Current Affairs 3rd October 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam
Context: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Aditya-L1 spacecraft has escaped the sphere of Earth’s influence, and is currently on its way to reach the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1 (L1).
What are Lagrange Points?
- Lagrange points are positions in space where the gravitational forces of two massive orbiting bodies, such as the Sun and Earth, balance each other.
- This allows a small object, such as a spacecraft, to remain in a relatively stable orbit with minimal fuel consumption, which can be especially important for long-duration missions.
- There are five Lagrange points in the Sun-Earth system, labeled L1 through L5:
|L4 and L5||
About the Aditya L1 Mission
- Aditya L1 is the first space based Indian mission to study the Sun.
- Objective: To study Sun’s atmosphere and magnetic field.
- Key Payloads of the Aditya L1 Spacecraft:
- Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC): to study the dynamics of the solar corona.
- Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT): to image the Sun in the ultraviolet wavelength range.
- Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS): to measure the X-ray spectrum of the Sun.
- High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS): to measure the X-ray spectrum of the Sun in the high-energy range.
- Plasma Analyzer Package (PAP): to measure the density, temperature, and composition of the Sun’s plasma environment.
Context: The R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India has been approved by WHO for treating malaria.
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- The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a new vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, for the prevention of malaria in children.
- The R21 vaccine is the second malaria vaccine recommended by WHO, following the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine.
- R21 vaccine leverages Novavax’s adjuvant technology and has met the required safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
- Adjuvants are substances that enhance the immune system’s response to a vaccine.
- They are commonly used to improve the effectiveness of a vaccine.
- Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite.
- It is preventable and curable.
- Malaria does not spread from person to person.
- Malaria mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
- Blood transfusion and contaminated needles may also transmit malaria.
- Types of Parasites Causing Malaria:
- There are 5 Plasmodium parasite species that cause malaria in humans and 2 of these species: P. falciparum and P. vivax pose the greatest threat.
- P. falciparum is most prevalent on the African continent.
- P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
- The other malaria species which can infect humans are P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi.
- Fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness.
- RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine
Notifiable Disease in India:
- Currently malaria is a notifiable disease in 33 States and Union Territories in India.
- A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities.
- The collation of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease, and provides early warning of possible outbreaks.
Declining Cases of Malaria in India:
- India was the only high-burden, high-impact country in the South- East Asia region to report a decline in malaria cases in 2020 as compared to 2019.
- Malaria is prevalent in Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura because of the inaccessible terrain, many areas get cut off post monsoon, presence of efficient vectors, mosquito.
- India witnessed 85.1% decline in malaria cases and 83.36% decline in deaths during 2015-2022.
Initiatives by the Government:
- The National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) 2016-2030 outlines India’s strategy for elimination of the disease by 2030.
LPG and ATF
Context: Recently, the oil companies raised the prices of commercial LPG and aviation turbine fuel (ATF).
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- Increase in prices of commercial LPG: ₹209 per 19-kg cylinder.
- Increase in prices of ATF: 5%
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
- Like all fossil fuels, it is a non-renewable source of energy.
- It is extracted from crude oil and natural gas.
- LPG is composed hydrocarbons. The normal components of LPG are propane and butane.
- Properties of LPG:
- Stored in a liquefied state, 1 liter of LPG is as efficient as 270 liters of gaseous energy (natural gas).
- Highly flammable
- High caloric value, i.e. it is a good energy source as it provides a high level of heat.
- Has almost no sulphur content, which results in cleaner burning.
- Fuel for cooking and heating in place of natural gas.
- It is also used as propellant in refrigerators.
- Alternative fuel: LPG is a cleaner energy source than petrol: its CO2 emission rate is 10% lower.
- LPG is much cheaper than petrol or diesel.
- LPG in India:
- The Union Government had approved 75 lakh new LPG connections under the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana recently with an aim to provide these connections over the next 3 years at an estimated cost of ₹1,650 crore.
- More than 70% of Indian households use LPG as their primary cooking fuel and nearly 85% have LPG connections.
- 15% of Indian households still lack LPG connections.
- Majority of households that use traditional solid fuels along with LPG have high cylinder costs.
- LPG’s use as primary cooking fuel needs to be improved in rural areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
- LPG unaffordable for many people due to:
- Rising LPG prices,
- Lower household incomes during the pandemic,
- Suspension of LPG subsidies in May 2020,
- Limited availability of LPG refills
- There needs to be incentivising of rural distributors to improve home delivery of LPG by provide them with higher commissions per refill.
- Link the commission amount to connection density.
- LPG programmes must be linked to broader social assistance or rural development schemes.
Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF)
- Definition: Aviation turbine fuel (ATF) or jet fuel is a specialized type of petroleum-based fuel used to power aircrafts.
- It is a colorless, combustible, straight-run petroleum distillate liquid.
- Its principal uses are as jet engine fuel.
- It is also used as a hydraulic fluid in engine control system.
- It is also used as a coolant for certain fuel system components.
- Type: The most common jet fuel worldwide is a kerosene-based fuel classified as JET A-1.
- ATF and Price Fluctuations:
- Airline companies, being the single largest user of jet fuel, are exposed to price risk owing to extreme volatility in prices worldwide.
