Light House Projects
Why in News?
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of Light House Projects (LHPs) under Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) at six sites across six states on January 1, 2021.
- Also announce winners under Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators – India (ASHA-India) and give out annual awards for excellence in implementation of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U) Mission.
- Also release a certificate course on innovative construction technologies named NAVARITIH (New, Affordable, Validated, Research Innovation Technologies for Indian Housing) and a compendium of 54 innovative housing construction technologies identified through GHTC-India.
Light House Projects
- The Light House Projects (LHPs) showcase the best of new-age alternate global technologies, materials and processes in the construction sector for the first time in the country at such a large scale.
- They are being constructed under GHTC-India which envisages to provide an ecosystem for adoption of innovative technologies in the housing construction sector in a holistic manner.
- The LHPs are being constructed at Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).
- They comprise about 1000 houses at each location along with allied infrastructure facilities.
- These projects will demonstrate and deliver ready to live houses at an expedited pace within twelve months, as compared to conventional brick and mortar construction, and will be more economical, sustainable, of high quality and durability.
- Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators – India (ASHA-India) aims to promote domestic research and entrepreneurship by providing incubation and acceleration support to potential future technologies.
- Under ASHA-India initiative, five ASHA-India Centers have been set up for providing incubation and acceleration support.
- Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U) Mission has been designed to achieve the vision of “Housing For All by 2022”.
- In order to recognize the outstanding contribution by States, UTs,Urban Local Bodies and beneficiaries, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has introduced annual awards for excellence in implementation of PMAY-Urban.
75th Anniversary of tricolor hoisting at Port Blair
Why in News?
- Prime Minister remembered Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on 75th anniversary (30th December 1943) of tricolour hoisting at Port Blair.
- Born to advocate Janakinath Bose in Odisha’s Cuttack on January 23, 1897, Netaji went on to play a key role in the freedom movement. He is also known for establishing the Azad Hind Fauj.
- While there is controversy over Bose’s death in a plane crash in Taipei on August 18, 1945, the Central government had in an RTI in 2017 confirmed that he had died in the incident.
Export of Akash Missile System
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister gave its go-ahead to the sale of Akash surface-to-air missile systems to friendly foreign countries and created a high-powered panel for swifter approval to export of military hardware at a time India has set a target of clocking defence exports worth $5 billion by 2024.
About Akash Missile
- The missile already in service in the Indian military, has an indigenous content of 96%.
- Akash is a Surface to Air Missile with a range of 25 Kms.
- The missile was inducted in 2014 in IAF and in 2015 in Indian Army.
- After its induction in the Services, interest is shown in Akash missile by many friendly countries during International Exhibitions/Def Expo/Aero India.
- The Cabinet approval will facilitate Indian manufactures to participate in RFI/RFP (Request for Information and Request For Proposal) issued by various countries.
- So far, Indian defence exports included parts/components etc. The export of big platforms was minimal.
- This initiative of the Cabinet would help the country to improve its defence products and make them globally competitive.
- The export version of Akash will be different from System currently deployed with Indian Armed Forces.
- Besides Akash, there is interest coming in other major platforms like Coastal Surveillance System, Radars and Air platforms.
- To provide faster approvals for export of such platforms, a Committee comprising of Raksha Mantri, External Affairs Minister and National Security Advisor has been created.
- This Committee would authorise subsequent exports of major indigenous platforms to various countries.
- The Committee would also explore various available options including the Government-to-Government route.
Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of the Republic of India and the Royal Government of Bhutan on Cooperation in the peaceful users of outer space signed on November 19, 2020 by both sides at Bangalore/Thimpu and exchanged.
- This MoU shall enable India and Bhutan to pursue cooperation in potential interest areas, such as remote sensing of the earth;
- Satellite communication and satellite based navigation;
- Space science and planetary exploration;
- Use of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and
- Application of space technology.
Implementation Strategy and targets:
- The signed MoU would lead to concluding specific Implementing Arrangement on specific areas of cooperation and setting up of Joint Working Group, to work out the plan of action including the time-frame and the means of implementing this MoU.
- The signed MoU will provide Impetus to explore cooperation possibilities in the field of remote sensing of the earth; satellite communication; satellite navigation; space science and exploration of outer space.
- India and Bhutan have been discussing on establishing formal space cooperation.
