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23 January 2021: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam

1) India’s Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope Spots Rare UV-bright Stars

GS 3: Space Technology

Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology

CONTEXT:

  1. Rare hot Ultra Violet (UV)-bright stars have been spotted by astronomers with the help of India's first multi-wavelength space satellite AstroSat in the massive intriguing globular cluster in the Milky Way Galaxy called NGC 2808.

ABOUT:

  1. Scientists combined data of Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (on board AstroSat) with observations made using other space missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gaia telescope along with ground-based optical observations.
  2. Hot UV-bright stars have been differentiated from the relatively cooler red giant and main-sequence stars.
  3. One of the UV-bright stars was about 3000 times brighter than the Sun with a surface temperature of about 1,00,000 K.
  4. Most of the stars were found to have evolved from a solar stage called the horizontal branch stars with hardly any outer envelope.
  5. Thus, they were bound to skip the last major phase of life called the asymptotic giant phase (it is one of the last major phases in the life of stars) and directly become dead remnants or white dwarfs.

SIGNIFICANCE:

  1. Help in determining properties of these stars such as their surface temperatures, luminosities and radii.

 

Source: PIB

 

2) Offensive posts against Bihar Ministers may land you in jail

GS 3: Social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security.

CONTEXT:

  1. Bihar is set use the cyber-crime law to deter individuals and organisations from making “offensive comments” against the government, its officials, Ministers, MPs and MLAs.

ABOUT:

  1. It has regularly been coming to light that certain persons and organisations have been making offensive comments through social media against the government, honourable Ministers, MPs, MLAs and government officials, which is against the prescribed law.
  2. For this act, it seems appropriate to take action against such organisations and individuals.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

3) CBI books Cambridge Analytica, another firm in data theft case

GS 3: Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security

CONTEXT:

  1. The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked Cambridge Analytica (U.K.) Limited and Global Science Research Limited (U.K.) for alleged illegal harvesting of personal data of about 5.62 lakh Indian users on Facebook through an application, “thisisyourdigitallife”.
  2. As per Facebook’s platform policy, the app was authorised to collect certain specific data of users for academic and research purposes. It, however, illegally collected unauthorised data of users as well as their friends’ network on Facebook, as alleged in the FIR.
  3. The data was collected without the knowledge and consent of users.

ABOUT:

  1. It stems from a preliminary enquiry launched by the agency in July 2018 on a complaint from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) following media reports alleging the illegal harvesting of personal data.
  2. MeitY had earlier sought details from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica about the alleged violations, the extent of leak of personal data of Indian users and their possible misuse by Cambridge Analytica for profiling and influencing elections in India.
  3. Facebook reported that the data of potentially 5.62 lakh Indian users might have been illegally harvested.
  4. Cambridge Analytica replied that it had received data from GSRL pertaining to U.S. citizens only. It did not respond to MeitY’s further correspondences. The Ministry then sought a legal opinion, based on which it referred the matter to the CBI.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

4) India proposes to expand research, tourism in the Arctic

GS 3: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

CONTEXT:

  1. India has unveiled a new draft ‘Arctic’ policy that, commits to expanding scientific research, “sustainable tourism” and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.
  2. The draft policy is open to public comments until 26 January 2021 and has been prepared after deliberations among several Ministries.

ABOUT:

  1. India expects the Goa-based National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research to lead scientific research and act as a nodal body to coordinate among various scientific bodies to promote domestic scientific research capacities by expanding “earth sciences, biological sciences, geosciences, climate change and space related programmes, dove-tailed with Arctic imperatives in Indian universities.”
  2. Other objectives of the policy include “putting in place Arctic related programmes for mineral/oil and gas exploration in petroleum research institutes and encouraging tourism and hospitality sectors in building specialised capacities and awareness to engage with Arctic enterprises”.

