Topic 1: Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology
Context: The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) was announced recently by President of the USA and Prime Minister of India.
What is iCET?
- The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies is a framework agreed upon by India and the U.S. for cooperation on critical and emerging technologies in areas including:
- artificial intelligence,
- quantum computing,
- semiconductors and
- wireless telecommunication.
- Focus areas:
- Primarily, the iCET seeks to position New Delhi and Washington D.C. as trusted technology partners to build supply chains and support the co-production and co-development of items.
- Key takeaways:
- setting up a research agency partnership to drive collaboration in areas like AI;
- developing a new defence industrial cooperation roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation for joint development and production;
- developing common standards in AI;
- developing a roadmap to accelerate defence technological cooperation and ‘innovation bridge’ to connect defence startups;
- supporting the development of a semiconductor ecosystem;
- strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight;
- advancing cooperation on development in 5G and 6G; and
- adopting OpenRAN network technology in India.
Progress so far
- The two countries have already put in place the Quantum Coordination Mechanism, launched a public-private dialogue (PDD) on telecommunication to drive collaboration in OpenRAN, 5G and 6G.
- A new initiative to advance cutting-edge technology cooperation, known as the India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), is set to be launched.
- India and the U.S. have also concluded a roadmap for ‘Defence Industrial Cooperation’ to guide the policy direction for the next few years.
- The two countries have also established a Strategic Trade Dialogue to remove regulatory barriers and review existing export control norms to take forward strategic technology and trade collaborations envisaged under iCET.
Topic 2: Toponyms
Context: A toponym is a word formed from the name of a place, which may denote a habitation or certain physical features of a landscape or anything specifically associated with a location.
Toponyms in news:
- To Balkanize means to divide into small and mutually hostile groups.
- It is said to have been coined by English editor James Louis Garvin, but A.J. Toynbee (1922) credited it to German socialists, who used the term to describe the results of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
- The reference was to the political situation in the Balkans, when the European section of the Ottoman Empire melted into small, warring nations.
- The noun form is balkanization.
- Laconism and Spartan:
- Laconia was a city-state in ancient Greece of which Sparta was the main settlement.
- The Spartans were noted for saying the most in the smallest possible number of words.
- Such economy of words is called a laconism after the name of the Spartans’ homeland; the adjective is laconic.
- The Spartans led a tough life devoid of pleasure-seeking habits.
- Spartan, as an adjective, therefore, means someone who leads a disciplined life with minimum of creature comforts.
- Stoic is derived from the name of a place that still exists as a reconstructed site, the Stoa, a colonnade, or portico, in Athens.
- Here the philosopher Zeno founded a school in 308 B.C.
- One of the principles of stoicism is that the wise man should be free from passion, untouched by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law.
- In modern use, a person who controls his emotions under stress, who endures the hardships of life without complaining, is said to possess stoic, or stoical resignation.
- Used in informal speech, shanghai as a verb means to trick or coerce someone into a place or position or into doing something.
- It comes from Shanghai, a port city in China, where men were compelled by drugging and other deceitful means to serve on ships sailing to Far East.
- If you get shanghaied, you realize you have been tricked into something that leaves you in a disadvantageous situation.
- It refers to a situation where an American IT professional has lost a job because the same has moved to a cheaper labour market.
Topic 3: Pride flag
Context: The month of June, recognised worldwide as the Pride Month, is marked by many events across India to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
What’s Pride flag?
- A Pride flag essentially represents the pride associated with LGTQIA+ social movements.
- The Pride flag was used by activists, members of the community and allies as a symbol of resistance and acceptance.
- It was designed by renowned American artist and activist Gilbert Baker.
Why is it called Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride Flag?
- The intersex has been largely been underrepresented within broader queer narratives.
- Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.
- In 2021, Intersex Equality Rights (UK) decided to adapt the Pride Progress flag design to incorporate the intersex flag, creating the Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag.