- A template for Inter-Governmental MoU for Space cooperation was shared with MEA in November 2017 for further taking up with Bhutan.
- This draft was further discussed along with other cooperative proposals during the bilateral meeting in February 2020.
- After a few iterations through diplomatic channels, both sides have arrived at a workable draft of the MoU and the same was processed for internal approvals.
- After obtaining necessary approvals the MoU was signed on November 19, 2020 by both sides and exchanged.
Opening of 3 Indian Missions
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today approved the opening of 3 Indian Missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic in 2021.
- Opening of Indian Missions in these countries will help expand India’s diplomatic footprint, deepen political relations, enable growth of bilateral trade, investment and economic engagements, facilitate stronger people-to-people contacts, bolster political outreach in multilateral fora and help garner support for India’s foreign policy objectives.
- Indian mission in these countries will also better assist the Indian community and protect their interests.
- The objective of our foreign policy is to build a conducive environment for India’s growth and development through partnerships with friendly countries.
- The decision to open these 3 new Indian Missions is a forward-looking step in pursuit of our national priority of growth and development or ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’.
- Enhancement of India’s diplomatic presence will, inter-alia, provide market access for Indian companies and bolster Indian exports of goods and services.
- This would have a direct impact in augmenting domestic production and employment in line with our goal of a self-reliant India or ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
Why in News?
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister has approved the project ‘Deepening and Optimization of Inner Harbour Facilities including Development of Western Dock on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode to handle cape size vessels at Paradip Port’.
- The proposed project envisages Construction of Western Dock Basin with facilities to handle cape size vessels by the selected BOT Concessionaire with an ultimate capacity of 25 MTPA (Million tonnes per annum) in two phases of 12.50 MTPA each.
- The Concession period shall be 30 years from the date of Award of Concession.
- Paradip Port Trust (Concessioning Authority) shall provide the Common Supporting Project Infrastructure works like breakwater extension & other ancillary works to facilitate handling of cape size vessels.
Implementation Strategy and Targets:
- The project would be developed by the selected Concessionaire on BOT basis.
- However, the Port will provide the Common Supporting Project Infrastructure.
- On commissioning of the project, it shall cater to the requirement of coal & limestone imports besides export of granulated slag & finished steel products considering the large number of steel plants established in the hinterland of Paradip Port.
The project shall also facilitate
(i) De-congestion of the Port,
(ii) Reduce Sea freight making coal imports cheaper, and
(iii) Boost the industrial economy in the hinterland of the port leading to creation of job opportunities.
- Paradip Port Trust (PPT), a Major Port under Government of India and administered under the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, was commissioned in 1966 as a mono commodity port for export of iron ore.
- The demand for import of coking coal & fluxes and export of finished steel products has been increasing in view of number of Steel Plants established in the hinterland of the Port necessitating capacity creation to cater to the Port hinterland requirements.
Industrial Corridor nodes at Krishnapatnam and Tumakuru
Why in News?
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister has approved proposals of Department of Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) for construction of various trunk infrastructure components for:
- Krishnapatnam Industrial Area in Andhra Pradesh with an estimated cost of the project of Rs. 2,139.44 crore;
- Tumakuru Industrial Area in Karnataka with an estimated cost of Rs. 1,701.81 crore;
- Multi Modal Logistics Hub (MMLH) and Multi Modal Transport Hub (MMTH) at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated cost of Rs. 3,883.80 crore.
- Envisioned on the backbone of major transportation corridors like Eastern & Western Dedicated Freight Corridors, Expressways and National Highways, proximity to ports, airports, etc.
- The objective of Industrial Corridor Programme is the creation of greenfield industrial cities with sustainable, ‘plug n play’, ICT enabled utilities to facilitate the manufacturing investments into the country by providing quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure to industries.
- These projects have been planned on the backbone of multi modal connectivity infrastructure.
- Krishnapatnam Industrial Area in Andhra Pradesh and Tumakuru Industrial Area in Karnataka under Chennai Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC) have been approved to kick start the development in Chennai Bengaluru Industrial Corridor Project.
- These Greenfield industrial cities will be self-sustained with world-class infrastructure, road and rail connectivity for freight movement to and from ports and logistic hubs along with reliable power and quality social infrastructure.
