A) Indices, Reports, Committees and Organisations
1. Army Service Corps (ASC) (PIB)
- The Army Service Corps (ASC), the oldest and the largest administrative service in the Indian Army, is celebrating its 260th Corps day on 08 December 2020.
- From a modest beginning during the rule of the East India Company, the Corps extended the scope of its activities, and now operates on land, water as well as in the air.
- The Corps has been a back bone to the fighting forces campaigns in three continents and over all types of terrain from dry deserts to snowy mountains, jungles and high-altitude areas.
- Army Service Corps has always encouraged worthy sport persons and takes immense pride in its four Arjuna Awardees, three Hockey Olympians, the daredevil ‘Tornado’ motorcycle team and various other distinguished players.
2. CO-WIN (IE)
- A New Digital platform ‘CO-WIN’ is being used for COVID-19 Vaccination Delivery.
- The Vaccine Task Force, which was constituted by the Union Government in April 2020, and is co-chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and Member (Health), NITI Aayog.
- With technical experts and representatives of relevant ministries as its members, it provides guidance for focused research on Corona vaccines and other related Science and Technology Issues.
- The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID- 19 (NEGVAC) has also been formed in August to aid and provide guidance on
- i) prioritization of population groups,
- ii) procurement and inventory management,
- iii) vaccine selection, and
- iv) vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism.
- The NEGVAC is chaired by Dr. V.K.Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog and co-chaired by the Health Secretary.
3. NITI Aayog and Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) (TH)
- Context: An editorial.
- NITI Aayog has brought out a discussion paper to chalk out an ambitious strategy for India to become an artificial intelligence (AI) powerhouse.
- AI is the use of computers to make decisions that are normally made by humans.
- NITI Aayog wants to use AI solutions for India especially in five key sectors:
- Smart cities and infrastructure, and
- Smart mobility and transportation.
Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)
- Recently, India joined, as a founding member, the league of leading economies, lead by Canada and France, including USA, UK, EU, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Slovenia, to launch the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI or Gee-Pay).
- GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
- This is also a first initiative of its type for evolving better understanding of the challenges and opportunities around AI using the experience and diversity of participating countries.
- In collaboration with partners and international organizations, GPAI will bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to collaborate across four Working Group themes:
- 1) Responsible AI;
- 2) Data Governance;
- 3) The Future of Work; and
- 4) Innovation & Commercialization.
- Critically, in the short term, GPAI’s experts will also investigate how AI can be leveraged to better respond to and recover from COVID-19.
- It is pertinent to note that India has recently launched National AI Strategy and National AI Portal and have also started leveraging AI across various sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications, etc.
- GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat, to be hosted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centers of Expertise- one each in Montreal and Paris.
B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
4. How Mount Everest got 3 feet higher? (IE)
- Context: Recently, the Foreign Ministers of Nepal and China jointly certified the elevation of Mount Everest at 8,848.86 metres above sea level — 86 cm higher than what was recognised since 1954.
Why is the height being measured again?
- The height of the summit is known to change because of tectonic activity (usually reduction of height), such as the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
- Many experts have argued that Mount Everest, like other Himalayan peaks, may have actually grown over time because of the shifting tectonic plates it sits on.
- But experts say major earthquakes can result in that process being reversed.
- The 2015 Nepal earthquake was a major reason the mountain was re-measured.
- Over the years, there have been debates on issues like whether it should be “rock height”, or whether the snow cladding it, too, should be accounted for.
- For years, Nepal and China disagreed over the issue, which was resolved in 2010 when China accepted Nepal’s claim of the snow height being 8,848m, while the Nepali side recognised the Chinese claim of the rock height at 8,844.43m.
- Both teams used different points of reference for sea level – China used the Yellow sea and Nepal used a point close to the Bay of Bengal
- New Zealand, which shares a bond with Nepal over the mountain, provided technical assistance.
- In May 2019, the New Zealand government provided Nepal’s Survey Department (Napi Bibhag) with a Global Navigation Satellite, and trained technicians.
How and when was the earlier measurement of 8,848m done?
- This was determined by the Survey of India in 1954, using instruments like theodolites and chains, with GPS still decades away.
Everest’s first survey
- The mission to measure the world’s highest peak was taken up on a serious note in 1847, and culminated with the finding of a team led by Andrew Waugh of the Royal Surveyor General of India.
- The team discovered that ‘Peak 15’ — as Mt Everest was referred to then — was the highest mountain (8,840 m), contrary to the then prevailing belief that Mt Kanchenjunga (8,586 m, the third highest mountain in the world) was the highest peak in the world.
