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[Mission 2024] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 28 February 2024

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 3:

  1. Land Degradation and Land Management Policy

 

Content For Mains Enrichment (CME)

  1. Homosep Atom

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Purple Fest 2024
  2. Recent Major Amendments and Schemes
  3. Investor Information and Analytics Platform
  4. Chromosomal disorders discovered from prehistoric skeletal remains
  5. Hanooman
  6. Bitcoin Halving
  7. Garbhini-GA2
  8. India’s largest solar battery project
  9. HAM Operator
  10. Ammunition-missile manufacturing complex

 

Mapping

  1. Banihal-Sangaldan railway (J&K)

 


 

Land Degradation and Land Management Policy

GS Paper 3

 

Syllabus: Environment Conservation

 

Context: An urgent need exists for a comprehensive land management policy, considering land’s critical role in ecological, economic, social, and cultural aspects. India, with a small geographical area but a large population, faces numerous land management issues, including the degradation of around 30% of its total land.

 

What are Soil degradation, Land Degradation and Desertification?

  1. Soil Degradation refers to the decline in soil quality and fertility due to various factors such as erosion, chemical pollution, and loss of organic matter. It primarily affects the health and productivity of the soil.

 

For Soil Degradation: World Soil Day: Soil Degradation

  1. Land degradation is a broader term that encompasses not only soil degradation but also degradation of other land resources like vegetation, water resources, and biodiversity. It includes processes such as soil erosion, deforestation, salinization, and loss of biodiversity.
  1. Desertification specifically refers to the process by which fertile land becomes increasingly arid and barren, ultimately transforming into desert-like conditions. It is a type of land degradation in dry regions like arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, where biological productivity declines. It doesn’t necessarily involve the expansion of existing deserts but rather the deterioration of land quality and productivity within these dryland regions.

 

Status of Land Degradation: 

The Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India, published by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre, estimates India’s land degradation and desertification at over 97 million hectares in 2018-19 

 

Causes of Land Degradation: 

Consequences of Land Degradation:

  1. Food and Water Security: For instance, Land degradation and climate change are estimated to lead to a reduction of global crop yields by about 10% by 2050. Most of this will occur in India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Impact on Lives: According to UNCCD, The degradation impacts the lives of an estimated 1.3 billion people who are directly exposed to land degradation.
  3. Economic Impact: The economic impact of land degradation is significant, with countries spending billions of dollars annually to combat desertification, land degradation, and drought.
  4. Drought-Stricken Population: A significant proportion of the world’s population live on land affected by drought. Out of 1.84 billion people, 4.7% are exposed to severe or extreme drought.
  5. Biodiversity Loss: Land degradation leads to loss of biodiversity, affecting ecosystems and species survival.

 

What is Land management policy?

It refers to a set of guidelines, regulations, and practices established by governments or other relevant authorities to govern the use, development, conservation, and protection of land resources within a particular region or jurisdiction.

 

Challenges of Land Management in India:

Challenges Description
Acute Disparity Between Land Area and Population India’s small geographical area (2.4% of the world’s) and large population (17% of the world’s) create significant challenges in managing land.
Only about 55% of land is arable, 22% forest cover, leaving 30% degraded. Access to agricultural land is crucial for livelihoods.
Competition Between Agriculture and Other Land-resources Based Sectors Increasing land stress leads to competition among farmers and sectors, escalating land prices and conflicts.
Adverse Effects of Climate Change Land degradation not only affects livelihoods but also weakens natural ecosystems’ resilience against disasters like floods, droughts, and pollution, exacerbated by climate change.
Sectoral Approach to Land Management Land management practices in India are fragmented among departments and states, with private land ownership complicating synchronized approaches.
Inadequate Land Management Practices Administrative complexity, knowledge gaps, short-term planning bias, fragmented approaches, lack of preparedness for unforeseen events, and regulatory barriers hinder effective land management in the country.

 

Suggestions for Effective Land Degradation Management:

  1. Effective land restoration involves a continuum of activities:
    1. Avoid: Eliminate practices degrading the environment, from land conversion to socio-economic inequalities.
    2. Reduce: Adopt sustainable land and water management practices to mitigate degradation.
  • Reverse: Revitalize soil, watersheds, and ecosystems to restore degraded land, meeting human needs and improving ecology.

