- Dignity and Confidence: Menstrual hygiene allows individuals to manage their periods with confidence and dignity. It ensures that menstruating individuals can participate fully in daily activities without fear of leakage or discomfort.
- Reduced Risk of Infections: Inadequate menstrual hygiene can lead to conditions like urinary tract infections and reproductive tract infections. Proper hygiene reduces these risks.
- Comfort and Productivity: When individuals have access to effective menstrual products and the knowledge to manage their periods comfortably, they can focus on their studies, work, and other activities without disruption.
- Education: Access to menstrual hygiene products and facilities in schools is essential to ensure that girls can attend school regularly, even during their periods. Lack of access to these resources can lead to school absenteeism.
- Gender Equality: Promoting menstrual hygiene is integral to gender equality. It challenges societal stigmas and taboos associated with menstruation, ensuring that individuals are not held back or discriminated against due to their natural bodily functions.
- Environmental Sustainability : Opting for eco-friendly menstrual products, like menstrual cups or reusable cloth pads, reduces the environmental impact of disposable products, contributing to sustainability.
About the Policy
- The Menstrual Hygiene Policy officially aims at addressing the long-standing challenges associated with menstruation in our country.
- The policy will adopt a “life cycle”approach and attempt to provide comprehensive support through out the menstrual journey — from menarche to menopause.
- It reiterates its commitment to align with India’s aspirations to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals —particularly in relation to good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation.
- It has also pledged to make menstrual products more accessible and affordable, in addition to creating hygienic toilets in public areas, workplaces, and schools.
- It vows to serve as a catalyst to raise awareness, challenge societal norms and foster a society that embraces menstrual hygiene as a natural and normal part of life.
3 . Earthquakes in Afghanistan
Context: An earthquake of magnitude 6.3 struck western Afghanistan on October 15, barely a few days after multiple earthquakes of similar strength killed at least a thousand people in the Herat province. Multiple earthquakes have destroyed entire villages in the country.
History of Earthquakes in Afghanistan:
- In 1998, an earthquake and subsequent tremors in northeast Afghanistan killed at least 4,500 people.
- Another 6.1-magnitude earthquake in 2002 killed about 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan.
- In 2015, a major earthquake that struck the country’s northeast killed over 200 people in Afghanistan and neighbouring northern Pakistan.
- In 2022, more than 1,000 people were killed when an earthquake of magnitude 6.1 struck Khost and Paktika provinces.
How do earthquakes occur?
- An earthquake occurs when blocks of lithosphere suddenly slip past one another, releasing energy and sending seismic waves through the ground.
- The surface where the lithosphere chunks slip becomes a fault plane. The point within the earth where the fault rupture starts and produces an earthquake is called the focus or the hypocentre. The point on the surface of the earth directly above it is called the epicentre.
- Tectonic plates are slow moving but are always in motion, mostly due to the heat energy generated inside the earth. The edges of these plates are called plate boundaries and consist of faults where most earthquakes occur.
Why do frequent earthquakes occur in Afghanistan?
- Afghanistan is located over multiple fault lines in the region where the Indian and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet. These plates collide often, leading to significant tectonic activity. Afghanistan is located on the Eurasian plate.
- Towards western Afghanistan, the Arabian plate subducts northward under Eurasia, and towards eastern Afghanistan the Indian plate does the same.
- In southern Afghanistan, the Arabian and Indian plates adjoin and both subduct northward under the Eurasian plate.The Hindu Kush mountain range and the Pamir Knot are geologically complex regions where tectonic plates meet.
- The collision and convergence of the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate result in the folding and faulting of the Earth’s crust.
- This geological complexity contributes to the occurrence of earthquakes in the region. The ongoing northward movement of the Indian Plate towards the Eurasian Plate also results in compression, leading to the uplift of the Himalayas and the transmission of tectonic stress across the entire region, including Afghanistan.
- The compression causes the crust to deform, and creates faults and fractures that can slip and generate earthquakes. These interactions at plate boundaries generate significant tectonic stresses and result in earthquakes.
- Afghanistan is also criss-crossed by various active fault systems like the Chaman Fault and the Main Pamir Thrust. These faults are the sources of many earthquakes in the region.
4 . First Test on Gaganyaan
Context: ISRO will test the performance of the Crew Escape System of the planned human space flight mission.
About the Test
- The Flight Test Vehicle Abort Mission-1 (TV-D1) will demonstrate the performance of the Crew Escape System of the Gaganyaan project. The flight will be the first of two abort missions to test the safety mechanisms that will allow the Gaganyaan crew to leave the spacecraft in an emergency.
