Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 19 October 2023

Quantum Computing

Relevance: GS III (Science and Technology)

Why in news?

Quantum computers solve difficult problems efficiently as compared to classical technology.

What is Quantum Computing?

It is an area of computer science that uses the principles of quantum theory which explains the behaviour of energy and material on the atomic and subatomic levels

How does the working of Quantum Technology differ from Classical Technology?

  • Storing of Database: The classical computers store informationin the form of bits i.e., in 0s or 1s, however, Quantum computers use qubits.
  • High Flexibility: While classical bits always represent either one or zero, qubits can be in a superposition of one and zero simultaneouslyuntil their state is measured. In addition, the states of multiple qubits can be entangled, meaning that they are linked quantum mechanically to each other. 
  • Ease of Source availability: Qubits can be made by manipulating atoms, electrically charged atoms called ions, or electrons, or by nanoengineering so-called artificial atoms, such as circuits of superconducting qubits, using aprinting method called lithography.
  • High computation speed: A quantum algorithm is a series of steps, but its implementation requires quantum gates. Some problems may need fewer steps on the part of a quantum algorithm than a classical algorithm. Hence, the quantum algorithm can speed up the computation. For example, the Shor algorithm.
  • Far more efficient: The factorization algorithms used by classical algorithms are far less efficient as compared to Shor’s algorithm, which is a quantum algorithm.

Why Indian government should take note of quantum computing?

Like most other technologies, quantum computing poses opportunities and risks as follows.

  • Opportunities:
    • Prevention from External security threats: Countries that will stay apart from implementing quantum technology in their own spheres will still need to prepare for the external security threats of quantum computing. Hence, adopting Quantum technology in the governance system will work as a safety valve.
    • Efficient in targeting software attacks: Firstly, quantum computers can potentially crack even the most powerful and advanced security measures. For example, a hacker can, in theory, use quantum computing to quickly break the cryptographic keys commonly used in encryption if they are savvy.
    • When reliable, large-scale devices become available, quantum computing will help tame many untamable problems.
  • Limitations:
    • Infrastructure: Countries that are considering quantum computers for their data centres or certain applications will have to prepare for high-cost facilities.
    • Resources: Like any other piece of infrastructure, quantum computers need space, electricity supply and resources to operate. A thorough look at budget, space, and staffing is needed for the Quantum computers.
    • Quantum Hardware Reliability: Quantum computers are highly sensitive to external influences, making them prone to hardware failures. Ensuring reliability is crucial for stable quantum computations.
    • Quantum Software Verification: Verifying the correctness of quantum software is intricate due to the nature of superposition and entanglement.
    • Quantum Ethics and Security: With the immense computing power of quantum machines, potential security threats arise, such as breaking classical cryptographic algorithms.

Way ahead:

  • Manufacturers are required to develop fault-tolerant quantum systems and resilient qubit architectures to enhance infrastructure and hardware reliability.
  • Developing robust verification methods and ensuring quantum software’s reliability are essential to building trust in quantum computing systems.
  • Addressing the ethical implications of quantum computing and developing post-quantum cryptography is crucial to safeguarding sensitive information.

Conclusion: Quantum computing stands at the frontier of scientific exploration, offering unparalleled computing capabilities. From maintaining qubit coherence and scalability to developing reliable quantum hardware and software, addressing these obstacles requires collaboration among scientists, researchers, and industry experts. Overcoming these challenges will pave the way for quantum computing's transformational impact on various industries, including cryptography, optimization, drug discovery, and materials science.


  • India’s Department of Science & Technology had set up a program called Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuEST) in 2018.
  • In the initial phase of India’s quantum computing program, the country will be laying out the basic infrastructure that is needed to promote research in this field.
  • It will help in improving the state of national security as quantum-level encrypted information becomes a common communication standard.

The National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NM-QTA):

  • This program aims to create a workforce of over 25,000 in India over the next 5-7 years. It has a total budget outlay of ₹8,000 crore for a period of five years.
  • It targets developing intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in 8 years in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology.
  • Satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2000 kilometres within India, long-distance secure quantum communications with other countries, inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km as well as multi-node Quantum network with quantum memories are also some of the deliverables of the Mission.
  • NQM can take the technology development ecosystem in the country to a globally competitive level.
The mission would greatly benefit communication, health, financial and energy sectors as well as drug design, and space applications.

PYQ’s Mains:

Q1.      “The emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Digital Revolution) has initiated e-Governance as an integral part of government”. Discuss. (2020)

Q2.      Impact of digital technology as a reliable source of input for rational decision making is a debatable issue. Critically evaluate with suitable example (2021)

OBCs and its subcategorization

Relevance: GS II (Polity and Governance, Social justice)


Andhra Pradesh is set to begin a backward classes census from next month onwards. According to the government, data would help the authorities to serve backward classes better.


