Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Space Sustainability
- Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group meeting
- Critical Mineral
- Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
- State Ranking Index for NFSA
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Space Sustainability
Context : On June 23, the U.K. hosted the fourth summit for Space Sustainability in London in collaboration with the Secure World Foundation.
New Plan for Space Sustainability
- In line with the ambitious U.K. National Space Strategy, George Freeman, the Minister of Science, announced a new ‘Plan for Space Sustainability.’
- This plan aims to “set a global commercial framework for the insurability, the licensing and the regulation of commercial satellites.
- It also aims to reduce the cost for those who comply with the best sustainability standards and thus encourages a thriving ecosystem for the industry.
What does sustainability in outer space mean?
- The earth’s orbital environment has more than tripled in the past decade. As the cost of missions reduce and the number of players increase, the complexity of missions and slot allotment issues also increase. With the emergence of large constellations and complex satellites, there is a risk of collisions and interference with radio frequencies.
- As the outer space is considered a shared natural resource, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in 2019 adopted a set of 21 voluntary, non-binding guidelines to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
- Long-term sustainability looks toward space research and development of technology to ensure the reuse and recycling of satellites at every stage.
Issues affecting Space Sustainability
- Orbital crowding : It poses a direct threat to the operations and safety of a mission and is likely to cause legal and insurance-related conflicts.
- Space debris : After the completion of a mission, an ‘end-of-life protocol’ requires space objects to be moved to the graveyard orbit or to a low altitude. Neither of the options are sustainable in the long run.
- Other causes of concern are solar and magnetic storms which potentially damage communication systems. Such space weather threats need to be addressed along with the efforts to identify the terrestrial carbon footprint of outer space missions.
What does the U.K. plan for space sustainability entail?
- The U.K. calls for an “Astro Carta” for space sustainability, based on the Artemis Accords model for sustainable space exploration.
- The U.K. Space Sustainability plan mentions four primary elements: to review the regulatory framework of the U.K.’s orbital activity; to work with organisations such as the G-7 and the UN to emphasise international engagement on space sustainability; to try and develop safety and quality-related metrics that quantify the sustainability of activities; and, to induce additional funding of $6.1 million on active debris removal.
- The U.K. also confirmed investments in its National Space Surveillance and Tracking Programme, which works on collision assessment services for U.K.-licenced satellite operators.
- Post-Brexit, the U.K. space programme has been transformed. It now hopes to drive the sustainability factor internationally and provide an opportunity for the private sector to develop models that enhance operations’ safety and reduce debris footprint. The U.K. aims to draw investments not only from government investors but also from others.
Where does India stand on space sustainability?
- The headquarters of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (In-SPACe) was formally inaugurated last month. One can expect an increased role of the private sector in India’s space activities. India hosts promising start-ups like Agnikul and Skyroot, which are developing launch vehicles for small payloads and Dhruva Space, which works on high-tech solar panels for satellites and satellite deployers. India is well on its way to create a subsystem that addresses global sustainability questions.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has initiated ‘Project NETRA’ to monitor space debris. The domestic surveillance system would provide first-hand information on the status of debris, which would aid further planning on protecting space assets. In April 2022, India and the U.S. signed a new pact for monitoring space objects at the 2+2 dialogue. The controlled anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) tests and the risk of collisions must be collectively addressed.
- To provide in-orbit servicing, ISRO is developing a docking experiment called ‘SPADEX’. It looks at docking a satellite on an existing satellite, offering support in re-fuelling and other in-orbit services while enhancing the capability of a satellite.
2 . Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group
Context : Myanmar’s military government on Monday hosted the first high-level regional meeting since the Army took power last year with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and counterparts from Mekong Delta nations. Mr. Wang met with his colleagues from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam at the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group meeting held under the theme “Solidarity for Peace and Prosperity” in the central city of Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
About Lacang – Mekong Cooperation
- Lancang-Mekong Cooperation is a multilateral format established in 2016 for cooperation between the riparian states of the Lancang River and Mekong River.
- The Lancang is the part of the Mekong that flows through China. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand are five downstream countries of the Mekong River.
- The central purpose of the format is for China to manage water flow from its hydropower dams with the other riparian states.
- China has built seven megadams on the Lancang-Mekong and according to the US-based NGO International Rivers 20 are under construction or planned in Yunnan, Tibet and Qinghai
Issues between countries
- Mekong Delta, a potential source of regional tensions due to an increasing number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the flow and raising concerns of ecological damage. China has built 10 dams along the upper stretch of the Mekong, the part it calls the Lancang.
- China has been criticised for the dams upstream on the Mekong river which affect water levels and downstream fisheries that are important to several Southeast Asian nations’ economies.
China – Myanmar Relationship
- China is Myanmar’s biggest trading partner and an old ally. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in Myanmar’s mines, oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure and is its major arms supplier, together like Russia. Many in Myanmar suspect China of supporting the military takeover.
