Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 24 March 2023

India unveiled vision document for 6G

GS Paper - 3 (ITC)

The Prime Minister has unveiled a vision document for rollout of 6G communications technology in India by 2030. As part of its 6G mission, India will identify priority areas for research by involving all stakeholders including industryacademia and service providers spanning theoretical and simulation studies, proof-of-concept prototypes and demonstrations and early market interventions through startups, the vision document said.

What is 6G?

  1. While, technically, 6G does not exist today, it has been conceived as a far superior technology promising internet speeds up to 100 times faster than 5G.

  2. The PM had formally launched 5G services in October 2022 and said at the time that India should be ready to launch 6G services in the next 10 years.

  3. As opposed to 5G, as its peak can offer internet speeds up to 10 gigabits per second6G promises to offer ultra-low latency with speeds up to 1 terabits per second.

  4. As per the vision document, 6G use cases will include remote-controlled factories, constantly communicating self-driven cars and smart wearables taking inputs directly from human senses.

  5. However, while 6G promises growth, it will simultaneously have to be balanced with sustainability since most 6G supporting communication devices will be battery-powered and can have a significant carbon footprint, the document said.

What is India’s 6G roadmap?

  1. The 6G project will be implemented in two phases, and the government has also appointed an apex council to oversee the project and focus on issues such as standardisationidentification of the spectrum for 6G usages, create an ecosystem for devices and systems, and figure out finances for research and development, among other things.

  2. In phase one, support will be provided to explorative ideasrisky pathways and proof-of-concept tests.

  3. Ideas and concepts that show promise and potential for acceptance by the global peer community will be adequately supported to develop them to completion, establish their use cases and benefits, and create implementational IPs and testbeds leading to commercialisation as part of phase two.

  4. reassessment and rationalisation of congested spectrum bands, and adoption of captive networks for Industry 4.0 and enterprise use cases will also have to be done.

  5. To fund research and innovation on 6G, the document recommended the creation of a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore to facilitate various funding instruments such as grants, loans, VC fundfund of funds, etc. for the next 10 years.

  6. To decide on standardisation around 6G and related technologies, the document called for India to take on a greater role in various international bodies such as 3GPPITUIEC, and IEEE.

What is India’s immediate action plan?

  1. The government has set up a Bharat 6G project and appointed an apex council to oversee the project and focus on issues such as standardisationidentification of the spectrum for 6G usage, create an ecosystem for devices and systems, and figure out finances for research and development, among other things.

  2. The apex council will facilitate and finance research and development, design and development of 6G technologies by Indian start-ups, companies, research bodies and universities.

  3. It will aim to enable India to become a leading global supplier of intellectual propertyproducts and solutions of affordable 6G telecom solutions and identify priority areas for 6G research based on India’s competitive advantages.

  4. A key focus of the council will be on new technologies such as Terahertz communicationradio interfacestactile internetartificial intelligence for connected intelligence, new encoding methods and waveforms chipsets for 6G devices.

Wind energy generation can surge

GS Paper -1 (Resources)

The report says positive policy moves by the new and renewable energy ministry can crank up the annual wind capacity addition by 6-8 giga-watt (GW) from fiscal 2026, around 4 times more than 1.6 GW of growth clocked in the past five fiscals.

More about the news:

v  According to a Crisil analysis, the aggressive tariff bids in reverse auctions since fiscal 2018 has been one of the key drivers of the wind energy growth.

v  The process led to discovery of irrationally low tariffs that were favoured by state distribution companies, but compromised returns left little incentives for developers to complete the projects.

v  Under reverse auction, bidders compete on an open e-platformadjust tariffs within timeframes with their quotes visible to all participants.

Earlier limitations:

  • Prior to FY18, wind projects were awarded under the feed-in-tariff regime, where payments at fixed tariffs were made by discoms to producers under long-term contracts without competitive bids.

  • The report noted, only 41 per cent of projects awarded by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) during fiscals 2018-21 got commissioned till December 2022, while 23 per cent were cancelled and the remaining projects are delayed due to issues in land acquisition, and evacuation and supply-side constraints.

  • The annual solar capacity addition averaged 8.3 GW in the five fiscals through 2022; wind capacities grew a meagre 1.6 GW per annum during this period.

To overcome these challenges:

The ministry introducing four key policy measures:

Ø  It includes setting a goal to award 8 GW of wind tenders per annum. This is significant because wind tendering has been low at just 3.3 GW per annum in the past five fiscals. This can propel capacity growth at a faster rate if executed well.

Ø  The ministry has replaced the reverse auction process with a single stage, two-envelope closed bidding, which will curb irrational bidding.

