Daily Prelims Notes 15 November 2023
- November 15, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN
Daily Prelims Notes
15 November 2023
Table Of Contents
- India’s apex food regulator has no data on the presence of GMOs in fresh produce imported over the past 5 years
- What we know of the Uttarakhand tunnel collapse
- GWP100 or GWP*: Meat, dairy lobby pushing for new methane metric. How this will enable greenwashing
- Odisha readies draft of PESA Act rules, seeks suggestions
- How does an electric battery work and what are the different types?
- Modi to release PM KISAN funds today; Opposition protests
- What India can expect from the ‘Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar’ awards
- Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963
- The Digital Public Goods Alliance
- Centre considers access to anonymised data of big tech firms
- Why Israel is attacking Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) and work
Subject : Polity
Section: National body
In the news:
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s nodal food regulatory body, does not know if the fresh food produce imported in the past five years included genetically modified (GM) varieties. Neither does FSSAI have information on tests undertaken to check for the presence of such varieties.
- These are the findings of a Right To Information (RTI) investigation by Down To Earth (DTE).
- This raises questions about whether the fruit and vegetables sold currently in the country are free of GM varieties or not.
Genetically Modified Organism (GMO):
- When a new variety of plant is created by inserting in it the genes of another plant, organism or bacteria, the variety becomes a genetically modified organism (GMO).
- Since there is not enough data or research on the long-term impacts of GMO on human health, there is no unanimity in the scientific community on their regular consumption.
- Countries that has allowed the production of GM Crops:
- Some 28 countries allow large-scale farming of these GMO crops.
- In India, the Food Safety and Standards Act, of 2006, prohibits the import, manufacture, use or sale of GM food without FSSAI’s approval.
- India has allowed the cultivation and import of only one GMO — cotton, a non-food crop. In 2022, India also allowed commercial cultivation of GM mustard, but the move has been challenged and is pending at the Supreme Court.
RTI quarry and response from FSSAI:
- Do fresh fruit and vegetables imported to India include GM varieties;
- FSSAI response: Notification of regulations for GM foods is pending and to ensure only non-GM crops are imported into the county, an Order dated 21.08.2020 and subsequent Orders have been issued regarding the Requirement of non-GM cum GM Free certificate accompanied with imported food consignments.”
- It mandated that a non-GM-cum-GM-free certificate, issued by the exporting country’s “Competent National Authority” shall accompany every consignment of 24 food crops — alfalfa, apple, Argentina canola, egg plant, bean, chicory, cowpea, flax seed, maize, melon, papaya, pineapple, plum, Polish canola, potato, rice, safflower, soybean, squash, sugar beet, sugarcane, sweet pepper, tomato and wheat.
- In another order, FSSAI permitted a “tolerance limit for adventitious presence” of GMOs in imported food crops at 1 per cent.
- In a third order, FSSAI brought down the requirement of non-GM-cum-GM-free certificates from the exporting country’s “Competent National Authority” to “authorised regional government authorities”.
- Have any tests been done to confirm the presence of GMOs in fruit and vegetables imported in the last five years under Food Safety and Standards (Import) Regulations, 2017;
- FSSAI response: Required information is not available in this division
- If fresh fruit and vegetables imported into India have been tested for GM, can a summary report be provided;
- FSSAI response: No such information is available in this division.
- List of exotic fruits and vegetables being imported to India, with the name of the exporting country.
- FSSAI response: No such information is available in this division.
- India has no monitoring, surveillance or mechanism to ensure that genetically modified crops are not imported into the country. It even does not have adequate infrastructure to test for GMOs and only 2 per cent of food-testing laboratories in India can check for the presence of GM products.
- There has been a significant increase in India’s fruit and vegetable imports, especially from nations that produce GMO varieties.
- The US, Brazil and Argentina are the top three countries in terms of land under GMO cultivation. They are also major exporters of foods to India.
- In 2018-2022, the US exported apples worth over Rs 1,811 crore to India. This is 17 per cent of the total apples imported by India in the period.
- Argentina and Brazil are India’s top two sources of degummed soyabean oil in 2022-23. Overall, the import of fresh fruit and vegetables in India has increased by 25 per cent in the past decade.
Coalition for a GM-Free India:
- Established in 2006
- The Coalition for a GM-Free India is a loose, informal network of scores of organizations and individuals from across India, campaigning and advocating to keep India GM-Free and to shift our farming towards a sustainable path.
- Consisting of farmers’, consumers’, environmental, women’s and other organizations, this network is opposed to the environmental release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) given the potential adverse health and environmental impacts, in addition to the fact that GMOs also are taking away valuable research and other resources from more lasting solutions.
Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA):
- Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture or ASHA-Kisan Swaraj network is a volunteer-driven large informal network of organisations and individuals that initially came together in 2010 to organise a Kisan Swaraj Yatra, a nation-wide mobilisation to draw attention to issues pertaining to our FOOD, FARMERS, FREEDOM.
- The network consists of farmers’ organisations, consumer groups, women’s organisations, environmental organisations, individual citizens and experts who are committed to the cause of sustainable and viable farm livelihoods in rural India including ensuring that productive resources are in the control of farming communities and thereby, safe, nutritious, diverse and adequate food is available for all Indians.
Source: Down to Earth
Section : Places in news
- An under-construction tunnel in northern Uttarakhand collapsed.
