Topic 1 : Galdan Namchot
Why in news: Ladakh will be all decked up for the annual Galdan Namchot Festival soon.
- This vibrant festival marks the beginning of the New Year celebrations in Ladakh.
- Galdan Namchot is also called the festival of lights in Ladakh as everywhere you will see light offerings.
- Ladakhis celebrate this day by lighting butter lamps, which signifies the victory of light over darkness.
- This festival holds special significance for the people of Ladakh as it commemorates the birth and the enlightenment of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
- The Gelug is the newest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism
- It was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419).
- The Gelug school is alternatively known as New Kadam.
- It is also called the Ganden school, after the first monastery established by Tsongkhapa.
- The festival includes feasting on traditional dishes, cultural performances, and the illumination of spaces with lights.Topic 2 : X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite
Why in news: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that India is set to launch its first X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat), aiming to investigate the polarisation of intense X-Ray sources.
About the mission:
- The XPoSat spacecraft is designated for observation from Low Earth Orbit, carrying two scientific payloads.
- With these two payloads, the XpoSat mission is capable of simultaneous studies of temporal, spectral, and polarization features of the bright X-Ray sources.
- The mission objectives include:
- measurement of X-Ray polarization in the energy band of 8-30 keV emanated from X-Ray sources,
- long-term spectral and temporal studies of cosmic X-Ray sources in the energy band of 0.8-15 keV.
- The mission life is expected to be approximately five years.
- The payloads onboard XpoSat will observe the X-Ray sources during the spacecraft’s transit through the Earth’s shadow, i.e., during the eclipse period.
- The XpoSat will be launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.
- XpoSat (X-ray Polarimeter Satellite) is India’s first dedicated polarimetry mission to study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions.
- The spacecraft will carry two scientific payloads in a low earth orbit.
- The primary payload POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays) will measure the polarimetry parameters (degree and angle of polarization) in medium X-ray energy range photons of astronomical origin.
- The XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing) payload will give spectroscopic information.
Significance of the mission:
- The emission mechanism from various astronomical sources such as blackhole, neutron stars, active galactic nuclei, pulsar wind nebulae etc. originates from complex physical processes and are challenging to understand.
- While the spectroscopic and timing information by various space based observatories provide a wealth of information, the exact nature of the emission from such sources still poses deeper challenges to astronomers.
- The polarimetry measurements add two more dimension to our understanding:
- the degree of polarization and
- the angle of polarization
- Thus is an excellent diagnostic tool to understand the emission processes from astronomical sources.
Topic 3 : Sovereign AI
Why in news: India is building its own sovereign Artificial Intelligence.
- India has pitched itself as a country that has effectively used technology to develop and deliver governance solutions at a mass scale.
- The examples include:
- the biometric identity programme Aadhaar and
- Payments solution Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
- These solutions form the bedrock of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) – where the underlying technology is sanctioned by the government and is later offered to private entities to develop various use cases.
- Now, India wants to take the same DPI approach with artificial intelligence (AI).
- With sovereign AI and an AI compute infrastructure (the software and hardware needed to build AI-powered systems), the government is looking to:
- Compete with the generative AI type of model.
- Focus on real-life use cases in healthcare, agriculture, governance, language translation, etc, to maximise economic development.
The National Data Governance Framework Policy:
- The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) released a draft of the National Data Governance Framework Policy under which it proposed the creation of an India Datasets platform.
- It will consist of non-personal and anonymised datasets from Central government entities that have collected data from Indian citizens or those in India.
- The idea is that the non-personal data housed within this programme would be accessible to startups and Indian researchers.
- Among the stated objectives of the policy is to modernise the government’s data collection, with an aim to improve governance and to enable artificial intelligence (AI) and data-led research and startup ecosystem in the country.
- Non-personal data held by the Indian datasets platform could also be monetised.
- The platform will play a crucial role in boosting the artificial intelligence ecosystem in India by providing a robust foundation for data-driven innovation and development.
How will India regulate AI?
- The Centre is considering issuing a directive to big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon to share anonymised personal data in their possession with a government-backed database.
- The directive, which is understood to be part of the draft Digital India Bill, could mandate big tech companies to deposit all the non-personal data they hold to the India datasets platform.
- The Gopalakrishnan committe recommended the identification of certain high value datasets which could be shared for the purpose of encouraging innovation and ensuring national security.
Topic 4 : H9N2 avian flu
Why in news: One of the viruses in circulation in the recent outbreak of a mysterious respiratory illness in China is H9N2, a subtype of the Influenza A virus.
- Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is a viral infection that primarily affects birds.
