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Current Affairs 22nd December 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam

Rudra and Param Utkarsh

Context: Prime Minister Modi’s recent AI Mission announcement aims to propel India to the forefront of global AI development by building a powerful domestic computing ecosystem.

About Rudra And Param Utkarsh

  • Rudra I server: This is the first indigenous server developed in India under the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).
    • It’s not technically a supercomputer itself, but a server building block that can be used to create supercomputers.
    • It’s designed to be versatile and affordable, allowing institutions to build supercomputing systems with tens of petaflops of performance.
  • PARAM Utkarsh: This is a supercomputer located at C-DAC Bangalore, also developed under the NSM.
    • It uses Rudra I servers as part of its hardware infrastructure, along with Intel Cascade Lake CPUs and NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs, offering a combined peak computing power of 838 Teraflops.
    • It offers access to HPC and storage services, AI frameworks, and secure infrastructure to MSMEs and startups.

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States can borrow an extra ₹2 lakh crore this year

Context: The Finance Ministry has allowed states to access approximately ₹2.04 lakh crore overall as additional borrowings beyond their net borrowing limits for the current fiscal year.

Recent Central Government Decision

  • The Central Government has sanctioned additional borrowing of Rs 60,876.80 crore for states, exceeding the standard borrowing limit of 3% of GSDP.
  • This approval has been extended to 22 states to address pension responsibilities associated with the National Pension System, operational since 2004.

State Borrowing Limits

  • Typically, state borrowing limits are capped at 3% of their GSDP.
    • For the fiscal year 2024, this translates to Rs 8,59,988 crore, as per the Fifteenth Finance Commission’s suggestions.
  • States can access an additional borrowing capacity of 0.5% of GSDP, tied to power sector reform performance.
    • For FY24, states may borrow an additional Rs 1.43 lakh crore, subject to the Power Ministry’s endorsement.

Constitutional Guidelines on State Borrowing

  • Article 293(3) restricts states from raising loans without the Indian Government’s consent if they have outstanding government loans.
    • This provision has been actively managed by the Centre, following recommendations from the Finance Commission.

Hydrogen cyanide found in Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus

Context: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data reveals the presence of hydrogen cyanide in Enceladus’s oceans.

Study Findings

  • A Nature Astronomy publication reports Enceladus’s oceans are chemically active and potentially life-supporting.
  • Analysis of 2004-2017 Cassini data uncovers hydrogen cyanide and other organic compounds like methanol and ethane.
  • Water vapour plumes from Enceladus’s surface contain these vital molecules.

Implications for Habitability

  • The evidence bolsters the potential for life on Enceladus.
  • The moon might harbour the necessary components for the development of complex life-related molecules.

Smart India Hackathon 2023

Context: Recently PM Narendra Modi Interacted  with the participants during the Grand Finale of Smart India Hackathon 2023

Overview of the Initiative

  • This program is a national effort designed to provide a platform for students to address real-world problems.
  • Its primary goal is to cultivate an environment where students can innovate, solve problems creatively, and think outside the box.

Initiative Launch

  • Year of Inception: 2017
  • Responsible Ministry: Ministry of Education

Eligibility for Participation

  • SIH JUNIOR: Open to students from Class 6th to 12th.
  • SIH SENIOR: Accessible to higher education students, including those pursuing Graduate, Postgraduate, and Ph.D. programs.

Key Highlights

  • SIH operates in two distinct categories: Software and Hardware Editions, targeting higher education students.
  • Solution domains include diverse areas such as Space Technology, Smart Education, Disaster Management, Robotics and Drones, Heritage, and Culture.
  • SIH 2023 boasts a prize pool of over Rs 2 crore, awarding Rs 1 lakh to each winning team per problem statement.

New Swarnima loan scheme

Context: The government recently submitted a response in the Lok Sabha concerning the execution of the Swarnima loan scheme.

Program Overview

  • This initiative is a financing scheme aimed at offering economic aid to women entrepreneurs hailing from backward classes.
  • Administrative Ministry: Overseen by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Originating Organisation: National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC).
  • Execution Mechanism: The scheme is executed by State Channelising Agencies (SCAs), serving as the pivotal agencies.
  • Qualification Criteria:
    • Open to women of backward classes aged between 18 and 55.
    • Applicant’s family annual income must not exceed ₹3 lakh.
  • Scheme Advantages:
    • Provides loans up to ₹2,00,000 for each eligible woman.
    • Offers lower interest rates compared to NBCFDC’s standard loan programs.
    • Features a repayment period of up to 8 years with quarterly instalment payments.

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