About Silkyara- Barkot Tunnel Project:
- Silkyara Tunnel (or Silkyara- Barkot tunnel) is located on the Uttarkashi-Yamnotri road.
- The tunnel is a part of the Char Dham all-weather road project which commenced in 2016. The Rs 12,000-crore highway expansion project in Uttarakhand is a flagship initiative of the Centre.
- Build by: NHIDCL through Navyuga Engineering Company.
- Cost of the project: 853 crore.
- Tunnel length: 4.5 km
- The tunnel aims to reduce the distance between Gangotri and Yamunotri from 26 km to 4.1 km.
About the Char Dham Project
- ChardhamPariyojana aims to “improve the connectivity to the Chardham pilgrimage centres (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri) in the Himalayas, making journeys to these centres safer, faster and more convenient.
- It will widen almost 900 km of highways connecting the pilgrimage sites and the Tanakpur-Pithoragarh stretch of National Highway (NH) 125, a part of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra route.
- The Char Dham project will cover Uttarakhand’s four major shrines — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — in the upper Himalayas by widening 889 km of hill roads.
- This project can act as the strategic feeder roads which connect the India-China border with the Army camps in Dehradun and Meerut where missile bases and heavy machinery are located.
- Implementing Agencies: Uttarakhand State Public Works Department (PWD), Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the National Highway & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
- NHIDCL is a fully owned company of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways.
Source: Indian Express
Subject : Environment
Sectional: Climate Change
- Some of the world’s big, industrialised meat and dairy companies have been promoting a new metric for measuring methane emissions, called GWP* (pronounced as GWP star), which they argue is a more accurate way to calculate emissions from the greenhouse gas (GHG).
- However, by adopting this new method, they can manipulate their overall GHG emissions and escape accountability by falsely claiming climate neutrality, a new report has revealed.
- The established metric under the 2015 Paris Agreement for measuring the global warming potential of a gas over a 100-year period is GWP100, which is the global warming potential evaluated over a 100-year timeline. It focuses on the absolute level of emissions.
- GWP100 measures the warming effect of a quantity of a non-carbon dioxide (CO2) GHG, emitted at a given point in time, relative to an equal amount of CO2.
- GWP* was developed in 2016 by a team of researchers from Oxford University, led by two academics who argued it was more accurate than the current systems used to report national methane emissions at the international level.
- It was then introduced in 2018 at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC).
- GWP* focuses on changes in emissions over decadal timescales rather than absolute levels.
- By taking current levels of methane emissions as their baseline, high-polluting countries and companies can use GWP* to present even minor reductions in methane as negative emissions or cooling.
- New Zealand, where half of all emissions come from agriculture, mostly methane, showed that with a modest 10 per cent reduction in methane emissions, the country could report negative methane using GWP* by 2038.
Efforts to push for GWP*:
- The big agriculture lobby is pushing the GWP* methodology in New Zealand, Ireland, the United States and other regions.
- At least 16 industry groups across the UK and New Zealand have jointly urged the IPCC in 2020 to adopt GWP* for assessing warming impacts.
Why GWP* is contentious:
- The ability to easily compare the contributions of different gases to climate change to assign accountability and set fair goals is crucial for global climate commitments.
- The time horizon used to determine the GWP is important because it affects how much weight is given to short-term warming.
- GWP* has been criticized on a global policy level because it has the potential to reward the highest historically polluting countries or companies for their past GHG emissions by giving them credit for slight decreases from a high baseline.
- The methodology will also penalise countries with historically low levels of methane emissions for small increases.
Source: Down To Earth
Section :Environmental laws
- Close to 27 years after the enactment of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, Odisha has come up with the draft of the Odisha Gram Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Rules, 2023, to bring clarity in its implementation.
What is the PESA Act?
- The PESA Act was enacted in 1996 “to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas”.
- Part IX, comprising Articles 243-243ZT of the Constitution, contains provisions relating to municipalities and cooperative societies.
- Under the Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
- The Fifth Schedule provides for a range of special provisions for these areas.
- Ten states — Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana — have notified Fifth Schedule areas that cover (partially or fully) several districts in each of these states.
- To ensure self-governance through Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in the Scheduled Areas.
- It recognises the right of tribal communities, who are residents of the Scheduled Areas, to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government, and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources.
- Empowers Gram Sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.
What is the Significance of Implementing the Act?
- Democratic Decentralisation: PESA empowers gram sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors. This includes management of:
- Resources over jal, jangal, zameen (water, forest and land)
- Minor forest produce
- Human resources: Processes and personnel who implement policies
- Managing local markets
- Preventing land alienation
- Regulating intoxicants among other things
- Preserving Identity: The powers of gram sabhas include maintenance of cultural identity and tradition, control over schemes affecting the tribals, and control over natural resources within the area of a village.
- Conflict Resolution: The PESA Act thus enables gram sabhas to maintain a safety net over their rights and surroundings against external or internal conflicts.
- Public Watchdog: The gram sabha would have the powers to monitor and prohibit the manufacturing, transport, sale and consumption of intoxicants within their village limits.
What are the Issues Related to PESA?
- Partial Implementation: The state governments are supposed to enact state laws for their Scheduled Areas in consonance with this national law.
- This has resulted in the partially implemented PESA.
- The partial implementation has worsened self-governance in Adivasi areas,like in Jharkhand.
- Administrative Hurdles: Many experts have asserted that PESA did not deliver due to the lack of clarity, legal infirmity, bureaucratic apathy, absence of political will, resistance to change in the hierarchy of power, and so on.