- The test exercise will see the rocket rise to an altitude of almost 17 km before an abort signal is triggered, leading to the separation of the crew module, which will descend using a parachute for a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.
- The test mission will last a total 532 seconds from liftoff at 8 am to the crew module splashdown about 10 km from the Sriharikota coast. The rocket, ISRO’s new, low-cost Test Vehicle, will reach a peak relative velocity of 363 metres/ second (about 1307 km/ hr) during the flight. The crew module will be empty for the test.
What will be tested?
- Saturday’s TV-D1 flight will demonstrate, first, the new Test Vehicle named as Test Vehicle-Demonstration 1 (TV-D1).
- Second, it will demonstrate a basic version of the crew module which is the capsule in which the astronauts will be seated during the Gaganyaan human space flight.
- The test will check the functioning of systems for separating the crew module from the rocket in case of a mid-flight emergency (abort mission) and the escape of astronauts.
The new Test Vehicle
- While the full-fledged test flight of the crew module into space and back will be carried out on the human rated LVM3 rocket (an upgraded version of the heavy lift GSLV Mk III rocket) in 2024, for the TV-D1 mission, ISRO will use a low-cost basic rocket it has built specifically to test systems.
- This Test Vehicle will use existing liquid propulsion technology, but has innovations such as the throttleable and restartable L110 Vikas engine (which forms the core second stage of the LVM3 rocket), which is capable of controlling propellant use.
- The only previous test flight of the crew module called the Crew module Atmospheric Re-Entry Experiment or CARE in 2014, used a GSLV Mk III rocket. But since each GSLV Mk III launch costs Rs 300-400 crore, ISRO has developed the cheaper Test Vehicle. The Gaganyaan human space flight programme has a budget of around Rs 9,000 crore.
- ISRO will use the Test Vehicle for several concepts that are under development, including the Scramjet engine technology for re-usable space launch vehicles.
Crew Escape System
- In 2018, a failure of the Russian Soyuz FG rocket led to a premature end of Expedition 57 to the International Space Station (ISS).
- As soon as the failure was detected at an altitude of 50 km, the crew module was separated from the rocket in an emergency operation, and the two astronauts aboard the mission, Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and Nick Hague of NASA, landed on Earth 402 km from the launch site at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
- The failure of the Soyuz MS 10 mission was the first mid-flight failure of a Soyuz rocket since 1975, and the first failure of the Soyuz FG rocket in 55 launches.
- ISRO has put safety of the crew at the centre of the Gaganyaan project, and has persuaded the union government that the 2022 deadline set by the Prime Minister in 2018 should be relaxed in order to ensure a safe and successful mission.
- The crew module must be safe for astronauts under conditions of very high heat and pressure, and must have a reliable escape mechanism in the event of an emergency.
- ISRO is developing environmental control and life support systems for the crew module, as well as an integrated vehicle health management system which can sense anomalies that could put the life of an astronaut at risk, and trigger actions to abort the mission.
- Some of these systems will be tested in the TV-D1 flight. The 2014 CARE test had assessed technologies including the performance of parachute-based deceleration system, and a Pad Abort Test-PAT was conducted in 2018.
5 . Quantum computers and algorithm
Context: We often hear that quantum computers efficiently solve problems that are very difficult to solve with a classical computer. But even if the hardware is available to build a quantum computer, exploiting its quantum features requires us to write smart algorithms.
What are Quantum Computers?
- Quantum computers are machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. This can be extremely advantageous for certain tasks where they could vastly outperform even the best supercomputers.
- Classical computers, which include smartphones and laptops, encode information in binary “bits” that can either be 0s or 1s. In a quantum computer, the basic unit of memory is a quantum bit or qubit.
- Qubits are made using physical systems, such as the spin of an electron or the orientation of a photon. These systems can be in many different arrangements all at once, a property known as quantum superposition. Qubits can also be inextricably linked together using a phenomenon called quantum entanglement.
- Speed and Efficiency: Quantum computers have the potential to perform certain types of calculations much faster and more efficiently than classical computers. They can tackle complex problems, such as cryptography or optimization tasks, that would take classical computers years to solve.
- Quantum Cryptography: Quantum computers can enable quantum cryptography, which is considered highly secure. They can generate unbreakable encryption keys and detect any eavesdropping attempts, enhancing the security of online communications.
