Given below are the daily current affairs for 31st Dec. 2020. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.
- SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs nod for 3 infra projects
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved three infrastructure proposals estimated at Rs 7,725 crore.
- The proposals are for setting up greenfield industrial cities with connectivity to major transportation corridors such as the eastern and western dedicated freight corridors, expressways and national highways.
- The three projects, proposed by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, include:
- Construction of various trunk infrastructure components for the Krishnapatnam Industrial Area in Andhra Pradesh.
- The Tumakuru Industrial Area in Karnataka.
- A multi-modal logistics hub (MMLH) and multi-modal transport hub (MMTH) at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh. It will be developed as a world-class facility that will provide efficient storage/transitioning of goods to/from dedicated freight corridors, and offer a one-stop destination to freight companies and customers.
- The objective of the Industrial Corridor Programme is the creation of greenfield industrial cities with sustainable, ‘plug n play’, ICT enabled utilities to facilitate manufacturing investments into the country.
- Industrial Corridor programme was launched with the aim of development of futuristic industrial cities and the creation of employment opportunities.
- These projects would generate ample employment opportunities through industrialisation.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Cabinet gives approval for Akash missile export
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister, has approved the export of the indigenously developed and manufactured Akash short-range Surface to Air Missile (SAM) system.
- It also approved the high-level committee formed to expedite clearance of such exports.
- So far, Indian defence exports included parts and components but the export of big platforms was minimal.
- This decision by the Cabinet would help the country to improve its defence products and make them globally competitive.
- After its induction in the Services, interest was shown in the Akash missile by many friendly countries during international exhibitions/Def Expo/Aero India.
- Akash is a mid-range surface-to-air missile (SAM).
- It is a medium-range nuclear-capable supersonic missile. It has been indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).
- The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program started in 1984.
- It is a multi-target, multi-directional, all-weather air-defence missile system consisting of surveillance and tracking radars for defending vulnerable areas against medium-range air targets penetrating from low, medium and high altitudes.
- It has supersonic speeds ranging from Mach 2.8 to 3.5.
- It has the capability to carry 55- kg fragmentation warhead that is triggered by proximity fuse.
- It can engage aerial targets up to a range of approximately 25 kms. It can reach a high altitude of 18 kms and as low as 30 meters.
Boost given for ethanol production
Modification of a scheme for interest subvention for ethanol production.
- The Union Cabinet has approved a modified scheme for interest subvention for ethanol production, expanding the scheme to include grain-based distilleries and not just molasses-based ones.
- The government would bear interest subvention for five years including a one-year moratorium against the loan availed by project proponents from banks @ 6% per annum or 50% of the rate of interest charged by banks whichever is lower.
- The decision would encourage ethanol production from grains like barley, maize, corn and rice.
- The scheme would boost production and distillation capacity to 1,000 crore litres and help in meeting the goal of 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2030.
Facial recognition technology
While the facial recognition tracking (FRT) system has seen rapid deployment by multiple government departments in recent times, there are no specific laws or guidelines to regulate the use of this potentially invasive technology.
- There are currently 16 different FRT systems in active utilisation by various Central and State governments across India for surveillance, security or authentication of identity.
- Another 17 are in the process of being installed by different government departments.
What are the Concerns?
- Absence of specific laws or guidelines poses a huge threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression because it does not satisfy the threshold the Supreme Court had set in its landmark privacy judgment in the ‘Justice K.S. Puttaswamy Vs Union of India’ case.
- Many institutions have not conducted “privacy impact assessment” prior to deployment of the facial recognition system (FRS).
- Function creep: A function creep happens when someone uses information for a purpose that is not the original specified purpose (Police got permission to use the FRS by an order of the Delhi High Court for tracking missing children. Now they are using it for wider security and surveillance and investigation purpose, which is a function creep).
- This might lead to an over-policing problem or problems where certain minorities are targeted without any legal backing or any oversight as to what is happening. Another problem that may arise is of mass surveillance, wherein the police are using the FRT system during protest.
- Mass surveillance: If someone goes to a protest against the government, and the police are able to identify the person, then there might be repercussions.
- The basis of the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) is a Cabinet note of 2009. But the Cabinet note is not a legal substance, it’s a procedural note at best. So it does not form a valid legal system based on which the AFRS can be built.
What is facial recognition?
Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features on the face to identify and distinguish an individual.
- AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces. Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person.
- The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.
Benefits of facial recognition:
- Improves outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification.
- Easy identification amongst crowds.
- Boosts the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
- Helps civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.
Need of the hour:
The Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy judgment ruled that privacy is a fundamental right even in public spaces. And if these rights needs to be infringed, then the government has to show that such action is sanctioned by law, proportionate to the need for such interference, necessary and in pursuit of a legitimate aim.
