- CURRENT AFFAIRS – 08/01/2024
- Aditya-L1 reaches destination, in halo orbit around L1 point
- Centre notifies revised rules for quality control of pharma products
- Rise in child marriages in West Bengal
- How voice cloning through artificial intelligence is being used for scams?
- In a first, IAF C130 with Guard commandos makes night landing at Kargil
CURRENT AFFAIRS – 08/01/2024
Aditya-L1 reaches destination, in halo orbit around L1 point
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : The Indian Express
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved a significant milestone as the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, launched on September 2, 2023, has successfully entered a halo orbit around the Lagrangian point L1.
- This accomplishment comes 127 days after the spacecraft’s launch.
- After a 1.5-million km journey, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft reached the L1 point on January 6, marking a crucial phase in India’s maiden solar mission.
- The spacecraft was placed in the precise halo orbit through a firing maneuver conducted by ISRO scientists and engineers at the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru.
- This maneuver was crucial to ensure the spacecraft’s accurate placement in the designated orbit.
- Halo Orbit Characteristics:
- The orbit of Aditya-L1 is described as a periodic halo orbit located approximately 1.5 million km from Earth on the Sun–Earth line.
- This three-dimensional orbit involving the Sun, Earth, and the spacecraft has an orbital period of about 177.86 Earth days.
- The specific halo orbit was chosen strategically to ensure a mission lifetime of 5 years, minimizing station-keeping maneuvers, reducing fuel consumption, and maintaining an uninterrupted view of the Sun.
- Mission Significance:
- The successful insertion of Aditya-L1 into the halo orbit represents a critical mission phase, demanding precise navigation and control.
- The mission aims to study the Sun and enhance our understanding of its behavior, contributing valuable insights to solar science.
- Distinctive Orbital Advantage and Mission Obejctives:
- L1, situated approximately 1% of the Earth-Sun distance away, serves as the destination for the spacecraft.
- Aditya-L1’s unique position at L1 ensures continuous and unobstructed observation of the Sun, eliminating occurrences of occultation or eclipse.
- This advantageous position enables the spacecraft to study solar activities comprehensively.
- The spacecraft is equipped with seven payloads designed to observe the photosphere, chromosphere, and the outermost layer of the Sun (corona) using electromagnetic and particle detectors.
- Four payloads have the special vantage point of L1, directly observing the Sun, while the remaining three conduct in-situ studies of particles and fields at the L1 position.
- The payloads are expected to provide crucial information on various solar phenomena, including coronal heating, coronal mass ejection, pre-flare and flare activities, space weather dynamics, and the propagation of particles and fields.
- Lagrange Points and Significance of L1 in Space Exploration
- Lagrange Points are positions in space where the gravitational forces of two large bodies, such as the Sun and the Earth, create regions of enhanced gravitational stability.
- In a two-body gravitational system, small objects can effectively “hover” at these points with minimal fuel consumption.
- There are five Lagrange Points denoted as L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5 in such systems.
- L1 Point:
- The L1 Lagrange Point, as per ISRO, is a crucial position lying along the sun-earth line, approximately 1.5 million km from Earth.
- This distance represents about 1% of the Earth-Sun distance.
- Satellites or spacecraft positioned at the L1 point benefit from reduced fuel consumption and offer the major advantage of continuous solar observation without occultation or eclipse events.
- Currently, there are four operational spacecraft positioned at the L1 Lagrange Point.
- These include WIND, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), and Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVER).
- These spacecraft play essential roles in studying various aspects of space weather, solar phenomena, and the interplanetary environment.
What is a halo orbit?
- A halo orbit is a specific type of three-dimensional periodic orbit in a gravitational two-body system, such as the Earth-Sun system.
- It is characterized by its unique shape, resembling a three-dimensional halo, and is often utilized in space missions for its stability and fuel efficiency.
- The term “halo” signifies the ring-like or halo-like shape that the orbit takes.
- A halo orbit around the L1 Lagrange point, for example, allows a spacecraft to maintain a relatively fixed position with respect to the Earth and the Sun.
- This offers advantages for continuous observation of celestial bodies, such as the Sun, without the need for frequent adjustments or large amounts of propellant.
- The spacecraft essentially moves in a closed loop around the Lagrange point, taking advantage of the gravitational forces to stay in a relatively stable position.
