Context- The Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) summit, which India will host in May, is anticipated to bring together foreign ministers from China, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Bilateral relations with Pakistan and China have reached a new low. However, multilateral settings are frequently considered as possibilities for countries with strained relations to find a solution.
India has invited Pakistan’s foreign minister to a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in May of this year.
Know about SCO
Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region’s security and economic infrastructure disintegrated, necessitating the establishment of new entities.
China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were the original Shanghai Five.
Uzbekistan became a member of the SCO in 2001. In 2017, it was expanded to cover India and Pakistan.
Since its inception, the SCO has prioritised non-traditional regional security, including counter-terrorism as a top priority.
Its motto has become the struggle against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
Today, topics of collaboration include economy and culture.
Where India and Pakistan stand today?
India has begun to redefine the rules of engagement under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The transformation of India’s ties with the United States, the resolution of Delhi’s disagreement with the global nuclear order, and convincing the West to abandon its desire to mediate on Kashmir have all greatly strengthened India’s diplomatic standing.
The most significant transformation has occurred in the economic realm. India just surpassed the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest economy.
The continued disregard for economic issues has put Pakistan in an increasingly vulnerable position in regards to India. If India has crept into the top five world economies, Pakistan is now in ruins.
India’s position on engagement with Pakistan
“We have always sought normal neighbourly ties with Pakistan,” stated Arindam Bagchi, official spokeswoman for the Ministry of External Affairs. However, there should be a welcoming environment free of panic, hate, and violence. That is still our position.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated at Davos that she does not see a partner in India’s Prime Minister to move this peace-building endeavour ahead.
When a country on one side of the gap hosts a multilateral meeting, the first step is for the opposing side to accept the invitation. In Pakistan, an election is coming up, and having committed to a stance, both Bhutto and Khar will be cognizant that their deeds must match their words. Nonetheless, if a thaw is possible, India must not be the one to pass it up. India must deal with its antagonistic neighbour in the proper manner.
Source – The Hindu
Layoff and the conditions for retrenchment
GS Paper- III
Context- Around 160,000 individuals in the IT business were laid off globally last year. In comparison, 60,000 tech professionals have been laid off in just this month. Due to a bleak global economic outlook and the possibility of a recession, tech corporations throughout the world, from US-based behemoths like Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta to early-stage startups, have engaged in large-scale layoffs.
What does it mean to get laid off?
A layoff is an employer’s temporary or permanent termination of employment for reasons unrelated to the employee’s performance.
Employees may be laid off when corporations want to reduce expenses, as a result of a drop in demand for their products or services, a seasonal closure, or during an economic downturn.
Employees who are laid off lose all salary and corporate perks but are eligible for unemployment insurance or compensation (typically in USA).
Inflation following a robust global economic recovery: There are two elements.
Demand outpaced supply: Aggregate demand in advanced economies surpassed supply, boosted by unusual pandemic relief assistance to families.
Supply chain disruption caused by Russia-Ukraine war: The armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine disrupted supply chains, resulting in worldwide inflationary pressures for food and gasoline. In response, the US Federal Reserve has quickly raised interest rates.
Layoff drive in India
As multinational corporations attempt to reduce their global payrolls, this layoff push has spread to India.
Indian workers, both expats and locals, have been affected in both the conventional IT business and the tech-based startup sector.
Despite a good start, India’s spending began to deteriorate in 2022, with third-quarter funding dipping to a two-year low.
Rising interest rates have increased the cost of capital, forcing venture capitalists to be more careful in how they deploy cash during this financial winter.
In order to be profitable, Indian software firms are under pressure to slash expenses and restructure their operations. As a result, startups, even unicorns, have seen widespread retrenchment.
Retrenchment conditions according to Industrial Disputes Act
Employers must provide workers who have been in continuous employment for at least a year a one-month notice with grounds for layoff.
Employers must provide layoff pay.
A notification must be served on the competent government in the specified way.
When retrenching employees, employers must adhere to the principle of last come, first served.
Employers frequently avoid legal obligations by requesting voluntary resignations in order to avoid layoff restrictions.
In any event, these regulations solely apply to non-managerial personnel; managerial employees’ employment contracts control them.
Gig or contract employees do not have comparable safeguards.