 

  1. Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN): Maintaining or improving land resources to sustain ecosystem functions, services, and food security.
  2. Integrated Land Use Planning: Identifying optimal land use combinations to meet stakeholder needs sustainably, including identifying global restoration hotspots for maximum benefit.
  3. Regenerative Agricultural Practices: Implementing techniques like terrace farming and rainwater harvesting to restore land, increase crop yields, reduce emissions, sequester carbon, and support livelihoods.
  4. Establish Multi-Stakeholder Platforms: Create district-level platforms involving farmers, policymakers, civil society, and businesses to integrate sectors and address challenges collectively.
  5. Adopt Climate-Smart Landscape Approach: Utilize landscape assessment to allocate land effectively, contributing to climate goals, agricultural productivity, livelihoods, and biodiversity conservation.
  6. Promote Integrated Landscape Management: Emphasize the systemic approach to land management, drawing on experiences and institutional support, aligning with international conventions for societal well-being.
  7. Ensure Inclusive Engagement: Engage parliamentarians to address emerging challenges, and involve all stakeholders horizontally and vertically for sustainable land management policies.
  8. Conduct Country-Level Land Management Assessment: Undertake comprehensive assessments of land management practices at the national level, guided by international recommendations, prioritizing co-benefits and ecosystem services conservation.
  9. Follow FAO Recommendations: Urgently address land degradation as highlighted by the FAO, recognizing the critical role of land, soil, and water in ensuring long-term public welfare and sustainability.

 

Initiatives:

  • UNCCD Data Dashboard: Highlighting rapid global land degradation.
  • Bonn Challenge: Restoring 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • Great Green Wall: Combatting land degradation in Sahel-Saharan Africa.
  • G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats:Launched in 2020, it aims to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation and reduce degraded land by 50% by 2040.
  • UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: The Decade (2021-2030) is being championed by the UNEP and FAO.

 

  • India’s Commitment:
    • Signatory to UNCCD, aiming to restore 26 million hectares by 2030.
    • Pursuing Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) under SDG 15.3.
    • Key Reports:
      • COP14: Focused on achieving land degradation neutrality.
      • IPCC Report: Suggested country-level stocktaking of land management.
      • FAO Report: Urged action to address land degradation crisis.
    • Other Initiatives: IWMP, Desert Development Programme, NAP, GIM, National Action Programme to Combat Desertification, Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas, Soil Health Card Scheme.

 

Conclusion:

Land degradation is a complex issue with multiple causes and far-reaching consequences. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that includes sustainable land management practices, conservation efforts, and policies aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change.

 

Insta Links:

 

Mains Links:

The process of desertification does not have climate boundaries. Justify with examples. (UPSC 2020)

In what way do micro-watershed development projects help in water conservation in drought-prone and semi-arid regions of India? (UPSC 2016)

  

Prelims Links:

What is/are the importance/importances of the ‘United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’? (UPSC 2016)

  1. It aims to promote effective action through innovative national programmes and supportive international partnerships.
  2. It has a special/particular focus on South Asia and North Africa regions, and its Secretariat facilitates the allocation of major portion of financial resources to these regions.
  3. It is committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification.

 

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Ans: (c)

Homosep Atom

Content For Mains Enrichment (CME)

 

Source: PIB

 Context: India’s first septic tank cleaning robot, the Homosep Atom, developed by the startup Solinas incubated at the DST-TBI of IIT Madras, is revolutionizing sanitation practices across India.

 

Benefits: This innovative technology eliminates manual scavenging by employing robotic cleaning methods, reducing costs, and promoting sewer sanitation. The Homosep Atom has been deployed in 16 cities, offering extensive cleaning capabilities and employing AI for the inspection and management of confined spaces.

Solinas, with support from DST, specializes in developing miniature robots, addressing water and sanitation challenges, climate change issues, and human concerns like manual scavenging. Their technologies, such as Endobot and Swasth AI, detect and mitigate water contamination and pipeline defects, contributing significantly to water access and environmental sustainability.