- Followed in Letter Rather than Spirit: Social audits conducted across the state have also pointed out that in reality different developmental schemes were being approved on paper by Gram Sabha, without actually having any meeting for discussion and decision making.
How are Tribals and their Rights Protected in India?
- In India, most of the tribes are collectively identified under Article 342 (1&2) as “Scheduled Tribes”.
- Their right to self-determination is guaranteed by Part X: The Scheduled and Tribal Areas – Article 244: Administration of Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas.
- That is, Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution.
- The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA.
- The Tribal Panchsheel Policy Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources.
Subject :Science and Tech
- Electric batteries have become an integral part of modern life, enabling the widespread use of motorization and wireless technology.
- Batteries are devices that store and release electrical energy, acquired by converting other forms of energy, primarily through chemical reactions.
Genesis of Electric Batteries
- Galvani’s Exploration: In 1780, Luigi Galvani conducted an experiment involving two metal plates and a frog’s leg, marking an early exploration of electricity’s effects on biological systems.
- Volta’s Voltaic Pile: Alessandro Volta’s voltaic pile in 1800 consisted of alternating copper and zinc plates separated by electrolyte-soaked paper.It produced a steady current but lacked a comprehensive explanation.
- John Daniel’s Research: British chemist John Daniel improved on Volta’s design with a more efficient cell that generated electric current for extended periods.
- Faraday’s Experiments: In the early 19th century, Michael Faraday elucidated the principles of electrochemical cells, including naming components like anode, cathode, and electrolyte.
Basics of Electric Batteries
- Voltaic Cells: Electric batteries, also known as voltaic or galvanic cells, utilize redox reactions to produce an electric current.They consist of two half-cells, each with a metal electrode immersed in an electrolyte of the same metal.
- Electron Transfer: In one half-cell, metal ions dissolve into the electrolyte, releasing electrons.In the other half-cell, the reverse occurs, as metal ions deposit onto the electrode and require electrons.
- External Circuit: A wire connects the two electrodes, allowing electron flow from the anode to the cathode.A salt bridge connects the two electrolytes, enabling ion exchange.
- Components: Key components include the cathode (positive electrode), anode (negative electrode), and the electrolyte.The source voltage and terminal voltage are important concepts.
- Source Voltage: It represents the energy imparted to electrons and is equal to the terminal voltage in ideal conditions.
- Issues: Corrosion is a common issue in electrochemical cells, caused by factors like moisture and galvanic corrosion.
Various Types of Batteries
- Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Batteries: Li-ion batteries are rechargeable and have revolutionized technology.They consist of a cathode, anode, and an electrolyte.During discharge, lithium ions move between electrodes, facilitating energy storage.
- Electric Vehicle (EV) Batteries: EV batteries, such as those used in Tesla’s Model S, are composed of numerous Li-ion cells and are critical for powering electric vehicles.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cells: Hydrogen fuel cells are gaining interest, especially in the context of green energy.They use hydrogen as a fuel source and produce electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen, emitting water as a byproduct.
Further Evolutions in Batteries
- Ongoing Research: Li-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells continue to be areas of extensive research, with diverse configurations and advantages.
- Hydrogen Economy: Hydrogen fuel cells are expected to play a pivotal role in the emerging hydrogen economy, and countries like India are investing in green hydrogen production.
- Thus,Electric batteries, rooted in the principles of electrochemistry, have undergone significant evolution, transforming the way we live and utilize energy.
- Their development and improvement remain central to advancing convenience and sustainability in industrialized societies, shaping the future of technology and transportation.
Subject : Schemes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the 15th instalment of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN) scheme at a function in Jharkhand on Wednesday. The Opposition has alleged that the instalment was deliberately delayed to coincide with the ongoing Assembly elections in five States and it is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
About PM KISAN:
- Under the scheme, the Centre transfers an amount of Rs 6,000 per year, in three equal instalments, directly into the bank accounts of all landholding farmers irrespective of the size of their land holdings.
- It was launched in February 2019.
Funding and Implementation:
- It is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% funding from the Government of India.
- It is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
Identification of Beneficiaries:
- The entire responsibility of identification of beneficiary farmer families rests with the State / UT Governments.
- To supplement the financial needs of the Small and Marginal Farmers in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
- To protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.
PM-KISAN Mobile App:
- The PM-KISAN Mobile App developed and designed by the National Informatics Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been launched.
- The farmers can view the status of their application, update or carry out corrections of their Aadhaar cards and also check the history of credits to their bank accounts.
What is Model Code Of Conduct (MCC)?
- The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the ECI to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections.
- It helps EC in keeping with the mandate it has been given under Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives it the power to supervise and conduct free and fairelections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
- The MCC is operational from the date on which the election schedule is announced until the date of the result announcement.
- The origin of the MCC lies in the Assembly elections of Kerala in 1960, when the State administration prepared a ‘Code of Conduct’ for political actors.
- Subsequently, in the Lok Sabha elections in 1962, the ECI circulated the code to all recognized political parties and State governments, and it was wholeheartedly followed.
- It was in 1991 after repeated flouting of the election norms and continued corruption, the EC decided to enforce the MCC more strictly.
MCC for Political Parties and Candidates:
- Criticism of political parties must be limited to their policies and programmes, past record, and work.
- Activities such as using caste and communal feelings to secure votes, criticizing candidates on the basis of unverified reports, bribing or intimidation of voters, etc. are prohibited.
- Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting in time to enable the police to make adequate security arrangements.
- If two or more candidates plan processions along the same route, the political parties must establish contact in advance to ensure that the processions do not clash.
- Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
- Only voters and those with a valid pass from the EC are allowed to enter polling booths.
- All authorized party workers at polling booths should be given suitable badges or identity cards.
- Identity slips supplied by them to voters shall be on plain (white) paper and shall not contain any symbol, name of the candidate or the name of the party.
- The EC will appoint observers to whom any candidates may report problems regarding the conduct of the election.
Party in Power:
- The MCC incorporated certain restrictions in 1979, regulating the conduct of the party in power. Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
- The party must avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
- From the time elections are announced by Commission, the ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water, etc. Other parties must be allowed to use public spaces and rest houses, and these must not be monopolized by the party in power.
- The ECI directs that political parties and candidates must adhere to the following guidelines while releasing election manifestos for any election (Parliament/State Legislatures):
- The election manifesto shall not contain anything against the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution.
- Political parties should avoid making promises that are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on voters.
- Manifestos should reflect the rationale for promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it.
- Manifestos shall not be released during the prohibitory period, as prescribed under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act 1951, for single or multi-phase elections.
Some Recent Additions to the MCC:
- The regulation of opinion polls and exit polls during the period notified by the ECI.
- The prohibition of advertisements in print media on polling day and one day prior to it unless the contents are pre-certified by screening committees.
- The restriction on government advertisements featuring political functionaries during the election period.
Is the MCC Legally Enforceable?
- Though the MCC does not have any statutory backing, it has come to acquire strength in the past decade because of its strict enforcement by the EC.
- Certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the IPC 1860, CrPC 1973, and RPA 1951.
- In 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice recommended making the MCC legally binding and recommended that the MCC be made a part of the RPA 1951.
- However, the ECI argues against making it legally binding. According to it, elections must be completed within a relatively short time or close to 45 days and judicial proceedings typically take longer, therefore it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.
Subject : Schemes
Recently, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research announced the winners of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) awards for 2022.
Categories of Recognition:
The awards will encompass four categories:
- Vigyan Ratna: Recognizing lifetime achievements of scientists.
- Vigyan Shri: Acknowledging distinguished contributions to a specific field.
- Vigyan Yuva–Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar: Encouraging young scientists who have made exceptional contributions.
- Vigyan Team: Recognizing collaborative efforts of teams comprising three or more individuals.
- The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar will be conferred across 13 domains, encompassing areas such as Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, Earth Science, Medicine, Engineering Sciences, Agricultural Science, Environmental Science, Technology and Innovation, Atomic Energy, Space Science and Technology.
- The government emphasizes the importance of ensuring adequate representation of women in these domains.
Annual Awards Distribution:
- Annually, there will be three Vigyan Ratnas, 25 Vigyan Shris, 25 Vigyan Yuvas, and 3 Vigyan Teams. Only the Vigyan Yuva category will have an age limit of 45 years.
Rationalizing Science Awards:
- The introduction of the Rashtriya Vigyan Puruskar aligns with the government’s effort to rationalize awards in the field of science and technology. It seeks to enhance the prestige and value of these awards by reducing their numbers and eliminating endowments.
Key Differences from Older Awards
- Inclusivity: Open to innovators, technologists, and those in the industry with diverse affiliations.
- Expanded Eligibility: Includes technology-led innovations or products alongside discovery-based research.
- Team Awards: Acknowledges the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of scientific research.
- No Age Limit: Except for the Vigyan Yuva-SSB award, eliminating age barriers and ensuring gender representation.
- Global Recognition: Open to Persons of Indian Origin abroad, recognizing the global footprint of modern science.
- Elimination of Cash Prizes: Awards focus on certificates and medals.
Intent and Processes
- Notable Contributions: Emphasise that recognized contributions go beyond standard job descriptions.
- Comprehensive Citations: Include dedicated citations for teaching, mentoring, science communication, public engagement, leadership, and administration.
- Age Limit Considerations: Reconsider age limits for the Vigyan Yuva-SSB award to ensure gender parity and consider personal circumstances.
- Transparent Selection Process: Adhere to predetermined timelines, publicise shortlisted applicants, and ensure diverse selection committees.
- Diversity and Inclusivity: Pledge to ensure socioeconomic and demographic representation among awardees.
- Continuous Evaluation: Regularly assess the impact of the new award system on scientific work, diversity, and inclusivity.
Section :International conventions
Context: The Qatar death row and India options.
What is Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963:
- The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations is an international treaty that defines a framework for consular relations between sovereign states.
- It codifies many consular practices that originated from state custom and various bilateral agreements between states
- The Convention was adopted on 24 April 1963 following the United Nations Conference on Consular Relations in Vienna, Austria
What are some key provisions of the convention:
- The treaty consists of 79 articles, with the preamble emphasizing the continued application of customary international law to matters not addressed in the Convention.
- The Key provisions include:
- Article 5 outlines thirteen functions of a consul, including protecting the interests of the sending State and its nationals, assisting nationals, and promoting relations between the sending and receiving States.
- Article 23 allows the host nation to declare a consular staff member persona non grata at any time, with the sending state required to recall the individual promptly, or they may lose consular immunity.
- Article 31 establishes the inviolability of consular premises, prohibiting the host nation from entering or damaging the premises.