Even as India strives to lead a digital and technologically driven world, it is critical to remember that the technology industry is not immune to hard macroeconomic realities. It is critical for the government and private sector to collaborate in order to reduce the impact of layoffs on workers while also ensuring that the industry continues to thrive and generate opportunities for everybody.
Source – The Hindu
India could lead the G20 agenda in a unique way
GS Paper- II
Context- The Group of 20 (G20) has emerged as the principal forum for international economic and financial cooperation. India took the leadership of the strong organisation G20 on 1 December 2022, symbolising the slogan and presenting its philosophy of “VasudhaivaKutumbakam”, or “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.
What does One Earth, One Family, One Future imply?
India has vowed to focusing its year as chairman on “healing our ‘One Earth,’ establishing harmony among our ‘One Family,’ and bringing hope for our ‘One Future’ and LiFE” (Lifestyle for Environment).
What is Troika?
The troika refers to the former, present, and upcoming presidency of Indonesia, India, and Brazil, in that order.
In these tumultuous economic times, the troika is driving the global agenda at the G20.
The G20 is more than just a policy forum; it is tasked with reconciling the irreconcilable.
The group’s number of discussions and years together has resulted in a mixed bag of results.
It is vital to get all of the partner states together to understand their goals while developing the global agenda. It will ensure diversity, equity, inclusion, long-term commitment, and sustainability. This can also assist to ensure that domestic policies are consistent with global goals.
Because India has a bigger burden, it should not work and appear prejudiced. Similarly, wealthier countries should be more cautious with their abundant natural resources. We must think in terms of multilateralism to create a win-win situation rather than a zero-sum game.
It is vital to prevent the G20 from suffering from over-expansion of its scope, as other international forums such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) have. While being ambitious, it is critical to create specified, constrained long-term priorities.
Measurable outcomes with short-, medium-, and long-term goals are essential. In addition to guaranteeing equality, sustainability, and accountability, financial concerns must be examined.
Duplication of efforts is important to enable faster mutual progress. It is critical to avoid duplication of existing international institutions, dispersion of financial resources, and a weakening of the current multilateral organisations’ coordinating role. The ‘collaborative and cooperative frameworks are critical to good outcomes.
Prejudices in international forums can endanger world security. As an antidote, dialogue may help with conflict prevention, management, and resolution.
Mutual protection from veiled components of neocolonialism and hegemony is critical for breaking down socio-cultural and geopolitical barriers between the Global South and the Global North.
Through inclusive discussions, the global lens must encompass every facet of a community, from the most marginalised to the most wealthy. It is critical to establish global and national vertical and horizontal strategies with the ‘last person standing in line’ in mind.
India’s current Image
While India’s successes are being assessed and unprecedented hopes are being expressed about our future, the country’s trust in the global governance architecture is evident through several examples from the recent past, like the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in India as well as remarkable vaccine diplomacy initiative ‘Vaccine Maitri’.
With one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, the country has earned its stripes through difficult external and internal circumstances.
Similarly, India has been named one of the top five nations in the world in terms of Climate Change Performance Index. Furthermore, it has taken the lead in accelerating the shift to greener energy sources.
India has achieved a geopolitical sweet spot in the globe because to its social capitalism.
India has the potential to drive the G20 agenda in a way that the world has never seen before. Keeping the fundamental concepts in mind when formulating agendas, action plans, and choices through collaborative efforts has the potential to produce revolutionary and beneficial results. The idea of building a new paradigm of human-centric globalisation seems promising, assuming equal support from the Global North and South populations.
Source – The Hindu
Ken-Betwa River Link Project
GS Paper- III
Context- The Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) Steering Committee met for the third time in New Delhi.
What precisely is the Ken Betwa Link Project?
The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first in the National Perspective Plan for river interlinking.
Water from the Ken River will be moved to the Betwa River as part of this project.
Both of these rivers are tributaries of the Yamuna River.
The project is divided into two phases:
One of the components, the Daudhan dam complex and its appurtenances such as the Low Level Tunnel, High Level Tunnel, Ken-Betwa connection canal, and power buildings, will be constructed during Phase I.
Three components will be built during Phase II: the Lower Orr dam, the Bina complex project, and the Kotha barrage.
Utility of the Project
The project is expected to irrigate 10.62 million hectares per year, supply potable water to 62 million people, and create 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar electricity.