  • The publication of the results of the caste survey in Bihar had a domino effect and other states are following suit.
  • The enumeration of castes, as well as the sub-categorisation of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in order to ensure equity in the distribution of reservation benefits has been a long demand. OBCs are the beneficiaries of 27% reservation in Central Govt jobs.
  • The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act granted constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). The NCBC is tasked with safeguarding the interests and rights of backward classes.

Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

  • It denotes backwards or marginalised castes and communities that are not included in Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Social backwardness in India has been traditionally recognised as a consequence of caste status. Other types of backwardness have flowed from social backwardness.
  • Affirmative action for OBCs is mandated by Constitution –
    • Article 15(4) states that the state can make special provisions for the development of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
    • Article 16(4) mandates the state to make provisions for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of the backward class, which, is not adequately represented in the services.

Need for subcategorisation:

  • Within the OBC there are hundreds of castes, all at different levels of marginalisation.
  • The demand has gained traction as the well-off OBCs have taken advantage of the 27% reservation while the ones who are really needy are ignored.
  • Around 37% of the communities under OBC do not enjoy any reservation in jobs and educational institutions.
  • There are several instances where not even 27% of OBC reservation criteria is followed, for example - the annual data published by the University Grants Commission (UGC), stated that only 4% of the professors recruited in higher educational institutes were from the OBC category. The subcategorisation will put more checks and balances on the authorities as well as awareness amongst the subcategories.


Subcategories in states

  • State governments have applied their own criteria to distribute quota benefits among the various categories of OBCs, a process that began before the Mandal recommendations were implemented at the Centre.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, OBCs are divided into five subgroups; Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Maharashtra have two subgroups; Tamil Nadu has three subgroups and in Kerala, OBC reservation is divided into eight subgroups.

Extremely Backward Classes (EBC): Case Study of Bihar

  • In 1951, the Bihar government had prepared a list of 109 castes, 79 of which were deemed to be more backward than the remaining. Later, the Patna High Court struck down the two lists as unconstitutional.
  • In 1976, the Bihar government implemented the recommendations of the Mungeri Lal Commission – it named 128 backward communities, out of which 94 were identified as the most backward.
  • The so-called Karpoori Thakur Formula provided 26% reservation, of which OBCs got a 12% share, the economically backward classes among the OBCs got 8%, women got 3%, and the poor from the upper castes got 3%.

OBC’s Commissions

Kalelkar Commission:

  • It was set up in 1953 to identify socially and educationally backward classes, the commission adopted the following criteria:
    • Low social position.
    • Lack of general educational advancement.
    • Inadequate or no representation in government service.
    • Inadequate representation in trade, and commerce.
  • It prepared a list of 2,399 backward castes and categorised 837 of them as “most backward”.
  • Its recommendations were:
    • Enumeration of castes in the 1961 census.
    • Providing 25-40% reservation at different levels of government jobs.
    • 70% reservation for admission to technical and professional institutions.
  • The recommendations were never implemented.

B P Mandal Commission:

  • It identified 3,743 castes and communities as OBCs and estimated their population at 52%.
  • It recommended 27% reservation in government jobs and admissions to all government-run scientific, technical, and professional institutions.
  • No subcategories were recognised within the 27% OBC quota.
  • The recommendations were implemented in 1991, while the “creamy layer” criteria were later fixed by a Supreme Court ruling.

Rohini Commission:

  • The Commission examined the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and submitted its report recently.
  • The report, not yet published, reportedly revealed that a small percentage of OBCs received a significant share of reservation benefits, and it suggested dividing OBCs into subgroups with separate reservation percentages.


  • The government should publish the recommendations of the Rohini Commission. Then a conscious decision can be taken on the subcategorisation. However, it is true that the majority of castes in the OBC community are not able to reap the benefits of the reservation. The government should consider the long-term demand of the OBC community.

Q1.      Consider the following organizations/bodies in India:  (UPSC 2023)

  1. The National Commission for Backward Classes
  2. The National Human Rights Commission
  3. The National Law Commission
  4. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

How many of the above constitutional bodies?

(a)       Only one

(b)       Only two

(c)        Only three

(d)       All four

Centre raises MSP for Rabi crops

GS Paper - III


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has increased the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for all Rabi crops for the financial year 2024-25.