What do the colours of the flag signify?
- Red= Life
- Orange= Healing
- Yellow= New Ideas
- Green= Prosperity
- Blue= Serenity
- Violet= Spirit
- Chevron = Part
- Black and brown= people of colour
- White, blue and pink= transpeople
- Yellow with purple circle= Intersex people
Topic 4: Miyawaki forests
Context: Prime Minister of India during his latest ‘Mann ki baat’ episode spoke about Miyawaki plantation, the Japanese method of creating dense urban forests in a small area.
What is the Miyawaki plantation method?
- It is named after Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki.
- This method involves planting two to four different types of indigenous trees within every square metre.
- In this method, the trees become self-sustaining and they grow to their full length within three years.
- The methodology was developed in the 1970s, with the basic objective to densify green cover within a small parcel of land.
- The plants used in the Miyawaki method are mostly self-sustaining and don’t require regular maintenance like manuring and watering.
- Common indigenous plants in India that are used for these forests include:
- Arjun and
- The dense green cover of indigenous trees plays a key role in absorbing the dust particles of the area where the garden has been set up.
- The plants also help in regulating surface temperature.
- These forests encourage new biodiversity and an ecosystem is developed around it, which in turn increases the fertility of the soil and regulates surface temperature.
- 64 Miyawaki forests have been planted in Mumbai so far.
- The Miyawaki drive was launched under the urban forest project in 2020 and the first such forest was created in Bhakti Park at Chembur in the eastern suburbs.
- The largest Miyawaki forest under this project was created at Chandivali’s Nahar Amrut Shakti Udyan, wherein over 41,000 plants were planted over 13 acres.
Topic 5: Quote: ‘Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes’
Context: The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library was rechristened as the Prime Ministers’ Museum and Library, removing the reference to India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
The quote and its meaning:
- This quote has been most commonly associated with Jawaharlal Nehru.
- It hints at the importance of discerning facts from personal opinion, and emphasises on the immutability of facts, regardless of how pleasant or unpleasant they may be.
- In today’s world, social media has inundated human minds with information, a lot of it bogus, this quote harkens back to the basic premise of scientific rationality.
- This quote states the obvious – that facts do not care about opinions or feelings.
- They stand independent of what we think.
- However, if one pays closer attention to the evolution of ideas in history, one will notice that this was not always the case.
- Religion and scientific rationality:
- Prior to what historians call the Enlightenment – or the great ‘Age of Reason’ – religion remained the primary arbiter of truth.
- Crucially, religion was not overly concerned with the idea of “evidence” to establish facts.
- For instance, when Charles Darwin came up with his ideas on evolution, he was heavily criticised by the Church.
- Darwin challenged the creation myth, fundamental to the Church’s conception of the world, and hence its spiritual and temporal authority.
- Today, the concept of evolution is fundamental to our understanding of the world.
- We believe in evolution not because of the authority of Darwin himself, but because we have evidence to support this theory.
- This is the basis for scientific rationality.
- Basis of facts:
- Facts are based on evidence, verifiable data, and observations, representing the objective reality of a given subject.
- They are not subjective opinions or personal beliefs that can be altered by individual preferences.
- Individual subjectivity:
- The reason why this is important is because this is the only basis to establish common ground while discussing any subject.
- Each and every individual is unique, with unique experiences that shape their worldview.
- This individual subjectivity creates personal bias.
- This bias can result in the rejection or distortion of facts that do not conform to one’s worldview.
- This is because as human beings, we have a natural instinct to protect oneself.
- This includes not just our physical bodies but also our worldviews.
- This protective instinct creates confirmation bias – the tendency to search for, favour, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs
- Nehru and the quote:
- What Nehru says is essential to deal with this bias.
- It is only when we recognise that facts are facts, regardless of how we feel about them, can we have a better, more complete understanding of the world around us.
- Furthermore, acknowledging facts as existing independent of our opinions, we can have meaningful discussions and disagreements with others, rather than arguments driven by personal agendas.