- Article 35 safeguards freedom of communication between the consul and their home country, ensuring that consular bags are not opened or detained, and consular couriers are not detained.
- Article 36 addresses communication between consular officers and nationals of the sending state, granting consular officers the right to communicate with and visit nationals who are arrested or detained.
- Article 37 mandates prompt notification to consular officers if a sending state’s national dies, has a guardian appointed, or if a vessel or aircraft of the sending state is involved in an incident in the receiving state.
- Article 40 requires the receiving state to treat consular officers with respect and prevent any attack on their person, freedom, or dignity.
- Articles 58-68 cover honorary consular officers, detailing their powers and functions.
Section :International organisation
What is the Digital Public Goods Alliance
- The Digital Public Goods Alliance is a multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to accelerate the attainment of the sustainable development goals in low- and middle-income countries by facilitating the discovery, development, use of, and investment in digital public goods.
- DPGA is a UN-endorsed initiative facilitating the discovery and deployment of open-source technologies, fostering a global ecosystem for digital public goods to achieve sustainable development goals.
- The DPGA is governed by a board, including members like the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, EkStep Foundation, Government of Sierra Leone, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), UNDP, and UNICEF.
- The DPGA relies on a broad membership and stakeholder community, using a roadmap for coordination, alignment, engagement, and communication to advance its strategic objectives.
- The DPGA’s diverse membership, including governments, foundations, and organizations, collaborates to promote digital public goods and contribute to the alliance’s strategic goals over a five-year strategy period.
What is Digital Public Goods Alliance Strategy 2021-2026:
- The five year objectives of the Digital Public Goods Alliance are:
- Ensure discoverability, sustainable management, and accessibility of digital public goods addressing critical development needs and urgent global challenges for government institutions and relevant implementing organizations.
- Enhance knowledge, capacity, and incentives of UN institutions, multilateral development banks, and other institutions crucial for implementing digital technologies in countries, effectively promoting and supporting the adoption of digital public goods (DPGs).
- Empower government institutions with the information, motivation, and capacity to implement DPGs addressing critical development needs, facilitating effective planning, deployment, maintenance, and evolution of digital public infrastructures.
- Foster vibrant commercial ecosystems in countries, promoting the creation, maintenance, implementation, and incubation of DPGs at the local level.
Subject : Science and Tech
Section : Awareness in IT
Context: Centre is considering issuing a directive to big tech companies to share anonymised personal data in their possession with a government-backed database.
More about the news:
- The Indian government is reportedly considering a directive requiring major tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon to share anonymized personal data with a government-backed database.
- The move is part of the upcoming Digital India Bill that aims to address the ownership of non-personal data, a key component for artificial intelligence (AI) models.
- The provision in the bill would mandate tech companies to deposit all non-personal data they hold into the India datasets platform.
- The government argues that these companies, having benefited from algorithms based on Indians’ non-personal data, cannot claim exclusive ownership.
- The India datasets platform could also play a role in boosting the country’s AI ecosystem.
- The Digital India Bill is part of a broader legal framework that includes measures like the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, and a policy on non-personal data governance..
What are the key Provisions of the Digital India Bill:
- The Bill is a key part of a comprehensive legal framework which encompasses various legislative measures such as
- The recently-notified Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023
- The draft Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022, and
- A policy addressing the governance of non-personal data.
- The Bill prioritizes online safety and trust, aiming to protect citizens’ digital rights while remaining adaptable to market changes and international legal principles.
- Recognizing the significance of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, the Bill provides guidelines for their responsible use.
- It upholds the idea of an open internet,balancing accessibility with necessary regulations to maintain order and protect users.
- The Bill introduces stringent Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements for wearable devices, backed by criminal law sanctions.
- Contemplating a review of the “safe harbour” principle, the Bill suggests a potential shift in online accountability standards, presently shielding online platforms from liability related to user-generated content.
Section :International organisation
Context: The Gaza Strip’s largest and most advanced hospital, al-Shifa, is no longer functioning due to loss of power and water supply,
Why is al-Shifa hospital important:
- Al-Shifa used to be the cornerstone of Gaza’s healthcare system before the Israel-Hamas war broke out.
- It is located in Gaza City, in the north of the tiny Palestinian enclave,
- The hospital comprises a group of six-storey buildings and had between 600 and 900 beds and thousands of staff, and provided a range of services that almost no other hospital in Gaza offered.
- Since the start of the war, al-Shifa has also been serving as a shelter for those displaced by the fighting and incessant Israeli bombing.
Why is al-Shifa in the crosshairs:
- Israel’s forces have surrounded al-Shifa hospital, alleging it sits above an underground Hamas headquarters, using patients and staff as human shields.
- Hamas and Gaza’s health ministry deny these claims, dismissing them as baseless.
What does international humanitarian law say:
- Under international humanitarian law, hospitals receive special protections during war, but these protections may be lost if combatants use the premises for military purposes.
- In such cases, warnings must be given before attacks to allow the safe evacuation of patients and medical workers, according to the ICRC.
- Even if Israel proves al-Shifa is used by Hamas, the principles of international law require steps to protect the innocent before any attack is authorized.
What are the laws of war:
- Two fundamental aspects of international law govern conflicts.
- Jus ad Bellum: This aspect of international law addresses the conditions and justifications for countries to use force in their international relations. It is regulated by the United Nations (UN) Charter.