More details on the news:

  • The government announced an increase in MSP of 6 rabi (winter-sown) crops with wheat getting a hike of Rs 150 per quintal - from the existing Rs 2,125 per quintal to Rs 2,275 per quintal - for the 2024-25 marketing season, beginning April next year.
  • The annual MSP hikes for wheat ranged from Rs 40 per quintal to Rs 110 per quintal during the 2014-15 to 2023-24 period when the focus was increasingly on supporting prices of pulses and oilseeds to nudge farmers towards crop diversification in order to reduce the country's import bill.
  • However, the farmer’s organizations say that it is a ‘meagre’ increase. MSP does not match the increase in input costs and the procurement is inadequate.

Minimum Support Price (MSP):

  • Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
  • The MSPs are announced by the Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
  • As of now, CACP recommends MSPs of 23 commodities, which comprise 7 cereals, 5 pulses, 7 oilseeds, and 4 commercial crops).
  • MSPs have no statutory backing — a farmer cannot demand MSP as a matter of right.
  • The farmer unions, who led the yearlong agitation that led to the repeal of the three farm laws, want the government to enact legislation conferring mandatory status to MSP, rather than just being an indicative or desired price.

Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP):

  • Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is a decentralized agency of the Government of India, established to recommend Minimum Support Prices (MSPs).
  • It was established in 1965 as the Agricultural Prices Commission and was given its present name in 1985.
  • It is an advisory body, not statutory, attached to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
  • MSP calculation: CACP considers both A2+FL and C2 costs while recommending MSP. CACP reckons only A2+FL cost for return. However, C2 costs are used by CACP primarily as benchmark reference costs (opportunity costs) to see if the MSPs recommended by them at least cover these costs in some of the major producing States.

MS Swaminathan committee on MSP:

  • In 2004, the Union government formed the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) with MS Swaminathan as its chairman.
  • The main aim of the committee was to come up with a sustainable farming system.
  • Their objectives also included making farm commodities cost-competitive and more profitable.
  • The Swaminathan committee talked about the cost of farming at three levels:
  1. A2: The Swaminathan committee covered all the types of cash expenditure under the A2 to generate the crop. In it, things like seeds, manure, chemicals, labour costs, fuel costs, and irrigation costs were added.
  2. FL: Under the FL, the Swaminathan Committee added the estimated cost of work to the total members of the farmer's family.
  3. C2: Under C2, the estimated land rent and the cost of interest on the money taken for farming were added to A2 and FL.

Advantages of MSP:

  • Price fall protection: It protects farmers from any sharp fall in the market prices of a commodity.
  • Assists in the decision-making of farmers: MSPs are announced at the beginning of the sowing season, this helps farmers make informed decisions on the crops they must plant.
  • Food security: MSP is a tool to achieve food security.
  • Security to farmers: It provides security to farmers from the risk of crop failure and less production.
  • Tool to increase production: MSP is used as a tool to incentivize the production of specific food crops which is short in supply. MSP motivates farmers to grow targeted crops and increase production.
  • Hedge against fluctuation: Minimum prices are ensured for the crops thereby hedging them from market fluctuations.

Limitation of MSP:

  • Unequal access to farmers:  The 2015 Shanta Kumar Committee found that only around 6% of farmers actually sell their crops at MSP rates.
  • Uneven procurement: The major problem with the MSP is the lack of government machinery for procurement for all crops except wheat and rice, which the Food Corporation of India actively procures under the PDS.
  • Crop not based upon C2: The CACP report shows that the MSP is based upon the A2 + FL model. However, the MS Swaminathan Committee advocated the farmers to be paid the price of their crop based upon C2, while this is not happening.
  • Issues in WTO: India’s MSP scheme for many crops has been challenged by many countries in the WTO.
    • For example, Australia has complained about the MSP on wheat, US and EU complained of sugarcane and pulses MSP.
  • Dependency in procurement system: The MSP-based procurement system is also dependent on middlemen, commission agents, and APMC officials, which smaller farmers find difficult to get access to.
  • Delays in Payments: The delays in receiving their money have a negative impact on the cultivators.
  • Low awareness: As per the report titled ‘Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Holdings of Households in Rural India, 2019, the awareness among farmers of the existence of an MSP is poor at 23%.