SIGNIFICANCE:

  1. India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic in 2007.
  2. Arctic research will help India’s scientific community to study melting rates of the third pole — the Himalayan glaciers, which are endowed with the largest freshwater reserves in the world outside the geographic poles.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

5) RBI moots scale-based tighter regulatory framework for NBFCs

GS 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning

CONTEXT:

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has suggested a tougher regulatory framework for the non-banking finance companies’ (NBFC) sector to prevent recurrence of any systemic risk to the country’s financial system.

ABOUT:

  1. The banking regulator released a discussion paper on the revised regulatory framework which is formulated on a scale-based approach.
  2. It will be based on a four-layered structure — the base layer (NBFC-BL), middle layer (NBFC-ML), upper layer (NBFC-UL) and the top layer.
  3. If the framework is visualised as a pyramid, the bottom of the pyramid, where least regulatory intervention is warranted, can consist of NBFCs currently classified as non-systemically important NBFCs (NBFC-ND), NBFCP2P lending platforms, NBFCAA, NOFHC and Type I NBFCs.
  4. Moving up, the next layer may comprise NBFCs currently classified as systemically important NBFCs (NBFC-ND-SI), deposit-taking NBFCs (NBFC-D), HFCs, IFCs, IDFs, SPDs and CICs.
  5. The regulatory regime for this layer shall be stricter compared to the base layer. Adverse regulatory arbitrage vis-à-vis banks can be addressed for NBFCs falling in this layer in order to reduce systemic risk spill-overs, where required.
  6. The next layer may consist of NBFCs identified as ‘systemically significant’. This layer will be populated by NBFCs having a large potential of systemic spill-over of risks and the ability to impact financial stability.
  7. The extant regulatory framework for NBFC-NDs will now be applicable to base layer NBFCs, while the extant regulatory framework applicable for NBFC-NDSI will be applicable to middle layer NBFCs. NBFCs residing in the upper layer will constitute a new category.
  8. The revisions applicable to lower layers of NBFCs will automatically be applicable to NBFCs in the higher layers, unless there is a conflict or otherwise stated.
  9. The current threshold for systemic importance, which is ?500 crore now, is proposed to be revised to ?1,000 crore.
  10. As per the proposals, the extant NPA classification norm of 180 days will be reduced to 90 days. The regulatory framework for NBFCs needs to be reoriented to keep pace with changing realities in the financial sector.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

6) ‘Pandemic pushes States’ borrowings up by 82.5%’

GS 3: Mobilization, of resources, growth, development

CONTEXT:

  1. States’ borrowings during April-December 2020 were 82.5% higher compared with the corresponding period of the previous year, on account of the pandemic. Till December 11, 2020, the States netted ?4.6 lakh crore through market borrowings.

GST SHORTFALL

  1. The figure included ?36,000 crore borrowed by the Centre and passed on to the States to meet the shortfall in revenue arising on account of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation.
  2. The current financial year’s figure of borrowings pertained to net borrowings, which excluded repayments, and this was compared with similar borrowings made in the previous year.
  3. A perusal of data available on revenue receipts of 21 states reveals that while the states raised only 37% of the full-year target during April-October 2020, they generated 52% of their annual revenue in the corresponding period of 2019.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

7) In Google and FB’s Australian tussle, issues of concern for India as well

GS 3: Digital economy

CONTEXT:

  1. Due to slugfest between the Australian government and global tech platforms over the sharing of royalties with news publishers, Google has threatened to remove its search engine from the country, and Facebook  could block Australian users from posting or sharing news links if proposed norms on royalty payments are rolled out
  2. Policymakers in India have so far focussed on the dominance of intermediaries such as Google and Facebook, which are positioned in a way that service providers cannot reach customers except through these platforms.

ABOUT:

  1. The showdown is being closely watched by regulators and digital platforms across geographies. 
  2. The issues being thrashed out in Australia and elsewhere could have broader implications for the regulation of the digital economy in India in the longer term. 
  3. Media industry is already benefiting from traffic being routed to them by each of the digital platforms, and that the new rules proposed by the Australian authorities would expose them to “unmanageable levels of financial and operational risk.”