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16 April 2024 Daily Current Affairs

1. Long Period Average and. Types of Rainfall as per IMD


All forecasts are percentages of long-period average (LPA). LPA is the average rainfall received in the past 50 years, estimated to be around 87 cm (based on data collected between 1971 and 2020). Earlier the LPA was 88.1 cm, based on data collected between 1961 and 2010.


Types of Rainfall

2. Indian Startup Ecosystem: Unicorns and Soonicorns on the Rise

Unicorns

  • Private companies valued at over $1 billion (USD).

  • Considered rare and successful startups.

  • India has over 112 unicorns with a combined valuation of more than $350 billion.

Soonicorns

  • Startups on the verge of becoming unicorns, with valuations between $600 million and $930 million.

  • Expected to join the unicorn club soon.

  • Examples include BookMyShow, fintech companies (Navi, Paymate etc.), Ninjacart (agritech), Biz on Go (e-commerce).

Key Points

  • The number of unicorns in India is expected to increase by 20% in FY25.

  • Fintech is a major driver of growth, with many soonicorns in this sector.

  • Soonicorns are still burning cash but show signs of increasing revenue.

  • 2023 was a slow year for startups due to a funding winter.

Additional Notes

  • The Indian government's push for digitalization benefits fintech companies.

  • Fintech offers financial solutions to those excluded from traditional banking.


3. How Does Hydrocarbon Extraction Happen?

Formation of Hydrocarbons

  • Over millions of years, heat and pressure compress dead organisms into hydrocarbons trapped in rock formations.

  • Two Industrial Revolutions relied on extracting these hydrocarbons for energy.

Locating Hydrocarbons

  • Hydrocarbons exist underground as natural gas, coal, crude oil, and petroleum.

  • They are trapped in rock formations with an impermeable layer on top.

  • Petroleum geologists assess these rocks for porosity (how much oil they can hold) and permeability (how easily oil can flow through them).

  • Kerogen, organic matter in rocks, is the primary source of hydrocarbons.

  • There are three types of kerogen depending on its origin (lake, marine, or land ecosystems), which influence the type of hydrocarbon produced.

  • Rick containing kerogen is called Source Rock.

Extracting Hydrocarbons

  • Drilling engineers create a production well to drain the reservoir. The first task is to create a production well, the principal hole through which the reservoir will be drained to the surface;

  • The well is drilled with a drill bit, encased with steel casings, and filled with drilling fluid to cool the bit and remove rock cuttings.

  • The pressure of the drilling fluid is crucial to prevent hydrocarbons from erupting.

  • The process of recording the rock cuttings by depth and studying their properties is called mud-logging.


Production Stages

  • Once drilled, the production well is completed by perforating the casing to allow hydrocarbons to flow in.

  • If the pressure is sufficient, hydrocarbons will naturally flow up the well.

  • A narrower tube at the top regulates flow and prevents fluids from entering the well.

  • When natural pressure is low, pump jacks or other methods are used to lift hydrocarbons to the surface.

  • Production wells go through three phases:

  • Primary: Relies on natural pressure differences and buoyancy.

  • Secondary: Uses injected water or other fluids to maintain pressure and flow.

  • Tertiary: Employs methods like steam injection to extract remaining hydrocarbons.

Well Abandonment

  • Wells are abandoned when extraction is no longer profitable.

  • Plugs are used to seal abandoned wells and prevent contents from escaping.

  • Improperly plugged or abandoned wells can leak methane and other gases.

  • Decommissioning a well is expensive and rarely done.

Environmental Impact

  • Improperly managed wells are a major source of methane emissions.

  • Emissions also occur during hydrocarbon extraction and use.


4. TEPA’s IP encroachment: A new barrier to indigenous innovation


India’s free trade agreement (FTA) with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as partners is a completely new architecture.


The Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with the four-nation group known as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), include provisions on intellectual property (IP) and investment protection and promotion.


So far India has treated IP policy levers as a sovereign space for multilateral negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has not made IP concessions to trade groupings of nation-states.


The article mentions several concessions India made in its FTA with EFTA countries regarding Intellectual Property (IP):

  • Faster Patent Grants: The agreement aims to expedite the patent approval process, potentially reducing scrutiny of applications.

  • Weaker Pre-Grant Opposition: The ability of Indian entities to challenge patent applications before approval might be weakened.