- Optimization Problems: Quantum computers are well-suited for solving complex optimization problems, such as route optimization for logistics, portfolio optimization in finance, and supply chain management.
- QSim: The Quantum Computing Toolkit Project is one of the first initiatives in the country to address the common challenge of advancing the Quantum Computing research frontiers in India. The project is accomplished by multidisciplinary groups of academicians, scientists, engineers and industry from various leading organizations including IISc Bengaluru, IIT Roorkee and C-DAC.
- National Quantum Mission: aiming to seed, nurture and scale up scientific and industrial R&D and create a vibrant & innovative ecosystem in Quantum Technology (QT).
- Quantum Computing Applications Lab: The initiative by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, focuses on the application development side of Quantum Computing – develop quantum algorithms by offering the research community a platform for experimentation and learning.
What is an algorithm?
- In Computer Science, an algorithm is a list set of instructions, used to solve problems, perform tasks, based on the understanding of available alternatives.
- Algorithms are more than just programming, they are specifications for performing calculations, data processing, automated reasoning or decision making for example.
What is a quantum Algorithm?
- A quantum algorithm, like a classical algorithm, is also a series of steps, but its implementation requires quantum gates. Some problems may need fewer steps on the part of a quantum algorithm than the number of steps required by a classical algorithm. Therefore, the quantum algorithm can speed up the computation.
- One factor that controls this speed-up is the possibility of superposition of the states of quantum bits, or qubits, that encode information.
- Whereas a classical computer uses semiconductor-based gadgets as bits to encode information, quantum computers use qubits. In both cases, the bit or the qubit can have two distinct states, 0 or 1; but qubits have the additional ability to be partly 0 and partly 1 at the same time.
Types of Quantum Algorithms:
- Shor’s algorithm: Shor’s algorithm, one of the early quantum algorithms created by Peter Shor, stands out for its efficiency in factorizing numbers when compared to classical methods. It excels at finding the factors of a given integer. For instance, if we take the number 20, Shor’s algorithm can efficiently identify its factors, such as 2, 4, 5, and 10.
- Quantum search algorithm: Lov Grover developed the quantum search algorithm, another well-known quantum algorithm. It’s designed to seek out a specific numerical pattern within a sizeable list of numbers. In a classical setting, a deterministic algorithm typically demands roughly half the number of steps as there are patterns in the list. To illustrate, if one wanted to find a particular pattern within a list containing a million patterns, the classical method might take approximately half a million steps.
- However, the quantum algorithm streamlines this process significantly. In this case, it would only require about a thousand steps. Furthermore, as the list’s size grows, for every 100-fold increase, Grover’s algorithm only requires ten times more steps. This exemplifies the remarkable acceleration achieved by this quantum algorithm.
6 . Minimum Support Price
Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has increased the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for all Rabi crops for the finanicial year 2024-25.
About the news
- The increase in MSP for wheat, the major Rabi crop, is ₹150 per quintal and the new price will be ₹2,275.
- The highest increase in MSP compared with last year is for lentils (masur) at ₹425 per quintal (new price: ₹6,425 per quintal) followed by rapeseed and mustard at ₹200 per quintal (new MSP: ₹5,650 per quintal).
- However, Farmers’ organisations have criticised the increase as meagre as it did not match the increase in input costs.
- They also protested against the lack of procurement as without procurement MSP is meaningless.
What is MSP?
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
- The minimum support prices are announced by the Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- MSP is price fixed by Government of India to protect the producer – farmers – against excessive fall in price during bumper production years.
- The minimum support prices are a guarantee price for their produce from the Government.
- The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution. In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
- The mandated crops under MSP include 14 crops of the kharif season, 6 rabi crops and two other commercial crops. In addition, the MSPs of toria and de-husked coconut are fixed on the basis of the MSPs of rapeseed/mustard and copra, respectively. The list of crops are as follows:
- Cereals (7) – paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi
- Pulses (5) – gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil
- Oilseeds (8) – groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and nigerseed
- Raw cotton
- Raw jute
- De-husked coconut
- Sugarcane (Fair and remunerative price)
- Virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco
Factors taken into consideration for fixing MSP include:
In formulating the recommendations in respect of the level of minimum support prices and other non-price measures, the Commission takes into account, apart from a comprehensive view of the entire structure of the economy of a particular commodity or group of commodities, the following factors:-
- Cost of production
- Changes in input prices
- Input-output price parity
- Trends in market prices
- Demand and supply
- Inter-crop price parity
- Effect on industrial cost structure
- Effect on cost of living
- Effect on general price level
- International price situation
- Parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers.