About Aditya-L1 Solar Observatory Mission
- Aditya-L1, a coronagraphy spacecraft, is a collaborative effort of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and various Indian research institutes.
- Major Science Objectives:
- Investigate the dynamics of the solar upper atmosphere, including the chromosphere and corona.
- Study chromospheric and coronal heating, physics of partially ionized plasma, initiation of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and solar flares.
- Observe and analyze the in-situ particle and plasma environment, providing data for the study of particle dynamics originating from the Sun.
- Explore the physics of the solar corona and its heating mechanisms.
- Perform diagnostics of the coronal and coronal loops plasma, including measurements of temperature, velocity, and density.
- Identify the sequence of processes occurring at multiple layers (chromosphere, base, and extended corona) leading to solar eruptive events.
- Examine the magnetic field topology and conduct magnetic field measurements in the solar corona.
- Explore the origin, composition, and dynamics of solar wind as drivers for space weather.
In Image: Payloads along with their major capability of scientific investigation.
Centre notifies revised rules for quality control of pharma products
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Union Health Ministry, on January 6, announced revised rules under Schedule M of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, with a focus on enhancing quality control for pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products.
- Schedule M outlines the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for pharmaceutical products, ensuring adherence to quality standards in the manufacturing process.
- GMP, established as mandatory standards in Schedule M since 1988, underwent its last amendment in June 2005.
- The recent revision replaces the term ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’ with ‘Good Manufacturing Practices and Requirements of Premises, Plant, and Equipment for Pharmaceutical Products.’
- The move aims to align Indian standards with global benchmarks, especially those set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Aligning with Global Standards:
- The decision to revise Schedule M stems from the need to keep pace with the rapidly evolving manufacturing and quality landscape.
- The Health Ministry aims to bring GMP recommendations in line with international standards, ensuring the production of pharmaceuticals that meet globally accepted quality standards.
- Key Changes in Revised Schedule M:
- Pharmaceutical Quality System (PQS): A system focused on ensuring pharmaceutical quality.
- Quality Risk Management (QRM): Implementation of risk management practices to maintain product quality.
- Product Quality Review (PQR): Periodic reviews of product quality.
- Qualification and Validation of Equipment: Establishing standards for the qualification and validation of manufacturing equipment.
- Computerized Storage System: Introduction of a computerized storage system for all drug products.
- Key Revisions in Schedule M Guidelines:
- The Union Health Ministry, in a notification dated December 28, 2023, has introduced significant revisions to Schedule M of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
- The updated guidelines emphasize that pharmaceutical manufacturers are now responsible for ensuring the quality of their products, ensuring fitness for intended use, compliance with licensing requirements, and minimizing risks to patients due to safety, quality, or efficacy concerns.
- Manufacturer Responsibilities:
- Manufacturers must take responsibility for product quality, adherence to license requirements, and patient safety.
- Marketing of finished products is allowed only after obtaining satisfactory results from ingredient tests.
- Adequate samples of intermediate and final products must be retained for repeated testing or verification of batches.
- International Compliance and WHO-GMP Certification:
- The revised regulations set a deadline to obtain World Health Organization-Good Manufacturing Practices (WHO-GMP) certification.
- Focus on risk management, qualification, and validation of equipment, along with self-inspection, is highlighted for compliance with international quality standards.
- The revised rules will be implemented based on company turnovers.
- Small manufacturers (annual turnover < ₹250 crore) have a 12-month timeline for compliance.
- Large manufacturers (annual turnover > ₹250 crore) are given six months to implement the revised rules.
What is Schedule M of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945?
- Schedule M of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, is a set of guidelines and regulations prescribed by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in India.
- These guidelines outline the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for pharmaceutical products, ensuring that the manufacturing processes and facilities comply with established quality standards.
- It covers various aspects of manufacturing, including premises, plant, and equipment requirements, as well as procedures for production, quality control, storage, and distribution of drugs.
Rise in child marriages in West Bengal
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Lancet study on child marriage in India highlights an overall decrease in child marriage rates across the country.
- However, four states—Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra—account for more than half of the total burden of child marriages in girls.
- One in five girls in India is still married below the legal age, emphasizing the persistent nature of the issue.
- Concerns in West Bengal:
- West Bengal, in particular, has faced challenges, with the study noting a significant increase in child marriages.
- The state witnessed a 32.3% rise in the headcount, with over 500,000 more girls married as children.