- It primarily affects birds with a high prevalence in poultry such as chickens and turkeys and can easily jump to humans.
- Among the various subtypes, the H9N2 avian influenza virus has gained attention due to its ability to infect a wide range of bird species and occasional transmission to humans.
- It is highly transmissible and while it is known to cause mild illness, sometimes it manifests as a severe infection that can result in complications.
- H9N2 is a subtype of the Influenza A virus, belonging to the Orthomyxoviridae family.
- The virus can undergo genetic reassortment, leading to the emergence of new strains.
- The transmission of H9N2 occurs through direct contact with infected birds, their respiratory secretions, or contaminated environments.
- The virus can persist in water and on surfaces.
Signs and symptoms
- The infection is self-limiting and similar to any other flu virus, usually accompanied by pink eyes.
- The other symptoms include:
- high fever,
- sore throat,
- body and muscle aches,
- diarrhoea and
- a runny nose.
- Severe respiratory symptoms and conditions include:
- shortness of breath,
- pneumonia and
- acute respiratory distress.
- In extreme cases, there might be seizures and septic shock.
- Treatment is largely symptomatic with antivirals.
- Those with more severe symptoms may need nebulisation and steroids.Topic 5 : The Gujral Doctrine
Why in news: November 30 marks the 11th death anniversary of IK Gujaral, the 12th Prime Minister of India.
- Gujaral was the PM for less than a year, and his tenure does not get much individual attention among India’s heads of government.
- However, he is the only Prime Minister with a foreign policy approach identified with his name — the Gujral Doctrine.
- The Gujral Doctrine was based on the understanding that India’s size and population by default made it a major player in South East Asia, and its position and prestige could be better cemented by adopting a non-domineering attitude towards its smaller neighbours.
- It also emphasised the importance of keeping dialogue going, and avoiding needless provocations by commenting on the internal matters of other countries.
About the Gujral Doctrine:
- Before becoming the Prime Minister, Gujral had held several Cabinet positions, including the External Affairs Minister portfolio twice.
- Under VP Singh from December 5, 1989 to December 19, 1990 and
- Under HD Devegowda from June 1, 1996 to April 21, 1997.
- It was during his second tenure as EAM that Gujral delineated his approach towards India’s neighbours, which later came to be known as the Gujral Doctrine.
- This consisted of five basic principles, as outlined by Gujral.
The five principles were:
- Principle of Non-reciprocity:
- With the neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity but gives all that it can in good faith and trust.
- Gujral named the countries from which India would not expect reciprocity, and it did not include Pakistan.
- Mutual non-aggression:
- No South Asian country will allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.
- None will interfere in the internal affairs of another.
- Mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty:
- All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
- Peaceful co-existence:
- They will settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.
Position on Pakistan:
- While Gujral did not name Pakistan, he did adopt the same approach towards that country to a degree.
- Under his tenure as EAM, India unilaterally eased travel restrictions, permitting Pakistani tourists to visit India in groups and easing travel for Pakistani businessmen to India.
- His attempt at keeping dialogue going with Pakistan is famous.
Successes of Gujral Doctrine
- Trust and cooperation:
- Gujral’s approach to foreign policy helped strengthen trust and cooperation in India’s neighbourhood.
- Success of non-reciprocal accommodation:
- It led to the signing of a 30-year treaty between India and Bangladesh on December 12, 1996.
- In the water treaty with Bangladesh, Gujral demonstrated his willingness to not expect reciprocity by delinking the issue with Bangladesh giving India access to its territory for improved links with the Northeastern states.
- He even ensured Bhutanese consent for digging of a canal from a Bhutanese river to augment the flow of water to Ganga and showed his willingness to revise the controversial Mahakali treaty with Nepal which was received well in Nepal.
- Other leaders followed the path:
- Another key marker of the Doctrine’s success was that Gujral’s successors as PM, from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh, continued following the same approach, despite coming from different ideological camps.
Criticism of Gujral Doctrine
- Too soft on Pakistan:
- Gujral was criticised for going too soft on Pakistan, and leaving India vulnerable to the threats of the future, including the many terror attacks.
- Isolation of Pakistan:
- In sections within Pakistan, the Doctrine was seen as India’s attempt to cosy up to other neighbours and isolate Islamabad.Topic 6 : Loss and damage fund
Why in news: On the opening day of the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the impact of climate change has been officially launched.
- The initial funding is estimated to be $475 million.
- Host UAE pledged $100 million,
- the European Union promised $275 million,
- The US promised $17.5 million and
- Japan promised $10 million.
- The loss and damage fund was first announced during COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
What is the loss and damage fund?