 

Usage: The example can be used to show the values of:

  1. Firstly, it promotes human dignity by preventing individuals from being subjected to hazardous and degrading work conditions.
  2. Secondly, it fosters equality by providing a safer and more dignified work environment for sanitation workers, regardless of their background or social status.
  3. Additionally, it demonstrates responsibility towards society by addressing a pressing social issue and contributing to public health and well-being.
  4. Finally, it reflects a commitment to innovation and progress by leveraging technology to solve longstanding societal challenges and improve the quality of life for vulnerable populations.

Purple Fest 2024

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

Context: The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, organized Purple Fest 2024 at Rashtrapati Bhawan, celebrating diversity and unity.

  • Major launches included the “INDIA NEURODIVERSITY PLATFORM” and a handbook addressing language barriers.

The ‘Purple Fest’, organised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, aims to raise awareness about different disabilities and their impact on people’s lives and to promote understanding, acceptance and inclusion of persons with disabilities within society.

Recent Major Amendments and Schemes

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Multiple

Amendment Summary
2024 Amendment to IT Rules, 2009 The Central Government amended the IT Rules, 2009, under the IT Act, 2000, mandating the destruction of interception records every six months. This power, previously held only by security agencies, is now extended to competent authorities, including the Union Home Secretary or equivalent state officials.
Support to Poor Prisoners Scheme Nationwide relief for poor prisoners unable to pay fines or secure bail due to financial constraints, administered by MHA, involving district Empowered Committees and state-level Oversight Committees, offering maximum assistance of Rs. 40,000 for undertrials and Rs. 25,000 for convicts, with proposals exceeding this needing state-level approval.
Surrogacy (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2024 The Government, under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021, amended rules to allow couples certified by a District Medical Board with medical conditions to use only one gamete from the intending couple for surrogacy. Previously, Rule 7 prohibited donor gametes. Single women undergoing surrogacy must use self-eggs and donor sperm. A 2023 Supreme Court case allowed surrogacy with donor eggs for women with MRKH Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder causing infertility
Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Amendments Key reforms include strengthening provisions for NPS Trust, bringing pension funds under PMLA, establishing additional board committees, requiring PFRDA approval for trustee bank changes, and implementing fraud prevention measures by CRA (Central Recordkeeping Agency), including fit and proper criteria similar to SEBI.

Investor Information and Analytics Platform

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 Context: The Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Jal Shakti launched the ‘Investor Information and Analytics Platform’ developed by IIT Madras.

  • This platform serves as a comprehensive resource for startups, providing access to venture capitalists, investor networks, government schemes, and various components of the startup landscape.

 

Features of the Platform:

  • Developed by researchers at the Centre for Research on Start-ups and Risk Financing (CREST) of IIT Madras, the platform aims to aid startup founders, entrepreneurs, and young Indians in building innovative devices, services, and platforms.
  • It includes features like “StartupGPT,” an AI-based conversational platform for easy information access.
  • The platform contains information on over 200,000 startups, nearly 11,000 angel investors, 5,000 VCs, 1000 incubators, over 100 government agencies funding startups, and 550 banks supporting startups.

Chromosomal disorders discovered from prehistoric skeletal remains

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

  

Context: Researchers have reported the discovery of chromosomal disorders, including six cases of Down syndrome and one case of Edwards syndrome, in prehistoric skeletal remains dating back approximately 5,500 years.

  • These findings represent the first identification of Edwards syndrome from historic or prehistoric remains.
  • The individuals affected by these disorders mostly died either before or shortly after birth, with some cases dating as far back as the Bronze Age and Neolithic period.
  • The study suggests a potentially higher frequency of burials of trisomy carriers in certain ancient societies, indicating a recognition of these individuals as part of their communities.

 

The findings shed light on how ancient societies may have perceived and responded to genetic disorders, offering insight into their cultural practices and beliefs surrounding such conditions.