Way forward:

  • Increasing awareness among farmers: The farmers need to be aware of the prevailing MSP, the time of their announcements and the process of procurements, the facilities provided by the government, and the payment mechanism.
  • Timely payment: Delays in MSP payments have negative effects on the framers which need to be corrected and timely payment should be ensured.
  • MSP announced in advance: As intended by the policymakers, MSP should be announced well in advance of the sowing season so as to enable the farmers to plan their cropping.
  • Better infrastructure: Improved facilities at procurement centers, such as drying yards, weighing bridges, toilets, etc. should be provided to the farmers. More godowns should be set up and maintained properly for better storage and reduction of wastage.
  • Regional Variations: Recognizing regional variations in input costs, crop yields, and market conditions. MSP should be adjusted to reflect these regional disparities, making it more equitable for all farmers.
  • Consultations with the State Government: There should be meaningful consultations with the State Government, both on the methodology of computation of MSP as well as on the implementation mechanism.
  • Procurement Centers at village level: The Procurement Centers should be in the village itself to avoid transportation costs.


The MSP system is a critical component of India's agricultural policy, providing economic security to millions of farmers and ensuring food security for the nation. The recent increase in MSP is a welcome measure. However, consistent efforts are required from the government to strengthen and improve the MSP system in order to ensure the welfare of farmers and the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector.

Prelims PYQ

Q1.    Consider the following statements (UPSC 2020)

  1. In the case of all cereals, pulses, and oil seeds, the procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP) is unlimited in any State/UT of India.
  2. In the case of cereals and pulses, the MSP is fixed in any State/UT at a level to which the market price will never rise.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a)     1 only

(b)     2 only

(c)      Both 1 and 2

 (d)    Neither 1 nor 2

Mains PYQ

Q1.    What do you mean by Minimum Support Price (MSP)? How will MSP rescue the farmers from the low-income trap?  (UPSC 2018)

Q2.    How do subsidies affect the cropping pattern, crop diversity, and economy of farmers? What is the significance of crop insurance, minimum support price, and food processing for small and marginal farmers? (UPSC 2017)

The explosion of digital uncertainty

GS Paper – III


Recent advances in Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) have captured the imagination of the public, businesses, and governments alike.

Generative AI:

  • Generative AI refers to the use of AI to create new content, like text, images, music, audio, and videos.
  • It can multi-task and perform out-of-the-box tasks, including summarization, Q&A, classification, and more.
  • It works by using an ML model (commonly Supervised Learning – which consists of both input and output data) to learn the patterns and relationships in a dataset of human-created content. It then uses the learned patterns to generate new content.
  • It processes vast content, creating insights and answers via text, images, and user-friendly formats.
  • Applications of Generative AI:
    • Improve customer interactions through enhanced chat and search experiences
    • Explore vast amounts of unstructured data through conversational interfaces and summarizations
    • Assist with repetitive tasks like replying to requests for proposals (RFPs), localizing marketing content, and more.

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI):

  • Artificial general intelligence is able to reason and adapt to new environments and different types of data.
  • So, instead of depending on predetermined rules to function, AGI embraces a problem-solving and learning approach — similar to humans.
  • Although AGI has yet to be created, in theory, it could perform a wider array of tasks than weak artificial intelligence.
    • Examples of AGI: Self-driving cars, Supercomputers, Creating music with AI programs, etc.
  • Benefits of AGI:
    • It could, in the future, find a cure for chronic illnesses like cancer or resolve issues like overburdened utility infrastructure.
    • It will be able to scan all pre-existing information available in places like the internet to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
    • Whoever will develop a working version of AGI stands to gain major social, economic, and political advantages.

Digital uncertainties due to the current/advanced wave of AI:

  • Cognitive warfare:
    • Cognitive warfare embodies the idea of combat without fighting. It is a new space of competition, beyond the land, maritime, air, cybernetic, and spatial domains.
    • Cognitive warfare puts a premium on sophisticated techniques that are aimed at destabilizing institutions, especially governments, and manipulation, among other aspects, of the news media by powerful non-state actors.
  • Behavioural change: It can change a population’s behavior using complex psychological techniques of manipulation.
  • New world order:
    • Today, with almost a third of companies in the more advanced countries of the world investing more in intangible assets than physical ones, they are putting themselves directly at risk from AI.
    • Another estimate is that with over 50% of the market value of the top 500 companies sitting in intangibles, they too are deeply vulnerable.
    • As firms, large and small, spend billions of dollars to migrate to the Cloud, and more and more sensors constantly send out sensitive information, the risks go up in geometrical progression.
    • All this indicates a dark new world order that we hope to inhabit.
  • Future risks of AGI:
    • There is real fear that it could alter the very fabric of nation-states, and tear apart real and imagined communities across the globe.
    • Social and economic inequalities will rise exponentially. Social anarchy will rule the streets as we see happening in some of the cities closest to the epicenter of technological innovation.
    • It has an inherent capacity to flood a country with fake content disguised as truth, and for imitating known voices with false ones that sound eerily familiar.
    • This could lead to a breakdown of the concept of trust — of what is said, read, or heard — and could lead to overturning the trust pyramid with catastrophic consequences.
    • AGI systems will have the potential to be able to make decisions that are unpredictable and uncontrollable which could have unintended consequences, often with harmful outcomes.
    • Digital colonialism:
      • AGI could prove to be as radical a game-changer in the world of the 21st century as the Industrial Revolution was in the 18th century.
      • It is almost certain to lead to material shifts in the geopolitical balance of power, and in a way never comprehended previously.
      • The specter of digital colonization looms large with AGI-based power centers being based in a few specific locations. Consequently, AGI-driven disruption could precipitate the dawn of the age of digital colonialism.
      • This would lead to a new form of exploitation, viz., data exploitation. In its most egregious form, it would entail the export of raw data and the import of value-added products that use this data.