- Multi Modal Transport Hub (MMTH) project located near the already existing Indian Railways station of Boraki will act as a transport hub with provisioning of Rail, Road and MRTS accessibility for the passengers in a seamless manner.
Why in News?
- Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) along with Indian Navy conducted the successful maiden test trial of ‘SAHAYAK-NG’ India’s first indigenously designed and developed Air Dropped Container from IL 38SD aircraft (Indian Navy) off the coast of Goa.
- The trial was conducted by Indian Navy to enhance its operational logistics capabilities and provide critical engineering stores to ships which are deployed more than 2000 km from the coast.
- It reduces the requirement of ships to come close to the coast to collect spares and stores.
- Two DRDO laboratories i.e. NSTL, Visakhapatnam and ADRDE, Agra were involved in the development of SAHAYAK-NG container along the industry partner M/s Avantel for GPS integration.
- SAHAYAK-NG is an advanced version of SAHAYAK Mk I. The newly developed GPS aided air dropped container is having the capability to carry a payload that weighs upto 50 kg and can be dropped from heavy aircraft.
“Ginger” Processing Plant
Why in News?
- North East’s first-ever specialised ginger processing plant at Ri Bhoi is likely to become functional in the beginning of 2021.
- The ginger processing plant, despite being established around 2004, had remained non-functional for several years.
- The North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation (NERAMAC) has now undertaken the responsibility of reviving it and initiated steps to operationalise the closed plant through public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
- The plant, which is located at the Export Promotion Industrial Park (EPIP), Byrnihat, will not only process ginger but also help in preparing products like waxed ginger, ginger paste, ginger powder, ginger flakes, ginger oil, etc.
India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries
Why in News?
- The Fourth Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries was held.
- The meeting covered the entire gamut of issues related to fishermen and fishing boats which have been on the agenda of bilateral discussions between India and Sri Lanka for many years.
- During the Virtual Bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held on 26 September 2020, both leaders agreed to “continue engagement to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels.”
- The two sides also exchanged views on the status of cooperation between Navy & Coast Guard of both countries in patrolling, existing hotline between the Coast Guards and related operational matters, cooperation in preservation of marine environment as well as the schedule for the fifth meeting of the JWG.
- The Indian side conveyed its sincere determination to work in a constructive spirit with the Sri Lankan side for convening an early meeting of the Fisheries Ministers on both sides.
- The initiatives being taken by India under the new Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana and other schemes of Government of India and governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to diversify and reduce fishing pressure in the Palk Bay.
- The First Meeting of the Joint Working Group was held on 31 December 2016 in New Delhi.
- The Second Joint Working Group was held in Colombo on 7 April 2017 while the Third Meeting was held in New Delhi on 13 October 2017.
Banking Units to Transfer of Assets
Why in News?
- The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) allowed Banking Units (BUs) to transfer assets to/from other financial institutions, persons resident in India and persons resident outside India through any internationally recognised standard risk participation agreement.
- Transfer of assets through the risk participation agreement route is a common practice in many jurisdictions especially in the field of trade finance.
- Such risk participation is undertaken as a bilateral contract under a standard document called a risk participation agreement between the two institutions (buying and selling entity).
- One of the common standard risk participation agreement is the Master Risk Participation Agreement (MRPA) developed by the Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT).
- The above dispensation is expected to encourage risk participation of foreign currency assets through BUs in IFSC instead of banks in foreign jurisdictions.
Centenary Year Celebrations of the Labour Bureau
Why in News?
- Minister of State for Labour & Employment released a special stamp on Labour Bureau on the occasion of centenary year celebrations of the Labour Bureau.
- Four separate surveys on migrant workers, domestic workers, employment generated by professionals, and the transport sector, would be started in March 2021 and completed by October.
- The Labour Bureau had conducted the first-of-its-kind Quarterly Employment Surveys of enterprises that would be relaunched in a new format soon.
- Data on employment in organised and unorganised sectors was needed for policy-making.
- The lack of data on migrant workers had been highlighted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown that led to the exodus of workers from cities to their home towns and villages earlier this year.
- Prime Minister message in which he said the four labour Codes being implemented by the government would protect the workers’ interest and lead to increasing productivity.
Vistadome Tourist Coaches
Why in News?