- According to the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-20), West Bengal has a high prevalence of girl child marriage, with 41.6% of women aged 20-24 getting married before the age of 18, compared to the national average of 23.3%.
- Impact on Maternal and Child Health:
- Child marriage is recognized as a human rights violation and a form of sexual and gender-based violence.
- The adverse impact of child marriage is evident in maternal and child health, as seen in a recent incident at Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital.
- Ten infants died within 24 hours, with most born with extremely low birth weight.
- Hospital authorities attribute these deaths to social problems linked to child marriage and poverty.
- The principal of the medical college, pointed out that low birth weight due to child marriage can pose challenges for doctors in saving infants.
- Regional Focus on Murshidabad:
- Murshidabad, an economically disadvantaged district in West Bengal, has one of the highest rates of child marriages, with 55.4% of women aged 20-24 married before 18, according to NFHS-5.
- This reflects a rise from NFHS-4 numbers, which stood at 53.5%.
- The district’s high prevalence of child marriages is suggested as a contributing factor to the poor maternal and child health outcomes observed in the recent infant deaths.
- Policy Interventions in West Bengal to Combat Child Marriage:
- KanyashreePrakalpa and RupashreePrakalpa:
- Launched in October 2013, KanyashreePrakalpa is a conditional cash transfer scheme by the West Bengal government.
- It aims to incentivize the schooling of teenage girls aged 13 to 18 while discouraging child marriage.
- The scheme, recognized with a United Nations Public Service Award in 2017, has completed a decade and covered 81 lakh girls, according to the West Bengal Budget for 2023-24.
- The government also implements ‘RupashreePrakalpa,’ providing cash incentives for the marriage of girls.
- Some families combine benefits from both schemes, sometimes organizing marriages immediately after cashing in on the school scheme.
- Evaluation of KanyashreePrakalpa:
- Despite an increase in female school enrollment and achievements like a 14.84% rise in female candidates in the 2023 West Bengal Higher Secondary Examination, questions arise regarding the effectiveness of KanyashreePrakalpa in curbing child marriages.
- Researchers note a significant rise in girls’ school enrollment, but the incidence of child marriage remains high in West Bengal.
- Surprisingly, there is no direct correlation between literacy rates and child marriage, as some districts with high literacy rates, such as PurbaMedinipur, still exhibit high rates of child marriage (57.6% as per NFHS-5).
- Challenges and Complex Factors:
- Experts highlight challenges in understanding the persistent issue, pointing out the lack of direct correlation between educational attainment and increased participation of women in the workforce.
- Migration is identified as a significant factor, as a substantial population from West Bengal migrates to other states for work.
- This migration contributes to child marriage as families may prefer not to leave unmarried daughters at home, and married men may desire their wives to have children while they are away.
- Laws and Implementation Challenges:
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development responded to an inquiry, providing details on cases registered under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006 across the country over the past five years.
- In 2021, West Bengal registered 105 cases under PCMA 2006, raising concerns about the effective implementation of laws.
- States with smaller populations and fewer instances of child marriage, such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Assam, registered more cases.
- Legislative Initiatives:
- To address child marriage, the Government introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in December 2021.
- The bill aims to raise the age of marriage for women to 21 years, aligning it with the age for men.
- The bill is currently under review by a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
- Challenges in West Bengal:
- Despite legislative efforts and initiatives like cash incentives, West Bengal stands out as an example where child marriages persist.
- In 2022, the state government called for a district action plan and issued guidelines to curb child marriage.
- Experts emphasize the need for a comprehensive social campaign involving all stakeholders, including panchayats, schools, and local communities.
- They argue that without political will to enforce existing laws, improvements at the grassroots level may not occur as rapidly as in other parts of the country.
- Future Outlook:
- The effectiveness of legislative measures and initiatives in West Bengal depends on a collaborative approach involving various stakeholders.
- A social campaign, coupled with the enforcement of existing laws and political commitment, is crucial for achieving tangible progress in curbing child marriage.
- The outcome of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and its subsequent implementation will also play a significant role in shaping the future landscape of child marriage prevention in the state.
- KanyashreePrakalpa and RupashreePrakalpa:
- KanyashreePrakalpa is an initiative by the Government of West Bengal aimed at improving the lives and status of girls, particularly those from economically backward families.