 

Condition Description
Down syndrome A condition characterized by the presence of an extra chromosome or an additional piece of a chromosome, leading to changes in the development of a baby’s body and brain. It can result in both mental and physical challenges throughout life.
Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) A genetic disorder that causes delays in physical growth during fetal development. Children diagnosed with Edwards syndrome typically have a short life expectancy due to various life-threatening complications. Survivors may experience significant intellectual challenges, especially if they live beyond their first year.

 

Hanooman

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE 

Context: The BharatGPT group, has unveiled ‘Hanooman’, a series of large language models (LLMs) capable of responding in 11 Indian languages, with plans to expand to over 20 languages.

  • Hanooman is designed for use in healthcare, governance, financial services, and education sectors.
  • It is a multimodal AI tool that can generate text, speech, videos, and more in multiple Indian languages.
  • One customized version, VizzhyGPT, is tailored for healthcare.

 

Large language models utilize deep learning techniques to process and understand vast amounts of text data, learning meanings and relationships between words through training on large datasets like Wikipedia and OpenWebText.

Garbhini-GA2

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 

Context: Researchers have developed Garbhini-GA2, an India-specific artificial intelligence model, to accurately determine the gestational age of a fetus during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

  • This model, created by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, is part of the DBT India initiative (GARBH-Ini) program.

 

 Features:

  • Garbhini-GA2 is the first late-trimester gestational age estimation model validated using Indian population data, addressing variations in fetal growth compared to Western populations.
  • It significantly reduces estimation errors and enables precise prenatal care, potentially reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.

 

India’s largest solar-battery project

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 

Context: The Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited (SECI) has commissioned India’s largest Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh, with an installed capacity of 40 MW/120 MWh.

  • This project combines solar photovoltaic (PV) panels with battery storage to meet peak energy demands.
  • The project ensures power stability through efficient power evacuation and transmission.

 

It is estimated to save tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually and is financially supported by the World Bank, Clean Technology Fund, and domestic lending agencies, demonstrating collaborative efforts to drive sustainable financial arrangements.

 

HAM Operator

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 

Context: A team of amateur radio operators (HAMs) conducted an Island On The Air (IOTA) expedition from cyclone shelters on Nachugunta Island, Andhra Pradesh.

  • The team made 4,000 global contacts, promoting emergency communication preparedness through sessions in local schools and villages.

 

HAM is an abbreviation for Hyman-Almy-Murray, the call sign of the first amateur wireless station in 1908. The station was operated by Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy, and Poogie Murray, members of the Harvard Radio Club. The term “ham radio” refers to the hobby of amateur radio, not the equipment. 

Ammunition-missile manufacturing complex

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

  

Context: Adani Defence and Aerospace inaugurated two facilities for ammunition and missile manufacturing in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, marking the first private-sector venture in this domain.

  • The complex aims to become one of South Asia’s largest integrated ammunition manufacturing facilities, producing ammunition for the armed forces, paramilitary forces, and police.

 

The government has taken several steps to promote indigenous defence production, including:

  • Prioritizing the procurement of capital items from domestic sources under the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP)-2020.
  • Liberalizing the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy by permitting up to 74% FDI under the automatic route.
  • Launching the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme to foster innovation in defence technologies.

Banihal-Sangaldan railway (J&K)  

Mapping

 

Source: IE

 Context: The PM inaugurated the Banihal-Sangaldan railway line in Jammu and Kashmir, aiming to connect Baramulla in North Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu. The railway section includes tunnels, bridges, and escape tunnels for passenger safety.

 

Benefits:

  • This route provides a crucial travel option when the National Highway-44 is closed due to landslides. Additionally, it promotes tourism and economic activity in remote areas of the Jammu division.
  • While the Valley is not yet fully integrated into the Indian railways network, completion is expected by May.
  • The new train route significantly reduces travel time between Srinagar and Jammu and facilitates the transportation of goods, benefiting the people of Kashmir economically.

 

About the Jammu–Baramulla railway line:

It aims to connect the Kashmir Valley with the rest of India, stretching 338 km from Jammu to Baramulla. Managed by the Firozpur railway division of Indian Railways’ Northern zone, it includes the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL), featuring the world’s tallest railway bridge, the Chenab Bridge.

It was initiated in 1996 by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and declared a national project in 2002 by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

 

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