3 . Critical Minerals
Context : Australia is all set to supply critical minerals required for India’s electric vehicles, solar power projects and other strategic areas, said Canberra’s Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia Madeleine King on Monday. Welcoming India’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines Prahlad Joshi, Ms. King said Australia will commit $5.8 million to the three-year India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership.
About the News
- Australia has the resources to help India fulfil its ambitions to lower emissions and meet growing demand for critical minerals to help India’s space and defence industries, and the manufacture of solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles
- MoU was signed recently between Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) and the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) of Australia that will try to source lithium and cobalt from Australia. Both CMFO and the Indian JV KABIL will jointly fund the due diligence process with an initial total amount of U.S. $6 million. Once due diligence is completed and potential projects are identified, investm ent opportunities will be explored through different methods as envisaged in the MoU
About critical minerals
- A critical mineral is a metallic or non-metallic element that has two characteristics:
- It is essential for the functioning of our modern technologies, economies or national security and
- There is a risk that its supply chains could be disrupted.
- Critical minerals are used to manufacture advanced technologies including mobile phones, computers, fibre-optic cables, semi-conductors, banknotes, and defence, aerospace and medical applications.
- Many are used in low-emission technologies such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, and rechargeable batteries. Some are also crucial for common products such as stainless steel and electronics.
4 . Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
Context : Kerala minister Saji Cheriyan on Wednesday announced his resignation over his controversial remarks against the Constitution at the end of a day of hectic parley amidst mounting criticism from various quarters
About Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
- The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 is an Act of the Parliament of India which prohibits the desecration of or insult to the country’s national symbols, including the national flag, national emblem, national anthem, the constitution, and map of India including contempt of Indian constitution.
- This act is widely applied in all cases where a case of insult to National Honour, through disrespect to National Symbols, is reported, public or not, as well as intentional or otherwise
National flag and constitution
- Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National Flag or the Constitution of India or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
- Explanation 1 – Comments expressing disapprobation or criticism of the Constitution or of the Indian National Flag or of any measures of the Government with a view to obtain an amendment of the Constitution of India or an alteration of the Indian National Flag by lawful means do not constitute an offence under this section.
- Explanation 2 – The expression, “Indian National Flag” includes any picture, painting, drawing or photograph, or other visible representation of the Indian National Flag, or of any part or parts thereof, made of any substance or represented on any substance or digital picture
- Explanation 3 – The expression “Dishonour Indian Map” means if anywhere map represented with respective manner,Tapping Map on Road or any public place.
- Explanation 4 – The expression “public place” means any place intended for use by, or accessible to, the public and includes any public conveyance.
Disrespect to the Indian National flag means and includes —
- A gross affront or indignity offered to the Indian National Flag; or
- Dipping the Indian National Flag in salute to any person or thing; or
- Using the Indian National Flag:-(i) as a portion of costume, uniform or accessory of any description which is worn below the waist of any person; or(ii) by embroidering or printing it on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins,undergarments or any dress material; or
- Putting any kind of inscription upon the Indian National Flag; or
- Using the Indian National Flag as a receptacle for receiving, delivering or carrying anything except flower petals before the Indian National Flag is unfurled as part of celebrations on special occasions including the Republic Day or the Independence Day; or
- Using the Indian National Flag as covering for a statue or a monument or a speaker’s desk or a speaker’s platform; or
- Allowing the Indian National Flag to touch the ground or the floor or trail in water intentionally; or
- Draping the Indian National Flag over the hood, top, and sides or back or on a vehicle, train, boat or an aircraft or any other similar object; or
- Using the Indian National Flag as a covering for a building; or
- Intentionally displaying the Indian National Flag with the “saffron” down.
- As provided in Section 3 of the Act, whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Penalty and conviction
- As Such the Law recognises all the above cases, as grouped under Section (a)National Flag and Constitution (b)National Anthem, as offences and convicts the Penalties or sentences as follows.
- Whoever having already been convicted of an offence under section 2 or section 3 is again convicted of any such offence shall be punishable for the second and for every subsequent offence, with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than one year.
5 . UPI
Context : The UPI was launched in 2016 and is operated by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). The NPCI was formed in 2009 as an initiative of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) with the goal to create a robust payment and settlement infrastructure. UPI operates on top of the Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) which was created by the NPCI for immediate fund transfers.
Functioning of UPI
- UPI based payments function broadly through three steps. First, one’s bank account is mapped to a Virtual Payment Address (VPA). A VPA eliminates the risk of mentioning account details in every transaction. It can be created in a couple of minutes using a UPI app. The only prerequisite is that your bank account be linked to a mobile number.
- Secondly, a Payment Service Provider (typically a bank) takes care of the to-and-fro transactions to this VPA (and hence to the underlying bank account)
- Finally, the UPI software orchestrates the fund movement from a customer’s VPA to a target VPA and completes the transaction.
Difference between UPI and other Payment transactions
- UPI transaction is different from paying with a debit card or credit card as it does not involve a Merchant Discount Rate (MDR).