- The initiative addresses the challenge of early marriages driven by economic constraints, aiming to empower girls to pursue higher studies and break the cycle of poverty.
- KanyashreePrakalpa seeks to discourage families from arranging the marriage of their girl child before the age of eighteen due to economic difficulties.
- The initiative specifically targets girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with financial assistance to overcome economic hurdles hindering their education.
- KanyashreePrakalpa has gained international recognition from esteemed organizations such as the United Nations Department of International Development and UNICEF.
- Scholarship Components:
- The scheme offers a comprehensive annual scholarship for unmarried girls aged 13 to 18 years, enrolled in class VIII-XII in government-recognized regular or equivalent open schools, or vocational/technical training courses.
- Notably, the income bar for eligibility has been removed, allowing every girl to apply for the scheme. The Components are:
- Annual Scholarship:
- Amount: Rs. 1000/- per year.
- Available for girls aged 13 to 18 years for every year they remain in education, provided they are unmarried at the time.
- One-time Grant:
- Amount: Rs. 25,000/-
- Provided when girls turn 18, contingent on their engagement in academic or occupational pursuits and unmarried status at the time.
- Annual Scholarship:
- RupashreePrakalpa is a noteworthy initiative by the West Bengal state government, aiming to provide economic relief to families during their daughters’ marriages.
- This scheme offers a one-time financial grant of Rs. 25,000 to economically stressed families, addressing the challenges they face in meeting the expenses associated with their daughters’ marriages.
- The primary objective of RupashreePrakalpa is to alleviate financial burdens on economically challenged families during their daughters’ marriages.
- By providing a substantial one-time grant, the scheme aims to prevent families from resorting to high-interest loans, which is a common practice in such situations.
- RupashreePrakalpa came into effect on April 1, 2018, and is applicable to all marriages conducted from that date onward.
- Eligibility Criteria:
- The applicant must be at least 18 years old.
- She should be unmarried at the time of submitting her application.
- The proposed marriage must be her first marriage.
- The applicant must have been born in West Bengal or have been a resident of the state for the last 5 years.
- Alternatively, her parents must be permanent residents of West Bengal.
- The family income should not exceed Rs. 1.50 lakhs per annum.
- The prospective groom must be at least 21 years old.
How voice cloning through artificial intelligence is being used for scams?
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
In recent years, the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice cloning has shifted from a novelty to a concerning issue, with scams and disinformation becoming rampant.
- Incidents in both the United States and India have highlighted the malicious use of AI-generated voices for criminal activities and misinformation.
- A report titled ‘The Artificial Imposter’ revealed alarming statistics, with 47% of surveyed Indians having experienced or known someone victimized by AI-generated voice scams—almost double the global average of 25%.
- India topped the list globally for the maximum number of AI voice scam victims, with cases involving cyberattacks and impersonation leading to financial losses.
- Vulnerability of Indians to Scams:
- McAfee’s findings indicate that Indians are particularly vulnerable, with 66% admitting they would respond to urgent voice calls from apparent friends or family in need of money.
- Various excuses employed by scammers, such as being robbed, involved in accidents, losing belongings, or requiring financial aid while traveling abroad, proved effective.
- McAfee’s report highlighted that 86% of Indians share their voice data online or through voice notes weekly, providing scammers with potent tools despite imperfections in AI voice cloning.
- Scammers exploit a sense of urgency to overlook the flaws in these tools and successfully execute their fraudulent activities.
- Impact on India:
- Incidents reported in Lucknow and Haryana showcased how AI-generated voices were used to impersonate relatives and friends, leading to financial losses for the victims.
- The high susceptibility of Indians to respond to urgent calls and share voice data online contributes to the prevalence of AI voice cloning scams in the country.
- Techniques and Tools for Creating AI Voice Clones
- Voice cloning involves replicating an individual’s voice using online programs capable of accurately mimicking speech patterns, though some intonations may not be perfectly replicated.
- Scammers typically upload audio clips of their targets to these programs, resulting in the creation of convincing AI-generated voice clones.
- Various online applications facilitate voice cloning, with popular providers including Murf, Resemble, and Speechify.
- ElevenLabs, an AI startup founded by former Google and Palantir employees and backed by Andreessen Horowitz, has gained attention for its tools.
- The startup released AI Dubbing, a product capable of translating long-form speech into 20 different languages.