- The loss and damage fund is a global financial package to ensure the rescue and rehabilitation of countries facing the cascading effects of climate change.
- The term refers to the compensation that rich nations (whose industrial growth has resulted in global warming and driven the planet into a climate crisis) must pay to poor nations (whose carbon footprint is low but are facing the brunt of rising sea levels, floods, crippling droughts, and intense cyclones, among others).
- Loss and damage means different things to different groups and there is no agreed upon definition within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- Loss and damage is often categorised as either economic or non-economic.
- Economic loss and damage are negative impacts that we can assign a monetary value to. These are things such as:
- the costs of rebuilding infrastructure that has been damaged due to a flood, or
- the loss of revenue from agricultural crops that were destroyed due to drought.
- Non-economic loss and damage are negative impacts where it is difficult or infeasible to assign a monetary value. These are things such as:
- trauma from experiencing a tropical cyclone,
- loss of community due to displacement of people, or
- loss of biodiversity.
- Economic loss and damage are negative impacts that we can assign a monetary value to. These are things such as:
How much damage has been caused by industrialisation?
- The Industrial Era started in 1850, disrupting Earth’s natural mechanism for the production and absorption of greenhouse gases.
- Today, the US, the UK and the EU are considered to be responsible for 50% of all emissions.
- Russia, Canada, Japan, and Australia takes it to 65%, i.e. two-thirds of all emissions.
- Compared to them, India is responsible for only 3% of historical emissions.
- Meanwhile China, the world’s biggest emitter in the last 15 years, is responsible for 30% of global emissions every year.
- Greenhouse gases comprise methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour, and carbon dioxide (CO2) with CO2 responsible for most of the global heating.
- Carbon particles are being released in extremely large quantities and they have the ability to linger in Earth’s atmosphere seemingly endlessly, at least for a millennium or more, and warm it.
How much loss and damage is the world facing?
- Research shows that 55 vulnerable countries have suffered $ 525 billion combined climate crisis-fuelled losses in the last 20 years.
- The number is estimated to reach $ 580 billion per year by 2030.
- According to the IPCC, losses and damages will increase in future as global warming continues to rise.
- It will be unequally distributed and impact developing nations the most and, in them, the socially and financially weaker sections.
How the fund will operate?
- The World Bank will oversee the loss and damage fund in the beginning.
- Previously, the developing nations were not keen to have the World Bank manage the fund as they saw this as a means by which richer nations could have more control over the finances.
- They have accepted this term now.
- The source of funds being rich nations, such as the US, the UK and the EU, as well as some developing countries.
- The scale or the replenishment cycle of the fund remains unclear, but the need of the hour is several trillion dollars.Topic 7 : Person in news: Sam Manekshaw
Why in news: ‘Sam Bahadur’ movie, made on the life of India’s first Field Marshal, Sam Manekshaw, hits the movie theatres today.
- Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, also known as Sam Bahadur, was the Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
- He was first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal.
- His active military career spanned four decades and five wars, beginning with service in World War II.
- Sam was given the affectionate title of ‘Sam Bahadur’ by the troops of 8 Gorkha Rifles, however, he did not serve with the Gorkhas for even a single day.
- Sam was commissioned as an officer in a battalion of Frontier Force Regiment which had predominantly Sikh troops.
- Having already commanded troops at division, corps and regional levels, Manekshaw became the seventh chief of the army staff in 1969.
- Under his command, Indian forces conducted victorious campaigns against Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which led to the creation of Bangladesh in December 1971.
- He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan, the second and third highest civilian awards of India, respectively.Topic 8 : Anti-submarine warfare ships for Indian Navy launched
Why in news: The first of the three ships in a series of eight Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) shallow water crafts were launched recently.
- The ships are being built by the Cochin Shipyard for the Indian Navy.
- The shipyard inked the contract with the Ministry of Defence to build a total of eight ASW vessels in 2019.
- The ships would be named:
- INS Mahe,
- INS Malvan and
- INS Mangrol.
- These Mahe class of ships will replace the Navy’s in-service Abhay class ASW corvettes.
- These are designed for:
- anti-submarine operations in the coastal waters,
- low-intensity maritime,
- mine laying and
- sub-surface surveillance operations.
- They are also capable of coordinated ASW operations with aircraft, and search and rescue.
- They are equipped with:
- light-weight torpedoes,
- ASW rockets and mines,
- close-in weapon system (30 mm gun) and
- 12.7 mm stabilised remote control guns.
- Their endurance is 1,800 nautical miles and have been designed to fit indigenously-developed sonars for underwater surveillance.
- Each vessel would carry 57 personnel, including seven naval officers.