- Airlines must either absorb the price volatility or pass the same to consumers.
- However, globalization and the competitive scenario existent today demands competitive pricing in the absence of which airlines stand to lose business.
Cytrox’s Predator Spyware
Context: Cytrox’s Predator spyware has been reported to have been used to target the iPhone belonging to a former Egyptian Member of Parliament.
Cytrox’s Predator Spyware
- Definition: Predator spyware is developed by a company called Cytrox which is headquartered in Skopje, North Macedonia.
- It is capable of recording audio, adding CA certificates, and even hiding apps.
- A certificate authority (CA) is a trusted organization that issues digital certificates for websites and other entities. CAs validate a website domain.
- It was used by government-backed threat actors in Egypt, Armenia, Greece and Indonesia to spy on political rivals, journalists and critics of their respective government.
- Attackers can use this spyware to track one’s online activities across the web and build a profile on them.
- It is capable of recording audio, adding CA certificates, and even hiding apps.
- Victims are receiving a message in emails that comes attached with a one-time link that imitates a URL shortener service.
- Victims are being redirected to a domain owned by the attacker once they click on the link.
- This domain will deliver a simple Android malware called ALIEN before redirecting their browser to a legitimate website.
- The Alien Android malware is responsible for loading the Predator spyware which first infected the targeted Android devices.
- Alien receives commands from Predator which allow the spyware to record audio, add CA certificates and even hide apps on a user’s device.
- Solution: Tech giants including Meta, Google, and Apple have taken concrete steps to address the problem of commercial spyware firms exploiting bugs in their software.
- Apple has released a ‘Lockdown Mode’, which has “extreme protection” designed for high-risk individuals.
- While the Lockdown Mode in Apple’s software limits the device’s functionality, it has proven to be a viable option to protect against spyware attacks.
- Definition: Spyware is a malicious software designed to enter a device, gather sensitive data, and forward it to a third party without the user’s consent.
- While spyware is used for commercial purposes like advertising, malicious spyware is used to profit from data stolen from a victim’s device.
- Israel is the leading exporter of spyware and digital forensics.
- Trojan Spyware: Is a malicious software that appears legal yet can take control of one’s device. A Trojan is a computer program designed to hurt, disrupt, steal, or otherwise harm one’s information or network.
- Adware: Is harmful software programs that display deceptive adverts, numerous blinking pop-up windows, big banners, and full-screen auto-play advertisements in the browser.
- Tracking Cookie: Is a piece of text deposited onto a browser while a user is going through a page that gathers information about a person’s website activity, search history, geographical region, purchasing tendencies, etc.
- System Monitors: Software programs that track one’s activity and enable hackers to gain access to their private information.
- Definition: Commercial spyware mainly targets mobile platforms and can legitimately be used against criminals and terrorists.
- Enhanced Use:
- Earlier spywares were limited to being used by criminals to steal passwords or financial information.
- Due to the lack of global regulations for companies developing spyware has led to their use by authoritarian governments to spy on political opponents.
- Example: Commercial spyware like Pegasus spyware can not only extract information from mobile devices but also turn on the camera and microphone without the owner’s knowledge, effectively turning handsets into a spying device.
- The software allows operators to gain remote access to devices so they can target individuals from almost any part of the world.
- Spyware is also a tool of intimidation for journalists, activists, and opposition politicians.
- As per Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 44 countries have procured targeted surveillance technologies.
Context: The 22nd Law Commission of India has given several recommendations related to the electronic first information reports (e-FIR).
What is an e-FIR?
- An e-FIR, or electronic First Information Report, is an online version of a First Information Report.
- First Information Report (FIR) is a written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offence.
- The term FIR is not defined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, or in any other law.
- However, in police regulations or rules, information recorded under Section 154 of CrPC is known as First Information Report (FIR).
Advantages of e-FIR
- Convenience: e-FIRs can be filed from anywhere with an internet connection, 24/7.
- Speed: e-FIRs are registered immediately i.e., the police can begin their investigation sooner.
- Accuracy: e-FIRs are less likely to contain errors than traditional FIRs, which are handwritten and often difficult to decipher.
- Transparency and Accountability: e-FIRs are available online for the public to view.
Recommendations by the Law Commission
- Expanding the scope of e-FIRs: Currently, e-FIRs are implemented in eight states but are limited to specific crimes. The commission recommends allowing the filing of e-FIRs for
- all cognizable offences where the accused is unknown, and
- all cognizable offences with a jail term of up to three years where the accused is known.
- Amendments: The commission has recommended suitable amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Indian Penal Code,1860 and other legislation to support e-FIR registration.
- Prevention of false complaints: To prevent false e-FIRs and complaints, the commission suggests verifying the complainant through e-authentication techniques such as OTP verification and mandatory uploading of valid government-approved IDs.
- The commission also recommends imposing a minimum punishment, including imprisonment and fines, for false registration of e-complaints or e-FIRs.
- Exemptions: The commission recommended against allowing registration of e-FIR in all cases.
- It referred to the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in Lalita Kumari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, in which the court held that preliminary enquiry should be conducted in cases pertaining to matrimonial disputes, commercial offences, medical negligence and corruption, among others.