- Prominent Tech Companies in AI Voice Cloning:
- Meta launched SeamlessM4T, an open-source multilingual foundational model understanding nearly 100 languages for real-time translations from speech or text.
- Apple introduced a voice cloning feature in iOS 17 to assist individuals at risk of losing their voice due to degenerative diseases.
- OpenAI’sChatGPT, known for AI chatbots, includes a voice transcription feature suitable for cloning.
- OpenAI carefully partners with specific entities to prevent illegal use of these capabilities.
- YouTube introduced Dream Track, collaborating with 100 creators in the U.S., allowing them to use AI vocals with permission from pop stars like Demi Lovato, Sia, and John Legend to create song clips.
- Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and members of the AI startupMyShell released OpenVoice.
- This open-source voice cloning tool is nearly instant and provides granular controls for voice modification, setting it apart from other platforms.
- Meta, Apple, and YouTube showcase the growing involvement of prominent tech companies in the AI voice game, emphasizing ethical partnerships and controlled use to prevent misuse.
- Public and Regulatory Responses:
- The rapid development and easy accessibility of AI voice cloning tools have raised concerns and prompted responses from regulatory bodies.
- In November, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) initiated the Voice Cloning Challenge, encouraging the public to submit ideas for detecting, evaluating, and monitoring cloned voices.
- A $25,000 prize was announced for the winning solution.
- The FTC is considering the adoption of an Impersonation Rule to deter deceptive voice cloning practices.
- Growing Market and Future Trends:
- Market trends indicate significant growth in the global market for AI voice cloning applications.
- In 2022, the market is valued at $1.2 billion, and it is projected to reach almost $5 billion by 2032, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) ranging from 15-40%.
- Challenges for Regulators:
- Regulators are facing challenges keeping pace with the rapid releases of generative AI technologies, leading to concerns about the potential misuse of voice cloning capabilities.
- The introduction of open-source tools like OpenVoice exemplifies the evolving landscape, necessitating innovative and swift responses to address emerging challenges.
In a first, IAF C130 with Guard commandos makes night landing at Kargil
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130 Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft achieved a historic milestone by conducting a night landing at the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Kargil, near the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan.
- The night landing was accompanied by a training mission involving the Garudspecial forces.
- Terrain Challenges and Significance:
- The night landing at the Kargil airstrip involved employing terrain masking enroute, showcasing the IAF’s capability to carry out specialized missions in challenging terrains.
- The ALG is situated at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet and is a restricted airstrip with unidirectional approach, surrounded by rugged terrain.
- It lacked night landing facilities until this landmark event.
- The significance lies in demonstrating the ability to conduct round-the-clock operations in this critical area.
- Strategic Importance of Kargil ALG:
- Kargil ALG is the only airstrip in the region, and its operationalization becomes crucial for emergencies.
- In the broader region, the IAF has established full-fledged airfields in Jammu and Kashmir, including Srinagar, Awantipora, Udhampur, and Jammu.
- In Ladakh, there are airfields at Leh and Thoise, along with ALGs at Nyoma, Fukche, and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO).
- Border Infrastructure Reactivation:
- Over the past decade, the Defence Ministry has undertaken efforts to reactivate Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) close to the border, particularly along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
- This strategic move enhances the operational capabilities of the Indian armed forces in the challenging border regions.
- Strategic Upgradation of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) Across India
- In June 2009, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved a significant project led by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to upgrade eight ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The estimated cost for this comprehensive upgrade project amounted to ₹1,000 crore.
- The project focused on enhancing infrastructure and operational capabilities at eight ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The upgraded ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh include Tuting, Mechuka, Along, Tawang, Ziro, Pasighat, Walong, and Vijaynagar.
- Development of Emergency Landing Strips:
- In addition to ALG upgrades, the Indian armed forces have worked on creating emergency landing strips on national highways across the country, enhancing operational flexibility and emergency response capabilities.
- ALG Nyoma, situated at an altitude of about 13,700 feet near the South Bank of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, is undergoing a conversion into a full runway exceeding 9,000 feet.
- The upgraded Nyoma ALG will be equipped to handle fighter jets, with the project initiated in August and expected to be completed by 2025.
- ALG Daulat Beg Oldi, located at an altitude of 16,700 feet and in proximity to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), plays a crucial role in providing aerial connectivity to the Sub-Sector North.