- Mount Everest — also known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Mount Qomolangma in China —, Earth’s highest mountain above sea level, is located in the Himalayas between China and Nepal -– the border between them running across its summit point (the summit can be accessed from both sides).
- Its current official elevation – 8,848.86m – places it more than 200m above the world’s second-highest mountain, K2, which is 8,611m tall and located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
- The mountain gets its English name from Sir George Everest, a colonial-era geographer who served as the Surveyor General of India in the mid-19th century.
- Considered an elite climbing destination, Everest was first scaled in 1953 by the Indian-Nepalese Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Edmund Hillary.
5. Tharu tribe (TH)
- Context: The Uttar Pradesh government has recently embarked upon a scheme to take the unique culture of its ethnic Tharu tribe across the world.
- The Tharus live in both India and Nepal. In the Indian terai, they live mostly in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
- The community belongs to the Terai lowlands, amid the Shivaliks or lower Himalayas.
- Most of them are forest dwellers, and some practice agriculture.
- They speak various dialects of Tharu, a language of the Indo-Aryan subgroup, and variants of Hindi, Urdu, and Awadhi.
- The word tharu is believed to be derived from sthavir, meaning followers of Theravada Buddhism.
- Tharus worship Lord Shiva as Mahadev, and call their supreme being “Narayan”, who they believe is the provider of sunshine, rain, and harvests.
- Tharu women have stronger property rights than is allowed to women in mainstream North Indian Hindu custom.
6. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (TH)
- Context: The Gauhati High Court has stayed the environmental clearance given to Oil India Limited (OIL) for extended-reach drilling (ERD) operations at seven locations beneath the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in eastern Assam.
- The stay was in view of the non-compliance of an order of the Supreme Court in an earlier case that required the exploration major to conduct biodiversity impact assessment study at the ecologically fragile national park.
Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
- Dibru-Saikhowa is a National Park as well as a Biosphere Reserve situated in the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in the extreme east of Assam state in India.
- It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA).
- Spread over 340sq km, Dibru-Saikhowa is one of the five national parks in Assam (Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Nameri National Park, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Orang National Park).
- The park is home to many mammal species including tiger, Gangetic dolphin and feral horses.
- Apart from its various forest types, the national park is known for its Salix trees and orchids.
- This is also where you will find the Kekjori, a tree whose branches grow over a large area. Local people treat this as a sacred tree and do not cut its branches.
C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
7. What is ‘Operation Blackface’ carried out in Maharashtra? (IE)
- ‘Operation Blackface’ is part of the larger action taken against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country.
- The Tactical Response Against Cyber Child Exploitation (TRACE) unit was primarily set up to act against child pornography in Maharashtra that is part of a larger compaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country since 2019.
8. Bharatmala Pariyojna
- Context: The Supreme Court gave the green signal for the National Highway Authority of India and the Union government to acquire land for the 277.3 km-long Chennai-Krishnagiri-Salem National Highway project, saying “national highways are the arteries of India’s economy”.
- The eight-lane highway (NH179A and NH179B) is a part of the first phase of the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojna’ project, which stretches across 24,800 km and has an estimated outlay of ₹5.35 lakh crore, to improve the efficiency of freight and passenger movement.
- Note: ‘Bharatmala Pariyojna’ was covered in detail in 13th Oct file.
E) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
9. 5G Technology (TH)
Context: Telecom industry leaders on Tuesday urged the Centre to spell out the policy framework and standards that would enable an expeditious roll-out of 5G technology in the country and help ensure the success of the ‘Digital India’ initiative.
- 5G carries information wirelessly through the electromagnetic spectrum, specifically the radio spectrum.
- Within the radio spectrum are varying levels of frequency bands, some of which are used for 5G data.
- With 5G still in its early stages of implementation and not yet available in every country, you might be hearing about the 5G bandwidth spectrum, 5G spectrum auctions etc.
- All we really need to know about 5G frequency bands is that different companies use different parts of the spectrum to transmit 5G data.
- Using one part of the spectrum over other impacts both the speed of the connection and the distance it can cover.
Defining the 5G Spectrum
- Radio wave frequencies range anywhere from 3 kilohertz (kHz) up to 300 gigahertz (GHz).
- Millimeter Waves (30 GHz and 300 GHz or extremely high frequency) are a popular choice for 5G but also has application in areas like radio astronomy, telecommunications, and radar guns.
- Another part of the radio spectrum that’s being used for 5G, is ultra high frequency (UHF), which is lower on the spectrum than EHF. The UHF band has a frequency range of 300 MHz to 3 GHz, and is used for everything from TV broadcasting and GPS to Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and Bluetooth.