  • Reduced Disclosure Requirements: Foreign companies may have less obligation to disclose details about their patent applications.

  • Looser Working Requirements: Patentees might face less pressure to manufacture patented products in India, potentially hindering technology transfer.

  • Easier Access to Commercial Information:Foreign companies may find it easier to withhold commercially sensitive information during the patent process.


  • These concessions are seen as a departure from India's past position of protecting its IP policy space in international negotiations.

  • Critics argue that India is giving away too much ground to foreign corporations, potentially hindering domestic innovation.


Key Points of Concern

  • Reduced Scrutiny: The agreement weakens India's ability to scrutinize patent applications, potentially leading to patents of dubious quality.

  • Foreign Focus: The focus on attracting foreign investment may neglect the importance of domestic research and development.

  • Unbalanced Concessions: India is granting significant concessions without requiring similar commitments from its trading partners.

Possible Outcomes

  • This agreement might be a sign of future concessions to the EU and UK.

  • It could lead to a system that prioritizes foreign interests over domestic innovation.

Alternative Approach

  • The author suggests India should follow the model of China and other countries that have achieved technological advancements through state investment and independent research, alongside strategic use of IP.



5. Siachen Glacier Conflict: A Frozen Face-Off

The Siachen Glacier: A Harsh and Strategic Landscape

  • Located at 15,632 feet, Siachen is the world's highest battlefield.

  • It borders Pakistan on one side and China on the other.

  • The harsh weather conditions are the biggest challenge, claiming over 1150 lives.

  • Siachen, in Balti language means “land of roses’ — ‘Sia’ is a kind of rose species that grows in the region and ‘Chen’ means “in abundance”.


Roots of the Conflict

  • The Siachen region was left unmarked in the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan.

  • India claims the area based on the Jammu and Kashmir Accession Agreement, while Pakistan claims it based on their interpretation of the Simla Agreement.

  • Pakistan's attempts to strengthen its claim in the 1980s led India to launch Operation Meghdoot in 1984 to pre-empt Pakistani occupation.

Operation Meghdoot and its Legacy


  • Based on these recce reports, the Indian Army launched 'Operation Meghdoot' on April 13, 1984 to capture the 76.4 km-long glacier.

  • This was accomplished after a platoon of 4 Kumaon led by then Captain Sanjay Kulkarni planted the Indian flag at Bilafond La at an altitude of 18,000 feet.

  • Indian forces captured strategically important peaks and passes during Operation Meghdoot.

  • In June 1987, Indian troops captured the Quaid post at 21,153-feet under Operation Rajiv. The post was later renamed the Bana top, in honour of then Naib Subedar Bana Singh (later Subedar Major and Hony Captain) from 8-Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI) who was also conferred the Param Vir Chakra.

  • The Bana top, captured in 1987, is the highest Indian post on the glacier.

  • The conflict continued till 2003, making Operation Meghdoot the longest ongoing military operation in the world.

Enduring the Extremes

  • Soldiers face extreme temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius.

  • Technological advancements have improved living conditions and communication on the glacier.

  • Medical facilities have been upgraded to handle high altitude illnesses.

A Complex Tangle

  • Demilitarization talks have stalled due to disagreements over verifying the actual ground position line.

  • China's presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir adds another layer of complexity.

  • The 2020 Ladakh standoff with China further strained the possibility of a resolution.

The Future of Siachen

  • Siachen remains a symbol of the unresolved India-Pakistan conflict.

  • Finding a solution will require addressing the strategic concerns of both sides.

  • The impact of climate change on the glacier adds another dimension to the issue.


6. Editorial Analysis - India’s Arctic imperative


India's Maiden Winter Expedition to Himadri Marks a Shift in Arctic Policy

In December 2023, four Indian climate scientists embarked on a groundbreaking journey – India's first-ever winter expedition to the Arctic research station, Himadri, located at the International Arctic Research Base in Svalbard, Norway.


Previously, Himadri had only hosted research missions during the summer months. This historic winter expedition involved not only enduring harsh conditions (temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius) but also braving the extended period of darkness known as polar nights.


Why the Change? India's Growing Interest in the Arctic

India's newfound focus on Arctic research stems from several key factors:

  • Climate Change: Scientific data reveals a faster-than-anticipated warming of the Arctic, potentially impacting weather patterns in India, including the vital monsoon season.