- Our subjective experiences, idiosyncrasies and cognitive biases, lack of complete understanding, and the contextual nature of facts, open to interpretation, make it impossible for human beings to be truly objective.
- What is important, thus, is the recognition of our inherent subjectivity – even if biases cannot be completely eliminated, as individuals, we can be more cognisant of them.
- While the pursuit of objectivity might seem to be the “rejection” of all biases, in reality, a better way to look at it might be as the “recognition” of biases.
- Nehru’s quote can also be interpreted to be more cognisant of this bias.
- When saying “(facts) will not disappear on account of your likes”, Nehru might in fact be imploring people to better recognise and acknowledge their biases, and to keep an open mind, attempting to be as objective as possible.
Topic 6: Uniform Civil Code
Context: The 22nd Law Commission of India sought the views of religious organisations and the public on the issue of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
What did the 21st Law Commission say on the matter?
- The 21st Law Commission of India, in 2018, argued for reform of family laws of every religion through amendments and codification of certain aspects so as to make them gender-just.
- The Law Commission took a stand in favour of equality ‘within communities between men and women” (personal law reform), rather than equality between communities (UCC).
What is Uniform Civil Code
- The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption.
- The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
Why is Article 44 important?
- The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian Constitution was to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country.
- It was incorporated in the Constitution as an aspect that would be fulfilled when the nation would be ready to accept it and the social acceptance to the UCC could be made.
Origin of Uniform Civil Code
- The origin of the UCC dates back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.
- Increase in legislations dealing with personal issues in the far end of the British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941.
- The task of the Hindu Law Committee was to examine the question of the necessity of common Hindu laws.
- The committee, in accordance with scriptures, recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights to women.
- The 1937 Act was reviewed and the committee recommended a civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus.
Topic 7: ICMR study on Diabetes
Context: Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and Indian Council of Medical Research (Indiab researchers ) recently published their study on diabetes in India.
- India has around 101 million (11.4% of India’s population) people living with diabetes and another 136 (15.3% of the population) million people in pre-diabetes stages.
- The study looked at the prevalence of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and high cholesterol levels in the population.
- The findings can be utilised by the states to develop health policies to target these non-communicable disease.
- This is concerning as almost half of the pre-diabetics may convert to diabetes within five years or so.
- The prevalence of hypertension or high blood pressure was found to be higher still in the country.
- Around 35.5% of the population or 315 million people are living with the condition as per the study.
- Indians tend to gather fat in the abdominal region and despite the BMI (body mass index) being normal people might be at a higher risk of diseases of obesity.
- The study found that 28.6% of the population would be considered to be obese as per the BMI measure, 39.5% of the population or 351 million people had abdominal obesity.
- The study found that 24% of the population or 213 million people were living with hypercholesterolemia.
- It is a condition where the bad cholesterol or LDL levels are high.
- The study found that 24% of the population or 213 million people were living with hypercholesterolemia.
What is Indiab and its significance?
- India Diabetes or Indiab study is a 12 year-long project with over 113,000 participants.
- Data collected by the study over the years in phases across the different states have helped researchers in India accurately determine the prevalence of metabolic disorders.
- In addition, it has also generated important evidence such as a study by the group last year that showed that only 7% of the known diabetics have their sugar, BP, and cholesterol in check.
- The study is also highly representative of the Indian population.
- It is also one of the largest studies ever attempted.
- No country has ever done such a big study representative of all their states.
- Even the biggest study from China had 40,000 participants from five or six places in the country.
- This study has conducted door-to-door screening of 113,000 people representing all states and the 1.4 billion people living in it.
Geographical variation in the data
- The study found a definite rural-urban divide in the prevalence of the diseases.
- The prevalence of diabetes stood at 16.4% in urban India as compared to 8.9% in rural India.
- The prevalence of diabetes was higher in the Southern states and a few north Indian states such as Delhi and Punjab.