- Jus in Bello: Jus in bello concerns the rules that dictate how a war is to be fought, specifying what military actions are permissible. Even if a country is justified under the UN Charter to use force, it must adhere to these rules.
- This law of war, known as international humanitarian law (IHL), outlined in customary international law, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and the 1977 Additional Protocols, prescribes rules to protect civilians and minimize suffering during armed conflicts. Regardless of the justness of their cause, warring parties must abide by IHL.
What are the Geneva Conventions (1949):
- The Geneva Conventions, established in 1949 along with their Additional Protocols, represent crucial international agreements that set forth fundamental regulations to mitigate the cruelty of armed conflict.
- These conventions provide safeguards for non-combatants i.e. civilians, medical personnel, humanitarian workers and individuals who are no longer able to participate in combat i.e. injured, sick, and shipwrecked military personnel, as well as prisoners of war.
- The First Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war.
- The Second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war.
- The Third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war, including a wide range of general protections such as humane treatment, maintenance and equality across prisoners, conditions of captivity, questioning and evacuation of prisoners, transit camps, food, clothing, medicines, hygiene and right to religious, intellectual, and physical activities of prisoners.
- The Fourth Geneva Convention protects civilians, including those in occupied territory. The other Geneva Conventions were concerned mainly with combatants rather than civilians.
- Two Protocols of 1977: Additional to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions were adopted in 1977. They strengthen the protection of victims of international (Protocol I) and non-international (Protocol II) armed conflicts and place limits on the way wars are fought.
- In 2005, a third Additional Protocol was adopted creating an additional emblem, the Red Crystal, which has the same international status as the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.
Section :Places in news
Context: Cyprus Confidential
More about the news:
- Cyprus Confidential” is a comprehensive offshore investigation featuring 3.6 million documents in English and Greek.
- It unveils a detailed paper trail of companies established in the tax haven of Cyprus by influential individuals globally.
- In collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), over 270 journalists from 60 media outlets in 55 countries participated in the investigation.
- The documents, obtained from six offshore service providers in Cyprus, reveal insights into Indian investors acquiring Cypriot citizenship through the Golden Passport scheme and showcase entities formed by prominent businesses to leverage Cyprus’s favorable tax regime in the Eastern Mediterranean.
What are Tax Havens.
- A tax haven is a country that offers foreign businesses and individuals minimal or no tax liability for their bank deposits in a politically and economically stable environment.
- Usually, countries engage in upholding such a low rate of taxation in order to increase foreign investment as well as the cash flow in their economy.
What is the Tax Haven Criteria by OECD.
- The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) outlines four crucial criteria to assess if a jurisdiction qualifies as a tax haven:
- Imposition of no or minimal taxes.
- Lack of transparency.
- Presence of laws or practices hindering effective information exchange for tax purposes.
- Absence of a requirement for substantial economic activity.
What are the various type of tax heavens:
- Pure Havens: No charges on Income or Capital gains like, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Vanuatu.
- Tax Havens with low state-approved rates through international tax agreements like Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland.
- Tax Havens exempting taxpayers from cross-border transaction taxes like Costa Rica, The Philippines, Panama.
- Tax Havens favoring offshore and holding companies like Austria, Luxembourg, Thailand.
- Tax Havens granting exemptions for export-oriented industries like Ireland, Madeira in Portugal.
- Tax Havens offering benefits to ‘Offshore Companies’ like Bahamas, Antigua & Barbuda, British Virgin Islands.
- Tax Havens providing privileges to banking or financial firms in offshore activities like Anguilla, Grenada, Jamaica.
Issues related to Taxation around the world
Cyprus Confidential: Unveiling Offshore Strategies
- Investigation Overview:
- 6 million documents in English and Greek.
- Collaboration with ICIJ, involving 270+ journalists from 60+ media houses globally.
- Reveals offshore companies in Cyprus used by global elite.
- India Investigation Highlights:
- Secrecy Unveiled: Lifts secrecy veil for government and regulatory agencies.
- Control from India: Documents reveal offshore entities controlled from India.
- Setting Up Offshore Entities in Cyprus:
- Legal Perspective: Not illegal; India has double-taxation avoidance agreements.
- Tax Residency Certificates: Used for legal tax benefits.
- Regulatory Oversight: Generally characterized by lax oversight and strong secrecy laws.
- Evolution of India-Cyprus Tax Treaty:
- Pre-2013: Exemption from capital gains tax.
- Since 2013:Cyprus labeled Notified Jurisdictional Area (NJA).
- Since 2016: Revised DTAA signed, rescinding NJA status.
- Tax Benefits in Cyprus:
- Tax Rates:25% for offshore companies.
- Dividends and Profits: No withholding tax, exempt from additional tax.
- Capital Gains and Estate Duty: No tax on sale of shares, no estate duty.
- India-Cyprus DTAA Dynamics:
- Tax Planning Hub:Cyprus used for tax planning due to low tax regime.
- Alternative to Mauritius: Cyprus becomes an alternative for offshore investments in India.
- Offshore Trusts in Cyprus:
- Definition: Trusts with property and income outside Cyprus.
- Tax Exemptions: Exempt from estate duty; no tax on income and gains.
- Confidentiality: No registration, maintains beneficiary confidentiality.
- Challenges for Indian Tax Authorities:
- DTAA Limitations: Does not prevent scrutiny if transactions aimed solely at tax avoidance.
- Tax Treaty Benefits Denial: Possible if ownership setup solely for tax avoidance.