- Indian Railways successfully completed the speed trials of the newly designed Vistadome tourist coach manufactured by ICF.
- Prime Minister praised the newly designed vistadome coaches developed by the Integral Coach Factory and said the comfort they will provide will make journeys more memorable.
- The vistadome tourist coaches, which have larger viewing area including roof top glass and 44 seats for passengers that can rotate up to 180 degrees, completed the 180 kmph trial run recently.
About Vistadome coaches and their upgrade:
- These are being operated on select tourist routes including the Nilgiri Mountain Railway line, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Kangra Valley Railway, Matheran Hill Railway, between Dadar in Mumbai and Madgoan in Araku Valley as well as in the Kashmir Valley.
- This is completely made in India. These coaches have been manufactured by Indian Railways’ Integral Coach Factory in Chennai.
- The coaches and the seats are designed in such a manner that passengers can enjoy the outside view sitting at the comfort of these coaches.
- As part of its upgrade, the new coaches have been built on the LHB platform, which is safer.
- Observatory lounge with a large window at one end.
- Mobile phone charging socket for each passengers.
- Disabled-friendly entrance.
- GPS-based information system, CCTV surveillance.
- Mini pantry for the passengers.
- Coffee maker, microwave oven, refrigerator in the service area.
Eminent Engineer Award for the Year 2020
Why in News?
- Shri V.K. Yadav, Chairman & CEO, Railway Board, Ministry of Railways has been conferred with the prestigious “Eminent Engineer Award for the Year 2020’ by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for his outstanding contribution towards modernization and reforms over Indian Railways.
- Every year Institution of Engineering and Technology, Delhi Local Network celebrates Engineers’ Day on the 15th September to commemorate the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Sir M Visvesvaraya.
- On this occasion, besides technical activities the Institution also presents Eminent Engineer’s Award to distinguished Engineering personalities for their outstanding services in the field of Engineering and technology.
About Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET):-
- The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is a multidisciplinary professional engineering institution formally known as The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), established 1871.
- It is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 168,000 members in 150 countries.
- The Institution is celebrating glorious 150 years of existence.
- IET is registered as a Charity in England and Wales (No. 211014) and Scotland (No. SC038698).
- IET Delhi Local Network is one amongst nine such networks in South Asia, which constitutes the Indian arm of the IET.
Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)
Why in News?
- The government has launched the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), comprising 10 labs namely DBT-NIBMG Kalyani, DBT-ILS Bhubaneswar, ICMR-NIV Pune, DBT-NCCS Pune, CSIR-CCMB Hyderabad, DBT-CDFD Hyderabad, DBT-InSTEM/ NCBS Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, CSIR-IGIB Delhi, and NCDC Delhi.
- The overall aim of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium is to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
- This vital research consortium will also assist in developing potential vaccines in the future. The consortium will ascertain the status of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01) in the country, establish a sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implication, and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends (super-spreader events, high mortality/morbidity trend areas etc.).
- NSACOG will have a high level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee which will provide guidance and oversight to the consortium specially for policy matters and it will have a Scientific Advisory Group for scientific and technical guidance.
Why in News?
- China has given conditional approval to a coronavirus vaccine developed by state-owned Sinopharm.
- The vaccine is the first one approved for general use in China.
- The vaccine is an inactivated, two-dose vaccine from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of state-owned conglomerate Sinopharm.
- The company announced recently that preliminary data from last-stage trials had shown it to be 79.3% effective.
- Sinopharm is one of at least five Chinese developers that are in a global race to create vaccines for the disease
Bill on Madrasa Conversion
Why in News?
- Assam Assembly passed a Bill to convert State-run madrasas into regular schools.
- The Assam Repealing Bill, 2020 seeks to abolish the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization) Act, 1995 and the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.
- The Bill also seeks to convert 97 provincialised Sanskrit tols (learning centres) into study and research centres affiliated to a university of Sanskrit and ancient studies in western Assam’s Nalbari from January 2022.
- Bill was for government-run madrasas and there will be no steps to close down or regulate the private madrasas in Assam.
Alternative to Single-use Plastic
Why in News?
- The CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) here has come up with an alternative to single-use plastics.
- NIIST scientists have developed a technology for manufacturing biodegradable tableware – including plates, cutleries and cups – from agricultural residues and byproducts.