- Effect on issue prices and implications for subsidy
Cost of Production
- CACP considers both A2+FL and C2 costs while recommending MSPs. CACP reckons only A2+FL cost for return.
- However, C2 costs are used by CACP primarily as benchmark reference costs (opportunity costs) to see if the MSPs recommended by them at least cover these costs in some of the major producing States.
- The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced the pre-determined principle to keep MSP at levels of one and half times of the cost of production. Accordingly, Government has increased the MSPs for all mandated Kharif, Rabi and other commercial crops with a return of atleast 50 per cent of cost of production for the agricultural year 2018-19.
- During 2019-20 also, Government has increased the MSP of all mandated kharif and rabi crops in line with the principle of fixing the MSP with a return of atleast 50 per cent of the cost of production.
Formulae to arrive at the cost of production
The CACP has three formulae to arrive at the cost of production: A2, A2+FL and C2.
- A2 costs cover all paid-out expenses, both in cash and kind, incurred by farmers on seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, hired labour, fuel and irrigation, among others.
- A2+FL covers actual paid-out costs plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour.
- C2 costs are more comprehensive, accounting for the rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets respectively, on top of A2 + FL.
Importance of MSP
- Protects farmers from abrupt declines in commodity market prices.
- Guarantees that agricultural production adapts to changing consumer demands.
- Offers incentives to boost the production of specific scarce food crops.
- Shields farmers from unpredictable price swings influenced by international market fluctuations.
- Stimulates the expansion of agricultural areas for oilseeds, pulses, and coarse cereals.
- Promotes the adoption of advanced farming technologies and methods to rectify supply-demand imbalances.
- Achieves food security and tackles shortages of critical food items.
Issues with MSP
- Skewed Procurement : A survey by the government showed that less than 6%, or over nine crore agricultural households, are the direct beneficiaries of this programme. In 2019-20 alone, three states — Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh — accounted for 85% of the wheat procurement.
- Limited reach: the reach of MSP is very limited as It is restricted to certain regions that produce wheat and rice.
- Distortion of Cropping Patterns: The MSP is biased against 70% of rainfed farmers who grow millets, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables.
- Procurement and storage : Centralised procurement and storing is one of the biggest challenges of the MSP regime. This not only adds to overhead costs but also leads to a high percentage of wastage as grains rot in warehouses due to inadequate storage facilities.
- Environmental Damage: Occurs when specific crops are favored due to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) they offer, regardless of the soil condition. This leads to the overuse of groundwater resources, increased soil alkalinity, reduced long-term crop production, and significant harm to the environment.
7 . Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Context: A parliamentary committee examining a Bill which seeks to increase the age of marriage of women from the present 18 to 21 has been granted a fresh three-month extension to table its report.
About the news
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2021 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports.
- The panel has received multiple extensions since it began its deliberations.
- The Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports functions under the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 forbids child marriages, and protects and provides assistance to the victims of child marriages.
- The object of the Act is to prohibit solemnization of child marriage and connected and incidental matters.
- To ensure that child marriage is eradicated from within the society, the Government of India enacted Prevention of Child marriage Act 2006 by replacing the earlier legislation of Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929.
- It also calls appointment of Child Marriage Prohibition Officer for whole or a part of a State by the State government.
- It defines a child as a person who has not completed 21 years in case of male and 18 years in case of female.
Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021
- The amendment was introduced in the Lok Sabha to raise the marriageable age for women from 18 to 21 years.
- The government introduced the bill considering the data of the National Family Health Survey(NFHS) and recommendations made by the Jaya Jaitley committee to bring uniformity in marriageable age of women at par with men.
- Time period for filing petition to annul child marriage: Under the 2006 Act, a person who is married before the minimum specified age may apply to annul the marriage. The petition must be filed within two years of attaining majority (i.e., 20 years of age). The Bill increases this to five years (i.e., 23 years).
8 . Facts for Prelims
Large Language Models
- A large language model (LLM) is a deep learning algorithm that can perform a variety of natural language processing tasks. Large language models use transformer models and are trained using massive datasets. This enables them to recognize, translate, predict, or generate text or other content.
- Large language models are also referred to as neural networks (NNs), which are computing systems inspired by the human brain. These neural networks work using a network of nodes that are layered, much like neurons.
- In addition to teaching human languages to artificial intelligence (AI) applications, large language models can also be trained to perform a variety of tasks like understanding protein structures, writing software code, and more.