Offshore Leaks to Cyprus Confidential: A Decade of Investigations
- Offshore Leaks (2013):5 million documents, 612 Indians exposed.
- Swiss Leaks (2015): HSBC’s Swiss private banking leaks, 1,195 Indian clients.
- Panama Papers (2016):5 million files exposing shell entities for fraud, tax evasion.
- Paradise Papers (2017):4 million files revealing tax avoidance structures, India control.
- Mauritius Leaks (2019): Exposing tax avoidance via Mauritius by multinational companies.
- FinCEN Files (2020): Revealing suspicious activity reports filed by global banks.
- Pandora Papers (2021): Exposing offshore structures for estate planning, global elite.
- Cyprus Confidential (2023):6 million documents unveiling offshore strategies in Cyprus.
Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA):
- DTAA is a tax treaty between two or more countries, including India, designed to prevent taxpayers from being taxed twice on the same income—once in the source country and again in the residence country.
- Aims to eliminate or reduce the instances of double taxation, providing clarity on tax liabilities for individuals and businesses operating in multiple countries.
- Bilateral Agreements:
- Countries enter into bilateral agreements to address issues related to cross-border taxation, ensuring fair treatment of taxpayers and fostering international economic cooperation.
- Income Tax Avoidance:
- DTAA facilitates the avoidance of income tax duplication by specifying the rules for allocating taxing rights between the source and residence countries.
Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR):
- PNTR is a legal status in the United States denoting a country’s eligibility for free trade relations on a permanent basis. It is essentially the same concept as Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status.
- Free Trade Designation:
- Indicates that a foreign nation is granted the same trade privileges and terms as the most favoured trading partner, ensuring equal and non-discriminatory treatment.
- Equivalent to MFN:
- In the U.S. context, PNTR is equivalent to the international concept of Most Favoured Nation, emphasizing fairness and equality in trade relations.
- PNTR status is often granted through specific legislation, signaling a commitment to open and unrestricted trade with the designated nation.
- China and PNTR:
- A notable example is the S. granting PNTR status to China, a move that normalized trade relations and played a role in China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- Benefits of PNTR:
- Provides stability and predictability in trade relations, encouraging economic cooperation and facilitating the growth of international commerce.
- Trade Promotion:
- PNTR status is seen as a means of promoting global trade, reducing trade barriers, and fostering positive diplomatic and economic ties between nations.
Most Favoured Nation (MFN) in International Trade:
- MFN is a principle in international trade ensuring equal and non-discriminatory treatment among trading partners.
- When a country grants MFN status to another, it commits to providing the same trade privileges and terms to that partner as its most favoured trading partner.
- Equal Treatment:
- For instance, if Country A grants MFN status to Country B, it must extend the same trade benefits to Country B as it does to its best trading partner, Country C.
- International Agreements:
- Article 1 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994, under the World Trade Organization (WTO), mandates member countries to grant MFN status to each other.
- While the MFN principle is generally upheld, exceptions exist, such as bilateral trade agreements and special access provisions for developing nations.
- India-Pakistan Example:
- India initially granted MFN status to all WTO members, including Pakistan. However, in 2019, India suspended Pakistan’s MFN status citing security concerns, and Pakistan did not reciprocate the status for India.
Tax evasion is the illegal practice of not paying owed taxes to the government through fraudulent means, such as underreporting income, utilizing offshore accounts, or inflating deductions to decrease tax liability.
A tax haven is a jurisdiction or country that offers favorable tax rates and other financial benefits to individuals and businesses, attracting them to establish residency or conduct financial activities to minimize their tax liability.
Automatic Exchange of Information:
Introduced to combat offshore tax evasion by wealthy individuals, promoting transparency and information sharing among countries.
Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS):
BEPS, coined by OECD, refers to tax planning strategies used by multinational enterprises that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations, thus eroding the tax base of the higher-tax jurisdictions.
A shell company is a business entity without active business operations or significant assets. Often, it exists only on paper and is used for various financial purposes, including reducing tax liability, avoiding regulations, or conducting financial transactions anonymously.
P-Notes (Participatory Notes):
Participatory Notes are financial instruments used by investors to invest in Indian securities without direct registration with regulatory authorities. They are issued by registered foreign institutional investors (FII) to overseas investors, providing an indirect route to participate in the Indian stock market, especially in the context of international finance and taxation.
Roundtripping is a financial practice where funds are routed, often through a series of transactions or intermediary entities, to conceal the original source of the funds.
This can involve sending money offshore and then bringing it back through a complex route to make it appear as if it’s a legitimate investment.
- Elon Musk’s vision of a future where AI replaces all human labor.
- Exploration of contrasting views on work from economists Keynes and Marx.
- Keynesian Perspective:
- Keynes, a capitalist supporter, believed work often represented drudgery.
- Envisioned a future with reduced working hours through technological advancements.
- Musk’s vision aligns with Keynes, suggesting technology eliminating the need for work.
- Marxian Perspective:
- Marx viewed work as essential, providing meaning to human life.
- Criticized capitalism for exploiting labor and causing individuals to lose connection with fulfilling work.
- Marx’s ideal state involves using AI to enhance work without exploitation.
- Importance of Economic System:
- Under capitalism, individuals access resources through income derived from work.
- A world without work under capitalism poses challenges for those unable to find employment.
- Imagining an Alternative Economy:
- Hypothetical scenario where AI-generated surplus is transferred to individuals for basic needs.