  • Economic Opportunities: The opening of Arctic shipping routes, like the Northern Sea Route, could significantly reduce trade costs for India.

  • Geopolitical Considerations: China's growing investments and Russia's strategic maneuvers in the Arctic, including expanded access to the Northern Sea Route for China, have prompted India to assert its own presence in the region.


India's Long-Term Involvement in the Arctic

India's connection to the Arctic goes back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty. Since then, India's engagement has steadily grown:

  • 2007: First Indian research expedition focused on Arctic microbiology, atmospheric sciences, and geology.

  • 2008: India became the only developing nation (besides China) to establish a dedicated Arctic research base (Himadri).

  • 2013: Granted observer status by the Arctic Council.

  • 2014: Commissioned a multi-sensor moored observatory in Svalbard.

  • 2016: Established an atmospheric laboratory in Svalbard.

These research stations play a crucial role in studying Arctic ice systems, glaciers, and the potential impacts of Arctic melting on the Himalayas and the Indian monsoon.


India's Arctic Policy: Balancing Interests

While India's commitment to Arctic research is evident, there are ongoing discussions within the scientific and policy communities regarding the optimal approach:

  • Economic Opportunities: Some advocate for exploring resource extraction possibilities (oil, gas, minerals) in the Arctic. However, a clear and sustainable economic strategy is yet to be developed.

  • Environmental Concerns: Others emphasize the potential environmental damage associated with resource exploitation and advocate for a balanced policy focused on clean energy and responsible resource development.


Collaboration with the Arctic Council

Founded in 1996, the Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum for cooperation on Arctic issues. The member states include:

  • Canada

  • Denmark (including Greenland and Faroe Islands)

  • Finland

  • Iceland

  • Norway

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • The United States

India currently holds observer status in the Arctic Council.


Partnering with the current chair, Norway, presents a significant opportunity for India due to:

  • Shared Research Interests: Both nations share a keen interest in understanding the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and South Asia.

  • Focus on Sustainability: Collaboration on green energy solutions and responsible resource development aligns with both countries' priorities.


Looking Ahead: Navigating the Arctic Landscape

India's successful winter expedition to Himadri marks a new chapter in its Arctic engagement. As India moves forward, its Arctic policy will likely navigate a complex landscape, balancing scientific research, environmental protection, and potential economic opportunities, all while considering the evolving geopolitical situation in the region.


Editorial 02: - New Data Law in India Threatens Investigative Journalism


India's new data protection law, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDP), could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.

  • The law requires user consent for processing personal data, which could be difficult for journalists to obtain for investigative stories.

  • Even after publication, subjects of investigative reports could potentially demand removal of the story under the right to erasure.

  • The government's power to access data from processors could compromise source confidentiality.


Missing Exemption for Journalism

  • Previous drafts of the DPDP Act included exemptions for journalistic activities, but the final law does not.

  • This lack of clarity discourages journalists from publishing potentially newsworthy information.


Opaque Consultation Process

  • Public comments on earlier drafts haven't been made public, hindering transparency.

  • Invite-only consultations excluded broader discussions about journalistic exemption.


Solutions

  • The government can create rules exempting journalists from the DPDP Act.

  • A more transparent consultation process is needed for future legislation.


The DPDP Act, while well-intentioned, may create unintended consequences for investigative journalism, a vital pillar of a free democracy.



7. New Gene Discovery in Parkinson's Research Offers Hope for Better Treatments


This article discusses a new genetic variant linked to Parkinson's disease, offering insights into the disease's cause and potential treatments.


Key Points:

  • Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder with no cure.

  • The author, a genetics researcher, is focused on predicting and preventing Parkinson's.

  • A newly discovered genetic mutation, RAB32 Ser71Arg, is linked to Parkinson's in multiple families.

  • This finding sheds light on the evolutionary origins of Parkinson's and suggests common ancestry among seemingly unrelated patients.

  • RAB32 Ser71Arg interacts with proteins previously linked to various forms of Parkinson's, potentially explaining how these proteins contribute to the disease.

  • Understanding the genetic blueprint of Parkinson's is crucial for developing better treatments.

Future Directions:

  • More research is needed to identify additional genetic factors and environmental triggers for Parkinson's.

  • This research will guide the development of medications to protect against the disease.

  • Increased participation in genetic studies by patients and families is essential for further breakthroughs.

Overall, this discovery improves our understanding of Parkinson's and paves the way for more effective treatments in the future


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