- Primary agricultural residues are generated as a byproduct during the harvesting of agricultural crops while secondary agricultural residues are the leftovers from post-harvest processing.
- According to the NIIST, the biodegradable tableware developed from them has a shelf-life of upto six months and heat resistance up to 100 degree celsius. The developed product is found to be ideal for replacing the single-use plastics.
- India generates around 27,000 tonnes of plastic waste per day. The country produced around 400 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2018-2019 alone.
- Only nine per cent of all the plastics ever produced was recycled and around 60 % of the plastics have been disposed of into the natural environment or landfills which poses serious health and environmental hazards.
- With recent ban imposed by various States of India for single-use plastics, there comes a huge demand for alternative to plastics which are biodegradable in nature.
A New Class of Antibiotics
- New molecules that can kill difficult-to-treat bacterial infections and also enhance our natural immune response have been developed by researchers from the U.S.
- The molecules target a metabolic pathway that is essential for most bacteria but absent in humans.
- The team writes that these molecules can help in the fight against the rising multidrug-resistant bacteria.
Big Smart Bumblebees
- A new study has shown that big bumblebees learn where the best flowers are located, remember the spot and visit them repeatedly.
- Since they can carry more nectar, they explore areas away from the nest and spend energy to find the best flower.
- But smaller ones that have a short flight range don’t make the effort to learn about the best flowers and visit many flowers near the nest.
Moon Craters Map
- Using data from Chang’E-1 and Chang’E-2 lunar orbiters researchers have identified 1,09,956 new craters on the Moon and also tried to estimate their ages using artificial intelligence.
- The computer was taught to identify not just round craters but also look at irregular and even degraded craters that can give clues about the history of the Moon.
- The team was able to decode the mechanism of formation of 18,996 of the newly detected craters.
- A new study has shown that the brain not just looks at our movements and surroundings but also calculates other’s movements.
- “Our results support the idea that, under certain mental states, this pattern of brain waves may help us recognise boundaries”.
- By looking at 50 studies between 2014 and 2020 researchers have found that mussels, oysters and scallops have the highest levels of microplastic contamination among seafood.
- No-one yet fully understands the full impact of microplastics on the human body, but early evidence from other studies suggest they do cause harm.
- A critical step in understanding the full impact on human consumption is in first fully establishing what levels of microplastics humans are ingesting.
- We can start to do this by looking at how much seafood and fish is eaten and measuring the amount of microplastics in these creatures.
Caribbean Volcanos Come Alive
Why in News
- Volcanoes that have been quiet for decades are rumbling to life in the eastern Caribbean, prompting officials to issue alerts in Martinique and St Vincent and the Grenadines as scientists rush in to study activity they say hasn’t been observed in years.
- The most recent warning was issued recently for La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of islands home to more than 1,00,000 people.
- Officials reported tremors, strong gas emissions, formation of a new volcanic dome and changes to its crater lake.
- La Soufriere, located near the northern tip of the main island of St Vincent, last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people. That occurred shortly before Martinique’s Mt Pelee erupted and destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre, killing more than 30,000 people.
- Mt Pelee too is now active once again.
- In early December, officials in the French Caribbean territory issued a yellow alert due to seismic activity under the mountain. It was the first alert of its kind issued since the volcano last erupted in 1932.
- While the eastern Caribbean is one long chain of active and extinct volcanoes, volcanologist said the activity at Mt Pelee and La Soufriere are not related.
- The most active volcano in recent years in the eastern Caribbean has been Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, which has erupted continuously since 1995, destroying the capital of Plymouth and killing at least 19 people in 1997.
- Seventeen of the eastern Caribbean’s 19 live volcanoes are located on 11 islands, with the remaining two are underwater near the island of Grenada, including one called Kick ’Em Jenny that has been active in recent years.
Why in News?
- The Indian Air Force has engaged an Mi-17V5 helicopter to tame a massive wildfire in Dzukou Valley, a popular trekking destination on the Manipur-Nagaland border.
- Dzukou, about 30 km from Kohima, is a sanctuary for the endangered Blyth’s tragopan – Nagaland’s State Bird – and other species of birds and animals.
- Often caught in a boundary dispute between Manipur and Nagaland, the Dzukou Valley has been prone to wildfires.