Way Forward:

  • Recognize the social risks implied by artificial intelligence: The first step in resolving a problem is to recognize that it exists. According to EIU, the risk for the future of employment and privacy posed by artificial intelligence is undeniable.
  • Explain, educate, and boost transparency: To demand blind faith in algorithms is a sure road to misinformation and distortion about artificial intelligence. “The biggest challenge facing AI is the possible lack of confidence in the technology due to a lack of transparency on how machines arrive at their decisions”. Those at the vanguard of the AI revolution need to explain their work and the plans for society in the simplest way possible.
  • Good public policies could lessen the negative effects of artificial intelligence without limiting the positive ones – for example, in the labour market.


AI can be exploited and manipulated skilfully in certain situations, as was possibly the case in the current Hamas-Israeli conflict in 2023. Israel’s massive intelligence failure is attributed by some experts to an overindulgence of AI by it, which was skilfully exploited by Hamas. An over-dependence on AI and a belief in its invincibility could prove to be as catastrophic as ‘locking the gates after the horse has bolted’.


Q1.    “The emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Digital Revolution) has initiated e-Governance as an integral part of the government”. Discuss.  UPSC IAS/2020

Q2.    What are the main socio-economic implications arising out of the development of IT industries in major cities of India?                                       UPSC IAS/2021

Q3.    The impact of digital technology as a reliable source of input for rational decision-making is a debatable issue. Critically evaluate with a suitable example.       UPSC IAS/2021


  1. With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following? UPSC IAS/2020
  2. Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units
  3. Create meaningful short stories and songs
  4. Disease diagnosis
  5. Text-to-Speech Conversion
  6. Wireless transmission of electrical energy

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a)     1, 2, 3 and 5 only

(b)     1, 3 and 4 only

(c)      2, 4 and 5 only

(d)        1, 2, 3, 4 and 5


Scientists have concluded that the largest marsquake seen by NASA’s InSight lander last year was caused by tectonic activity.


  • In 2022, a 4.7 magnitude quake was centred in the Al-Qahira Vallis region in the southern hemisphere of Mars.
  • NASA reported that it was the largest quake ever observed on another planet. Overall, the lander detected more than a thousand Marsquakes.
  • A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters rules out the possibility that the marsquake was caused by a meteor impact.
  • Unlike Earth, Mars does not have tectonic plates and its crust is a giant plate. It is slowly shrinking and cooling, and there is motion within the crust.
  • Therefore, Marsquakes are caused due to stresses that cause rock fractures or faults in the crust.
  • The researchers concluded that the marsquake was caused by the release of tectonic forces from within the planet’s interior. This could mean that Mars is more seismically active than it was previously considered.
  • Most of the Marsquakes detected so far are in the Cerberus Fossae region.
  • This research will have a bearing on finding a safe landing site on Mars.


  • Mars 2020 (Perseverance Rover Mission)
  • Mars Science Laboratory (Robotic space probe mission-2011)
  • Pheonix (2008)
  • Spirit (Mars robotic rover-2003)

India - U.S. deal for 31 MQ9B drones


The deal for 31 MQ9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with the U.S. is expected to be concluded by February 2024 and deliveries will begin from February 2027, three years from the signing of the contract.

MQ9B drones:

  • The drones are capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, providing valuable real-time information and situational awareness.
  • They can also provide close air support, assist in combat search and rescue operations, engage in precision strikes, conduct convoy and raid overwatch, assist in route clearance, aid in target development, and provide terminal air guidance.
  • The baseline system of the MQ-9 carries the Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS-B), which integrates various sensors such as infrared, colour, and monochrome daylight TV cameras, etc.
  • MQ-9 can carry up to eight laser-guided missiles, specifically the Air-to-Ground Missile-114 Hellfire.

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