- The MDR is a fee that the recipient bank collects from the merchant. For UPI transactions, there is no MDR (like in the case of the Indian government’s Rupay card which also does not have an MDR) and hence there is no price to be paid by the merchant.
- The popularity of UPI is evident — from tiny roadside shops to large brands, many merchants accept UPI-based payments. The primary reason for this penetration is that UPI accepts transactions as small as one rupee and for merchants, the absence of MDR that they have to pay to their banks is a significant incentive to accept UPI payments.
- As your smartphone being the only device needed to complete a transaction makes the process as simple as it can get, instead of using devices like the Point-of-Sale card-swiping machines.
- The security of a UPI transaction is tied to the user’s authentication with the mobile phone — there is a mobile personal identification number (MPIN) for the UPI application and there is one more layer of security when the bank’s online transaction PIN is to be keyed in as part of every UPI transaction. If you block a mobile number due to theft, for example, then UPI transactions on that mobile number will also be halted.
- The dynamic QR code is a great boost to security and trust because there is no risk of someone having tampered with a static QR code (a static QR code is what is widely prevalent now and we see it on the wall in many shops). The merchant generates a QR code specific to that transaction amount and the customer pays through UPI by scanning the QR code.
- The NPCI has come up with multiple new innovations over the past few years: recurring payments for monthly bills, international payments, linking UPI to credit cards, 123PAY that allows people without smartphones but with only ordinary mobile phones to use UPI using missed calls, allowing one-time payment by letting a merchant generate a QR (Quick Response) code that is valid for just that specific transaction and many more features.
6 . State Ranking Index for NFSA
Context : Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Textiles and Commerce and Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal released the 1st edition of ‘State Ranking Index for NFSA’ during the conference of Food Ministers of States/UTs on ‘Food Nutrition and Security in India’ organized by Department of Food and Public Distribution
About State Ranking Index for NFSA
- This “State ranking Index for NFSA” attempts to document the status and progress of implementation of NFSA and various reform initiatives across the country, post consultation with states.
- It highlights the reforms undertaken by States and UTs and create a cross-learning environment and scale-up reform measures by all states and union territories.
- The present Index is largely focused on NFSA Distribution and will include procurement, PMGKAY Distribution in future.
- The Index for ranking the states and UTs is built on three key pillars which covers the end-to-end implementation of NFSA through TPDS.
- These pillars are: i) NFSA— Coverage, targeting and provisions of the Act, ii) Delivery platform, and iii) Nutrition initiatives.
- Odisha has been adjudged the top ranked State followed by Uttar Pradesh at the 2nd spot and Andhra Pradesh at third amongst the General Category States in ‘State Ranking Index for NFSA’.
- Among the Special Category states/UTs, Tripura stood first followed by Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim respectively. Further, among the 3 UTs where Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)- Cash is operational, Dadra and Nagar Haveli & Daman and Diu is the top ranked UT.
7 . Facts for Prelims
Digital India Bhashini
- ‘Digital India Bhashini’ will enable easy access to the internet and digital services in Indian languages, including voice-based access, and help the creation of content in Indian languages. The key intervention in building AI-based language technology solutions for Indian languages will be the creation of multilingual datasets.
- Digital India Bhashini will enable massive citizen engagement to build these datasets through a crowdsourcing initiative called BhashaDaan.
Digital India GENESIS
- ‘Digital India GENESIS’ (Gen-next Support for Innovative Startups) – a National Deep-tech Startup Platform, to discover, support, grow and make successful startups in Tier-II and Tier-III cities of India. A total outlay of ₹750 Crore has been envisaged for the scheme.
- ‘Indiastack.global’ – a global repository of key projects implemented under India Stack like Aadhaar, UPI, Digilocker, Cowin Vaccination Platform, Government e-Marketplace (GeM), DIKSHA Platform and Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission.
- This offering of India to the Global Public Digital Goods repository will help position India as the leader in building Digital Transformation projects at a population scale and prove to be of immense help to other countries which are looking for such technology solutions.
- ‘MyScheme’ – a service discovery platform facilitating access to Government Schemes. It aims to offer a one-stop search and discovery portal where users can find schemes that they are eligible for. He will also dedicate to the citizens ‘Meri Pehchaan’- National Single Sign On for One Citizen Login. National Single Sign-On (NSSO) is a user authentication service in which a single set of credentials provide access to multiple online applications or services.
- The C2S Programme aims to train specialized manpower in the area of design of semiconductor chips at Bachelors, Masters and Research levels, and act as a catalyst for the growth of Startups involved in semiconductor design in the country.
- It offers to mentor at the organisational level and makes available State-of-the-art facilities for design to the institutions. This is part of the India Semiconductor Mission to build a strong design ecosystem in semiconductors.
Five Ecological regions mentioned in the Tamil Sangam Literature
- Soil samples from five ecological regions mentioned in ancient Tamil Sangam literature — Kurinji, Mullai, Marutham, Neithal and Paalai — have been collected and sent to the capital recently.