- The prevalence of diabetes was lowest in Uttar Pradesh at 4.8% of the population.
- The prevalence of pre-diabetes was found to be almost same for both rural and urban India
- More than half the people living in urban centres were found to have abdominal obesity as compared to 33.5% of people in rural India.
- The highest prevalence was found to be in Puducherry with 61.8%.
- When it came to hypertension, the prevalence was found to be 40.7% in urban India as compared to 33% in rural India.
- The highest prevalence of hypertension was seen in Punjab with 51.8%.
- Hypercholesterolemia was reported in 27.4% of the urban population and 22.3% of the rural population.
- The highest prevalence was seen in Kerala with 50.3%.
- With granular data available from each of the states, it can be used by the state governments to device their health policies.
- For example, the high prevalence of pre-diabetes shown in rural India by the study would mean that governments would need to focus their prevention and screening programmes and future health infrastructure there.
- Most of the interventions would include urging people to adopt lifestyle changes like better diet, exercise, regular sleep, no smoking or alcohol consumption.
- It would also include providing medicines like statins or metformin to control the cholesterol or blood glucose levels.
Topic 8: Telegram bots
Context: Recently, reports came out which alleged that a Telegram bot had access to and was presenting the identification numbers of the documents submitted for vaccination purposes which includes Aadhaar, PAN card, and even passport numbers of individuals.
What is Telegram?
- Telegram is an open-source API messaging platform service launched in 2013.
- The platform allows developers to create their own apps and use the free-to-use API to develop specialised tools, like bots, to integrate services.
- The platform is one of the 10 most downloaded apps in the world.
- The platform protects private conversations from snooping third parties including officials, marketers, and advertisers.
- The platform does not process any requests related to group chats and private conversations among participants.
- They only entertain requests related to sticker sets, channels, and bots as they are publicly available.
What are Telegram bots?
- Bots are computer programs that act as agents of a user or another computer program.
- Bots on Telegram are small applications that run entirely within the platform and can be designed to support any kind of task or service.
- Bots on Telegram can host full Web Apps and can be designed to support everything from online stores to arcade games.
- They can also be designed to make it easier for users to access information held within large databases they are connected to.
- Bots are listed on the platform as special accounts that do not require a phone number to set up and are connected to the owner’s server which processes input and requests from users.
Who can create bots on Telegram?
- Any developer with some skills in computer programming or a third-party service provider can create a Telegram bot using the platform’s bot API.
- The API gives the tools and framework required to integrate code for the bot within the platform.
- The platform assists the creation of bots through “Botfather” a virtual user designed to be the central development tool for Telegram bots.
- Telegram requires bots created using its Bot API to be registered using an authentication token generated by the platform.
Use of bots on Telegram
- Bots are usually used in professional areas for smart communication and pulling information from defined databases.
- Users can send commands to bots that they respond to with relevant information or perform tasks they are designed to do.
- Bots may collect user data, including personal information and chat history.
- Bots can also be created by threat actors to contain malicious content, such as links to phishing websites or malware.
- Threat actors can also distribute bots to scam users, promising rewards or discounts on purchases to lure users into sharing their personal data.
- Some bots could have security vulnerabilities that can be used by threat actors to compromise the security of users.
- Introducing a bot to a secure Telegram chat could also downgrade the level of encryption as they may not be using Telegram’s encryption protocol, which works by scrambling and making it illegible while in transit.
Topic 9: Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021
Context: The Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021 will be conferred on Gita Press, Gorakhpur, one of the largest publishers of religious texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and the Upanishads.
About the Prize:
- The annual Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
- The award carries an amount of ₹1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite handicraft or handloom item.
- This is an annual award given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
- It is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, creed or gender.
- The jury consists of:
- The Prime Minister of India,
- The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha,
- The Chief Justice of India,
- Speaker of the Lok Sabha and
- one other eminent person.