- Requires different institutional arrangements, such as universal basic income.
- Challenges the existing capitalist structure.
- Consideration of Disruptions:
- Need to understand potential disruptions caused by technological innovations.
- Emphasis on examining the impact within the context of prevailing economic institutions.
AI (Artificial Intelligence):
Artificial Intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines designed to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence.
- Learning: AI systems can learn from data and improve their performance over time.
- Reasoning: They can make sense of information and draw logical conclusions.
- Problem-Solving: AI can analyze diverse data sets to solve complex problems.
- Perception: AI systems can interpret and understand the world through vision, speech, and other sensory inputs.
- Types of AI:
- Narrow AI (Weak AI): Designed for a specific task, such as virtual personal assistants.
- General AI (Strong AI): Possesses the ability to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across diverse tasks.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): Enables machines to understand and respond to human language.
- Machine Learning: Algorithms that allow systems to learn patterns and make predictions.
- Computer Vision: Empowers machines to interpret and make decisions based on visual data.
- Robotics: Integrating AI into robotic systems for autonomous decision-making.
- Chatbots: AI-powered virtual assistants for customer support.
- Self-Driving Cars: AI systems enabling vehicles to navigate without human intervention.
- Recommendation Systems: AI algorithms suggesting content based on user preferences.
- AI in Society:
- Impact on Jobs: Debate on the balance between job automation and job creation.
- Accessibility: Ensuring equitable access to AI technologies for societal benefit.
- Ongoing Developments:
- Deep Learning:Advancements in neural networks for complex pattern recognition.
- Explainable AI: Focus on making AI systems more transparent and understandable.
Classification of AI: AGI vs. ANI
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI):
- Flexible and adaptable, designed for various intellectual tasks without human intervention.
- Unsupervised learning allows learning from data without explicit programming.
- Lack of control, can make decisions beyond human prediction.
- Primarily in theoretical research and development.
Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI):
- Designed for specific or narrow tasks.
- May lack human-like reasoning or learning capabilities.
- Trained using machine learning algorithms like supervised, unsupervised, or reinforcement learning.
- Widespread use in various industries, g., ChatGPT for conversations.
IndiaAI: National AI Portal of India
Launch and Collaborators:
- Launched in May 2020, by Union Minister for Electronics and IT.
- Collaboration between MeitY, NeGD, NASSCOM, DoSE&L, and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- ‘Responsible AI for Youth’ program launched concurrently.
Content and Database:
- Diverse Content: 1151 articles, 701 news stories, 98 reports, 95 case studies, and 213 videos.
- Government Initiatives: Features 121 government initiatives and 281 startups in the AI ecosystem.
‘AI for Everyone’ Book:
- Released in May 2022, covering fundamental aspects of AI.
- An additional effort to disseminate knowledge on artificial intelligence.
Objectives and Features:
- One-Stop Portal: Aims to be a comprehensive platform for all AI-related developments in India.
- Resource Publication: Offers articles, news, interviews, investment funding updates, and events for AI stakeholders.
- Educational Resources: Distributes documents, case studies, research reports, and provides AI courses.
- Employment Opportunities: Highlights education and job opportunities related to AI.
- Joint efforts from key government bodies, industry associations, and educational departments.
- Serves as a collaborative platform fostering AI-related initiatives in India.
Vision and Significance:
- Envisions being the National AI Portal, aligning with the government’s AI development vision.
- Plays a crucial role in disseminating information, fostering collaboration, and promoting AI education and employment.
INDIAai stands as a pivotal platform in India’s AI landscape, contributing significantly to awareness, education, and collaboration in the field of artificial intelligence.
IndiaAI Program Report Overview:
- Vision and Alignment:
- Aligns with Prime Minister’s vision of “India for AI and AI for India.”
- Aims to catalyze a 1 trillion-dollar digital economy.
- Program Components:
- Holistic Approach: Covers compute infrastructure, data, AI financing, research, innovation, skilling, and institutional capacity.
- Focus Areas:Start-ups, entrepreneurship, India datasets program, and India AI Compute Platform.
- Operational Aspects:
- Centers of Excellence (CoEs): Operational details outlined for establishment.
- Institutional Framework: Governs data collection, management, processing, and storage.
- Demographic Dividend: Leverage India’s demographic advantage.
- AI Skills Enhancement: Focus on skilling for AI.
- Public-Private Partnerships: Strengthen AI compute infrastructure.
- Design Linked Incentive (DLI) Scheme: Support for domestic companies and start-ups.
- Implementation Strategy:
- Data Governance: Outlines strategies for effective data governance.
- Research and Innovation: Encourages research initiatives.
- Start-up Support: Emphasizes support for AI start-ups.
- Compute Infrastructure: Public-private partnerships for infrastructure development.
- Coordinated Efforts:
- Interconnected Initiatives: Promotes synergy among different aspects of the AI ecosystem.
- MeitY Working Groups: Collaborative efforts from seven working groups.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) in India:
- UBI is an unconditional and uniform cash transfer from the government to every adult, regardless of financial status.
- Need for UBI:
- Despite economic growth, one-third of Indians live below the poverty line.
- Existing welfare schemes face inefficiencies, leakages, and corruption.
- Global interest in UBI grows due to concerns about job loss from automation.
- Characteristics of UBI:
- Universal: Every adult receives it.
- Cash transfer: No need for in-kind transfers or subsidies.
- Unconditional: Not contingent on specific behaviors.