Govt. nod for missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic
Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister has cleared the proposal from the Ministry of External Affairs to open three missions in Estonia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic in 2021.
- While the government had announced the opening of 18 missions in 2018, not all of them have been established yet.
- Opening of the newly announced missions may be further delayed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The opening of the missions will help expand India’s diplomatic footprint and deepen political relations. It would bolster political outreach in multilateral fora.
- It will enable the growth of bilateral trade, investment and economic engagements.
- Enhancement of India’s diplomatic presence will provide market access for companies and bolster exports of goods and services.
- It would be instrumental in facilitating stronger people-to-people contacts.
- The move would also help the diaspora members residing in these countries.
- It would help garner support for the foreign policy objectives.
- It would also strengthen ties in trade and cybersecurity.
- Both Paraguay and the Dominican Republic had set up missions in Delhi in 2006.
- India and Estonia will serve together in the Security Council in 2021.
Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
Assam CM sets Jan. 31 deadline to rehabilitate Dibru-Saikhowa National Park dwellers.
What’s the issue?
It has been hanging fire since 1999, when the Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded to a national park.
About the National Park:
- It is situated in the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in Assam.
- It is the largest swamp forest in north-eastern India.
- It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA), notified by the Birdlife International.
- It is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.
- The forest type comprises semi-evergreen forests, deciduous forests, littoral and swamp forests and patches of wet evergreen forests.
- Maguri Motapung wetland is a part of the Reserve.
Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) launched.
About Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG):
- The government has launched the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), comprising 10 labs spread across India.
- The overall aim of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium is to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
- This vital research consortium will also assist in developing potential vaccines in the future.
- The consortium will ascertain the status of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01) in the country, establish a sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implication, and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends (super-spreader events, high mortality/morbidity trend areas, etc.).
E-committee of Supreme Court gets award
E-committee of the Supreme Court of India conferred with the Platinum Award for Excellence in Digital Governance by the President of India.
- E-Courts project envisioned and implemented by the e-Committee, Supreme Court of India along with the Department of Justice and the NIC (National Information Centre) is a Mission Mode Project of the Indian Government.
- Citizens can access case status, causelist court orders anywhere, any time through e-courts services website, mobile app, SMS, email services from the 3293 court complexes.
- People can also get the details of more than 13 crore cases, court orders and judgements free of cost and available 24×7.
- During the COVID pandemic, more than 55 crore cases were heard by courts through video conferencing using the digital infrastructure provided by the e-courts project pan India making Indian courts a global leader in conducting cases through VC.
Ease of doing business reforms
Odisha becomes the 7th state to complete ease of doing business reforms.
- Odisha has become the 7th state in the country to successfully undertake “Ease of Doing Business” reform stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.
- Thus, the State has become eligible to mobilise additional financial resources of Rs. 1,429 crore through Open Market Borrowings.
- Odisha has now joined the six other states namely, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, who have completed this reform.
- The ease of doing business is an important indicator of the investment friendly business climate in the country.
- Improvements in the ease of doing business will enable faster future growth of the state economy.
- Therefore, the government of India had in May 2020, decided to link the grant of additional borrowing permissions to states who undertake the reforms to facilitate ease of doing business.
- The reforms stipulated in this category are:
- Completion of first assessment of ‘District Level Business Reform Action Plan’
- Elimination of the requirements of renewal of registration certificates/approvals/licences obtained by businesses under various Acts.
- Implementation of computerized central random inspection system under the Acts wherein allocation of inspectors is done centrally, the same inspector is not assigned to the same unit in subsequent years, prior inspection notice is provided to the business owner, and inspection report is uploaded within 48 hours of inspection.
- To meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, GOI had enhanced the borrowing limit of the states by 2 percent of their GSDP.
- Half of this special dispensation was linked to undertaking citizen centric reforms by the states.
- The four citizen centric areas for reforms identified were:
- Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System (done by 10 states)
- Ease of doing business reform (done by 7 states)
- Urban Local body/utility reforms (done by 2 states)
- Power sector reforms
Maiden test flight of SAHAYAK-NG.
- SAHAYAK-NG is India’s first indigenously designed and developed Air Droppable Container.
- It is an advanced version of SAHAYAK Mk I. It is a GPS aided air dropped container with the capacity to carry a payload of up to 50 kg and can be dropped from a heavy aircraft.
- The successful maiden test was conducted by the DRDO along with the Indian Navy.
- The container was dropped from IL 38SD aircraft (of the Indian Navy) off the coast of Goa during the test flight.
- The trial was conducted by the Navy to enhance its operational logistics capabilities and provide critical engineering stores to ships which are deployed more than 2000 km from the coast.
- It reduces the requirement of ships to come close to the coast to collect spares and stores.
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