The project would be extremely beneficial to the water-stressed Bundelkhand area, which spans Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
The initiative is planned to promote socioeconomic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region through greater agricultural activity and job creation.
It would also aid in the halting of distressed migration from this region.
Issues with the project
The government’s strategy is based on a’surplus and deficit’ paradigm that has no scientific foundation.
There may not even be enough water in the Ken, a perennial river, to fulfil the Betwa’s estimated requirements, let alone those of the Bundelkhand region.
The UP and the MP could not agree on how water would be allocated, especially during non-monsoonal months.
The KBLP intends to build a high reservoir-dam on the Ken River in the Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve.
The Ken Gharial Sanctuary, located downstream of the national park, was established to conserve the critically endangered Gangetic gharial (Gavialis gangeticus).
What are the legal problems?
The Ken-Betwa Link Project has not been approved by the National Board for Wildlife’s Standing Committee.
As stipulated under Section 35(6) of the Animals (Protection) Act of 1972, this is required for the enhancement and better management of the wildlife within.
Problems with the projects
People will be displaced in large numbers as a result of migration.
Because the Ganga basin geography is flat, erecting dams would not significantly increase river flows.
Massive volumes of water will be transferred, inundating forests and land for reservoirs.
In the Himalayan area, the weight of billions of litres of water might have seismic consequences.
River interlinking is a costly business, from the construction of connecting canals through the monitoring and upkeep of infrastructure.
The project’s implementation requires not only a large amount of financial resources, but also political backing, both of which are now in short supply.
Another critical problem is reaching an agreement among states on land acquisition.
When the project is completed, it will result in large-scale relocation of people and animals.
Such schemes are based on faulty science and an out-of-date knowledge of water systems and management.
Such efforts run against natural processes, creating more opportunities for threats than opportunities.
The way forward
Exercise caution: Expert review at the project approval stage is a pillar of good environmental governance.
Independent hydrological studies of these rivers are required.
No development project should devastate the ecology of the country’s remaining vulnerable ecosystems or a significant tiger habitat.
The planned dam’s destructive impact on the flow of water into and out of this sanctuary should be obvious, as should its breach of the Act’s provision for a sanctuary.
Source – Indian Express
Green Comet appears close to Earth after 50,000 years
GS Paper- III
Context– The rare green comet, which last visited Earth around 50,000 years ago, has returned to the heavens. If the sky conditions are exactly right, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) can be viewed with the naked eye.
What exactly are comets?
Comets are frozen rocky or gas-filled objects that formed as the solar system formed.
They tend to leave a light “behind them” due to their composition, features, and movement direction.
The comet itself is green (called the comet’s head) and produces a yellowish glow behind it (often called the tail of the comet).
Comets, like other celestial bodies, have orbits.
Because of the sun’s gravity, they are occasionally drawn in close to the sun.
As they approach the Sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a blazing head the size of a planet.
To people on Earth, the resulting dust trail seems like a trail of light from a distance.
What is Green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was found by the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in March of last year, when it was already inside Jupiter’s orbit.
While first thought to be an asteroid, it began to grow a tail when the Sun’s influence began to vapourise the ice.
It was discovered with a magnitude of 17.3 when it was discovered.
Why is it green in colour?
Comets have been observed emitting blue, white, or even green light.
In this example, the green light is considered to be caused by the presence of diatomic carbon – pairs of carbon atoms bonded together – in the comet’s head.
When stimulated by ultraviolet photons from solar radiation, the molecule produces green light.
When and where can the green comet be seen?
Northern Hemisphere observers will see the comet in the early sky as it travels quickly toward the northwest during January.
In early February, it will be visible in the Southern Hemisphere.
When looking northwest in Indian sky, it may be found 16° above the horizon in the Bootes constellation.
However, with the lights from buildings and streetlights on, it might be impossible to see without equipment.
Is the green comet rare?
It last appeared in the heavens above Earth during the Upper Paleolithic epoch, when Neanderthals roamed the earth and early Homo sapiens were just beginning to emerge.
The green comet belongs to the group of long-period comets, which take more than 200 years to circle the Sun.
The comet’s very elliptical orbit will take it back to the Oort cloud, where it will reappear around 50,000 years later.
However, because to their orbits, it is fairly uncommon for comets to resurface near to Earth after many, many years.