- Frequencies of 1 GHz and above are also called microwave.
Frequency Determines 5G Speed & Power
- All radio waves travel at the speed of light, but not all waves react with the environment in the same way or behave the same as other waves.
- It’s the wavelength of a particular frequency used by a 5G tower that directly impacts the speed and distance of its transmissions.
- Higher Frequency
- Faster speeds
- Shorter distances
- Lower Frequency
- Slower speeds
- Longer distances
- Wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency (i.e., high frequencies have shorter wavelengths).
- When a wavelength is really short (such as the frequencies at the higher end of the spectrum), the wave form is so tiny that it can become easily distorted. This is why really high frequencies can’t travel as far as lower ones.
- Speed is another factor. Bandwidth is measured by the difference between the highest and lowest frequency of the signal. When you move up on the radio spectrum to reach higher bands, the range of frequencies is higher, and therefore throughput increases (i.e., you get faster download speeds).
- Spectrum are the radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry and other sectors for communication over the airwaves.
- If anyone could broadcast signals at any frequency, there would be total chaos, and it would lead to a lot of interference, effectively rendering the spectrum useless for any kind of meaningful communication. That’s why the spectrum gets divided into bands by the government.
- Spectrum bands have different characteristics, and this makes them suitable for different purposes.
- In general, low-frequency transmissions can travel greater distances before losing their integrity, and they can pass through dense objects more easily. Less data can be transmitted over these radio waves, however.
- Higher-frequency transmissions carry more data, but are poorer at penetrating obstacles.
- Telecom spectrum starts from 800MHz, and goes up to 2300MHz. Beyond that, we start getting into the unlicensed bands used for technology such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
2G, 3G, 4G, 5G
- All these numbers refer to the generation of the technology being used for communication.
- 5G is the newest mobile network that’s replacing the current 4G technology by providing a number of improvements in speed, coverage, and reliability.
- The primary focus and reason for needing an upgraded network is to support the growing number of devices that demand internet access, many of them requiring so much bandwidth in order to function normally that 4G simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
- 5G uses different kinds of antennas, operates on different radio spectrum frequencies, connects many more devices to the internet, minimizes delays, and delivers ultrafast speeds.
5G Works Differently than 4G
- One fundamental difference is 5G’s use of unique radio frequencies to achieve what 4G networks cannot.
- 4G networks use frequencies below 6 GHz, but 5G uses extremely high frequencies in the 30 GHz to 300 GHz range.
- They’re also highly directional and can be used right next to other wireless signals without causing interference.
- This is very different than 4G towers that fire data in all directions, potentially wasting both energy and power to beam radio waves at locations that aren’t even requesting access to the internet.
- 5G also uses shorter wavelengths, which means that antennas can be much smaller than existing antennas while still providing precise directional control.
- Since one base station can utilize even more directional antennas, it would also mean that 5G can support over 1,000 more devices per meter than what’s supported by 4G.
- However, most of these super-high frequencies work only if there’s a clear, direct line-of-sight between the antenna and the device receiving the signal.
- What’s more is that some of these high frequencies are easily absorbed by humidity, rain, and other objects, meaning that they don’t travel as far.
- It’s for these reasons that we can expect lots of strategically placed antennas to support 5G, either really small ones in every room or building that needs it or large ones positioned throughout a city; maybe even both.
- Another difference between 5G and 4G is that 5G networks can more easily understand the type of data being requested, and are able to switch into a lower power mode when not in use or when supplying low rates to specific devices.
- 5G has a minimum peak download speed of 20 Gbps while 4G sits at just 1 Gbps. Thus, from a peak speed perspective, 5G is 20 times faster than 4G.
- When there are very few if any other devices or interferences to affect the speed, a device could theoretically experience what’s known as peak speeds.
- Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be moved (uploaded or downloaded) through a network over a given time.
- Low latency is one of 5G’s most important attributes, making the technology highly suitable for critical applications that require rapid responsiveness, such as remote vehicle control.
5G Vs LTE
- In short, the G stands for generation, so 5G is the collective term for the fifth generation of mobile network technology.
- LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, and it’s a 4G technology.
- The newer 5G is not a replacement for 4G, so we’ll find LTE and 5G technology working together for the foreseeable future.
- The main advantage that 5G offers over 4G LTE is faster speeds — primarily because there will be more spectrum available for 5G and it uses more advanced radio technology.
1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, & 5G EXPLAINED
- 1G refers to the first generation of wireless cellular technology, 2G refers to the second generation of technology, and so on. South Korea launches 5G networks early to secure world first
1G: Voice Only
- 1G is the first generation of wireless cellular technology. It supports voice only calls.