- Members of the Southern Angami Youth Organisation, which runs an adventure-based conservation programme, handle such fires in most cases.
- The last major incident was in 2006 when a 20-km stretch of the southern part of Dzukou was affected.
Ice Age Woolly Rhino Found In Siberia
Why in News?
- A well-preserved Ice Age woolly rhino with many of its internal organs still intact has been recovered from permafrost in Russia’s extreme north.
- The carcass was revealed by melting permafrost in Yakutia in August.
- The carcass has most of its soft tissues still intact, including part of the intestines, thick hair and a lump of fat. Its horn was found next to it.
- Recent years have seen major discoveries of mammoths, woolly rhinos, Ice Age foal, and cave lion cubs as the permafrost increasingly melts across vast areas of Siberia because of global warming.
- Scientists dated the carcass as anywhere from 20,000- to 50,000-years-old.
- More precise dating will be possible once it is delivered to a lab for radiocarbon studies.
- The carcass was found on the bank of the Tirekhtyakh River in the Abyisk district, close to the area where another young woolly rhino was recovered in 2014. Researchers dated that specimen, which they called Sasha, at 34,000 years old.
Farmers, Centre Reach Agreement on Two Issues
Why in News?
- Protesting farmers and Central Ministers have reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding power subsidies, two out of four issues on the negotiating table during their final round of talks for the year.
- However, deadlock continues on the two biggest demands — repeal of three farm market reform laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support prices (MSPs) for farm produce.
What are they?
- The farm unions were apprehensive about farmers facing fines and jail for stubble burning cases under the ordinance on air quality in the capital.
- Government agreed to exclude farmers from these penalties.
- Farmers also felt that amendments to the Electricity Act will harm them, and wanted to ensure the continuance of state power subsidies for irrigation purposes. This too as agreed by govt.
Predict the Level of Loneliness in Adults
Why in News?
- Researchers at the University of California San Diego have devised an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to predict the level of loneliness in adults, with 94% accuracy.
- The tool used Natural Language Processing (NLP) developed by IBM to process large amounts of unstructured natural speech and text data.
- It analysed factors like cognition, mobility, sleep and physical activity to understand the process of aging.
- This tool is an example of how AI can be used in devices to detect mental health conditions.
What is Emotion AI?
- Emotion AI is a subset of artificial intelligence that measures, simulates and reacts to human emotions.
- Part of affective computing, the modern version of the field roughly dates back to MIT lab professor Rosalind Picard’s book Affective Computing, published in 1997.
- Picard put forth theories of how research of emotions can be improved through new technologies.
- Since machines are good at analysing large amounts of data, they can listen to voice inflections and recognise when those inflections correlate with stress or anger.
- Machines can analyse images and pick up subtleties in micro-expressions on humans’ faces that might happen too fast for a person to recognise.
Where is Emotion AI used?
- The most common use lies in virtual personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri that perform tasks on command.
- Amazon incorporated AI in its fitness tracker Amazon Halo that analyses the consumer’s voice to determine mood and emotional state of mind.
- The benefits of emotion-sensing tech include personalisation, especially in corporate and medical fields where user experiences are subjective.
- In medicine, nurse-bots keep track of a patient’s wellbeing in addition to reminding them to take medication. AI-controlled software can help practitioners diagnose depression and dementia via voice analysis.
- In the workplace, AI in the form of chatbots and robots is said to provide judgment-free, unbiased and quick assistance to users.
- A survey conducted by technology company Oracle in October found that more than 90% respondents in India and China were more open to speaking to robots about their mental health over their managers.
- The use of AI in tracking human emotions has been criticised, with bias being the top concern.
- For instance, emotional analysis technology assigns more negative emotions to black men’s faces than white men’s faces
- AI is not sophisticated enough to understand cultural differences in expressing and reading emotions, making it harder to draw accurate conclusions.
- For instance, a smile might mean one thing in Germany and another in Japan. Confusing these meanings can lead to make wrong decisions, especially in businesses, according to Harvard Business Review.
- Institutions need to be aware of potential AI biases that may affect the accuracy of findings. Emotion detection and recognition not only improves human and computer interfaces, but also enhances the feedback mechanism actions taken by computers from the users.