Source – Indian Express
Norovirus Cases detected in Kerala
GS Paper- II
Context- The Kerala Health Department verified two instances of the gastrointestinal bug norovirus in Ernakulam district pupils in class one.
What exactly is a Norovirus?
Norovirus is a leading cause of acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis in both children and adults worldwide.
It causes diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach discomfort. Because it is a diarrhoeal condition, it can cause dehydration, thus drinking enough of fluids is advised.
The Norwalk Virus was named when it was detected in association with an outbreak of severe diarrhoeal illness in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1968.
Later, numerous stomach flu viruses closely related to the Norwalk virus were discovered, and they are now known as Noroviruses.
Many stomach flu outbreaks typically in cruise ships have been traced to NoV.
How deadly is this?
Norovirus is not a new virus; it has been around for over 50 years and is regarded to be one of the leading causes of gastroenteritis.
The virus is projected to kill 200,000 people worldwide each year, with the majority of deaths happening in children under the age of five and those over the age of 65.
The virus is capable of tolerating low temperatures, and outbreaks tend to be more prevalent during the winter and in colder areas — that is why it is also referred to as “winter vomiting illness”.
What is the incidence of infection in India?
Norovirus cases are not as frequent in India as they are in many other locations – at the same time.
The illness has been documented in prior years, mostly in Southern India, particularly in Kerala.
In a 2021 research from Hyderabad, norovirus was found in 10.3% of samples of children with acute gastroenteritis.
Can a norovirus illness generate a widespread outbreak?
Despite the fact that more norovirus cases have been identified, experts believe that a large-scale epidemic is unlikely.
There has been no epidemiological investigation to link these instances.
Source – Indian Express
Facts For Prelims
AMPHEX (Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh): This is a biennial tri-services amphibious exercise that focuses on joint training of units from all three services in various aspects of amphibious operations in order to improve interoperability and synergy.
TROPEX-23: It is a biannual (every two years) Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX) with the goal of “validating and improving” the Navy’s notion of “operations” as well as testing overall combat capabilities.
2023 Tarkash: It is a counter-terrorism exercise between the National Security Guard of India and the Special Operations Forces of the United States.
New NASA Nuclear Rocket Plan Aims to Get to Mars in Just 45 Days
Context: NASA is working on bimodal nuclear propulsion, a two-part system comprised of Nuclear Thermal and Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NTP and NEP elements; therefore ‘bimodal’) that might allow transits to Mars in as little as 45 days.
A “wave rotor topping cycle” is used in the bimodal nuclear propulsion system.
Fuel economy, a greater specific impulse (Isp) rating, and infinite energy density are advantages over conventional chemical propulsion (virtually).
The ISRO programme:
The Indian Space Research Organization began by developing a 100-Watt Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator in three stages (RTG)
During the Cold War, RTGs were first utilised in space during the US Transit-4A mission in 1961.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and its Complications
Context: The Indian Publication of Biochemistry and Biophysics (IJBB), the monthly journal from CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Policy Research (NIScPR), has brought out a special edition on the topic, “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and its Complications”.
The endocrine condition polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterised by prolonged anovulation.
PCOS symptoms include irregular periods, hirsutism, and weight gain.
It is the leading cause of infertility, accounting for 6-26% of cases globally and 3.7-22.5% in India.
Genetics, the neuroendocrine system, sedentary lifestyle, food, and obesity are all risk factors.
A combination of dietary and pharmaceutical modifications. Weight loss, regular exercise, and a nutritious diet can all help to regulate hormones and alleviate symptoms.
Birth control pills, metformin, and clomiphene are examples of medications that can be used to regulate the menstrual cycle, lower testosterone levels, and improve ovulation.
NARCL acquires first stressed account from IDBI Bank-led lenders
Context: Jaypee Infratech was purchased by the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL) from lenders led by IDBI Bank.
NARCL will buy assets in a 15:85 cash-to-security-receipts ratio (SRs).
The face amount of SRs issued in favour of transferring lenders is backed by a government guarantee.
NARCL is a terrible bank. The Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) is a specialist financial company that purchases Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) from banks and financial institutions in order to help them clean up their balance sheets.
This allows banks to focus on their core business.
The RBI regulates asset reconstruction firms, or ARCs.
It was announced in the 2021-22 Budget.
The objective is to establish a bad bank to store bad loans of 500 crores or more.