- It is analog technology, and the phones using it had poor battery life and voice quality, little security, and were prone to dropped calls.
2G: SMS and MMS
- 2G took cell phones from analog to digital communications on GSM networks.
- The 2G telephone technology introduced call and text encryption, along with data services such as SMS, picture messages, and MMS.
2.5G and 2.75G: Data, Finally
- Before making the major leap from 2G to 3G wireless networks, the lesser-known 2.5G and 2.75G were interim standards that bridged the gap to make data transmission — slow data transmission — possible.
- 5G introduced a new packet-switching technique. This led to 2.75G, which provided a theoretical threefold speed increase.
3G: More Data, Video Calling, and Mobile Internet
- The term “mobile broadband” was first applied to 3G cellular technology.
- The maximum speed of 3G is estimated to be around 2 Mbps for non-moving devices and 384 Kbps in moving vehicles.
4G: The Current Standard
- The fourth generation of networking, which was released in 2008, is 4G. It supports mobile web access like 3G does and also gaming services, HD mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D TV, and other features that demand high speeds.
- The max speed of a 4G network when the device is moving is 100 Mbps. The speed is 1 Gbps for low-mobility communication such as when the caller is stationary or walking.
10. Difference Between Dark Web, Deep Net, Darknet and TOR Network
- Context: Two men were arrested for allegedly importing contraband from USA by using ‘dark web’ through international courier service and supplying it in the national capital.
Dark Web, Deep Net, Darknet and TOR Network
- These are technical terms used to describe various parts of the Internet that are not normally accessible to users using a standard web browser.
- In the most simplest terms, the Deep Web is any web page that is not indexed by a search engine.
- For example, your bank account details, after you’ve logged in securely to your online banking website.
- Other examples of the Deep Web include using the TOR Browser to access .onion websites which are neither indexed by Google or available using a standard web browser.
- The Dark Web refers to a specific section of the Deep Web.
- The Dark Web isn’t just hidden from search engines, but instead is specifically designed to be inaccessible from most web browsers.
- Usually it requires special browsing software, which makes it harder to track the path data takes online.
Dark Net or “Darknet”
- In its original meaning, the Dark Net refers to any device connected to the Internet which has an IP address, but has no active services running on that IP address.
- Darknet is the deep hidden internet platform that is used for narcotics sale, exchange of pornographic content and other illegal activities by using the secret alleys of the onion router (TOR) to stay away from the surveillance of law enforcement agencies.
- Owing to its end-to-end encryption, darknet is considered very tough to crack when it comes to investigating criminal activities being rendered over.
Recently, country’s first ‘darknet’ narcotics operator was captured by NCB.
- The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) was part of a global ‘Operation Trance’, launched in December 2019, entailing a joint intelligence gathering action on international postal, express mail and courier shipments containing psychotropic drugs (which can only be purchased on a doctor’s prescription) that are abused as sedatives and painkillers.
- India is a party to the 1961 Single Convention, the 1971 Convention Against Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
- The Narcotics Control Bureau (under the Ministry of Home Affairs) was created in March 1986 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
- Given India’s size and the federal nature of our polity, a number of agencies both at the Centre and in the States, including NCB, have been empowered to enforce the provisions of the NDPS Act (so NCB is not the sole authority to enforce NDPS Act).
- Effective coordination between these agencies is vital for the efficacy of our drug law enforcement strategy.
- This coordinating role has been assigned to the Narcotics Control Bureau.
- The Narcotics Control Bureau is one of the organizations exempt from the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Article 47 of the Indian Constitution
- The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.
- The TOR Network is the best known software for accessing many sites on the Dark Web.
- TOR stands for The Onion Router.
- Data going through the TOR network doesn’t take the most efficient route, which is normally the main goal of the Internet.
- Instead, TOR traffic is routed through multiple points in a random order, with layers of encryption added or removed at various stages.
- The effect is that the data takes longer to travel, but it’s much harder to track who is visiting which page.
- The TOR network itself is run by relay volunteers around the globe.
- A Darknet Market is a site on the Dark Web used for making transactions.
- Payment for items is usually done using cryptocurrencies, a form of virtual currency where an accurate record of transactions is available, but the identity of the participants is secret.
- Most such markets have a rating and feedback system like eBay’s.
- The vast majority of goods and services offered on the Darknet are illegal to buy and sell in many places.
- While rules vary around the world, as a general principle visiting the Deep Web or Dark Web is not illegal.
- Neither is using deep web technologies such as TOR to anonymize web use.
- However, anyone using a Darknet Market remains subject to local laws, depending on what you can and can’t buy, sell, ship or possess.