Ø  To ensure that higher wind power tariffs are conducive for state discoms, the ministry mandated that all discovered renewable tariffs for each state will be pooled and offered to discoms at an average pooled tariff by an intermediary such as the SECI.

Ø  To ensure discipline in terms of timely project completion, the ministry notified that bank guarantees of developers will be revoked if they delayed project completion by more than a year beyond the scheduled commissioning date.

Way forward:

v  The step-up in wind power generation is crucial to the country’s energy transition goals despite it being costlier than solar.

v  It is because wind projects can provide electricity even during the night to meet peak power requirements, which balances out day-centric solar generation on the grid.

v  It forms an important part of round-the-clock power supply set-up as desired by discoms.

The Omicron recombinant behind India’s new COVID spike

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

Over the past three years and multiple waves of infection, SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve by accumulating genetic variations. Uncommonly, a co-infection of multiple lineages of the virus could result in recombinations between genomes which can give rise to chimeric genomes, otherwise called recombinants.

More about the news:

Ø  While most recombinations may not give rise to viable viruses, there is a rare possibility that recombination could result in the creation of a new lineage of the virus with better functional capabilities than either of the parent lineages.

Ø  Genome sequencing and surveillance of viruses could efficiently identify such recombinants, as they would have the variant complement of two-parent lineages.

Ø  The PANGO network, an international consortium of researchers for naming SARS-CoV-2 lineages, has an established system for identifying and designating recombinants of SARS-CoV-2.

What is the XBB.1.16 lineage of SARS-CoV-2?

v  First detected in SARS-CoV-2 sequences from India, the XBB.1.16 is a recombinant lineage of the virus and is a descendent of the XBB lineage.

v  The earliest sequence of this lineage belongs to a viral genome isolated in New York in January 2023 and the lineage has been seen to be circulating predominantly in India.

v  Preliminary data also suggest that XBB.1.16 has a higher growth advantage over currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 lineages, including the XBB.1.5 lineage.

Why is XBB.1.16 cause for concern?

  • Amid the on-going increase in the number of seasonal Influenza H3N2 cases, an uptick in COVID-19 cases is being seen in India in March 2023.

  • The fast-spreading XBB.1.16 lineage is believed to be responsible for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in India. 

  • Although data from systematic genomic surveillance in India is limited, XBB.1.16 today accounts for more than 30% of all the sequenced genomes in March 2023.

  • To date, the lineage has been found in samples from Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, Pondicherry, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Odisha.

  • Based on preliminary data, there is no evidence to suggest that infections with the XBB.1.16 lineage differ in clinical severity from those caused by other Omicron lineages.

  • The higher growth advantage also possibly the higher immune escape could lead to a higher risk of reinfection with XBB.1.16 compared to other circulating Omicron lineages.

Way forward:

v  Genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 has time and again proven to be essential for the early detection and tracking of new viral lineages including recombinants.

v  Although vaccination and hybrid immunity against the disease remain effective in protecting against severe COVID-19 symptoms, further research is necessary to determine the impact of newly evolving lineages on how the pandemic progresses. 

v  As people continue to get infected and new lineages of the virus continue to emerge, time-tested preventive measures such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

HC declares A Raja’s election null and void

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Kerala High Court declared the election of CPI(M) legislator A Raja from the Devikulam Assembly constituency in Idukki district as null and void, holding that as a baptised Christian, he is ineligible to contest from a seat reserved for members of the Scheduled Castes (SC). The order came in a plea filed by Congress candidate D Kumar who had lost the 2021 election to Raja.

What is the Centre’s stand?

  1. In November 2022, when the Apex Court considered this issue in ‘Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Another vs Union of India’, the Central government submitted that the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 challenged in the present case was based on historical data which established that “no backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic Society.”

  2. The affidavit filed by the Centre added that the reason why Dalits convert to Islam or Christianity is to come out of the oppressive system of untouchability in Hinduism, which is not prevalent in either of the two religions.

  3. The Centre also quoted a dissenting note from the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities report stating that Islam and Christianity are foreign religions that do not recognise the caste system.

  4. Conferring SC status on converts will amount to introducing the caste system in those religions, the report said.

  5. Before this, on 7 October 2022, the Centre had established a three-member commission, headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan, to examine the grant of SC status to persons who claimed to historically belong to the scheduled castes but had subsequently converted to religions other than the ones mentioned in the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 of the Constitution.

  6. The Commission is scheduled to submit its report in 2024, while the question of reservations for Muslim & Christian Dalits remains unanswered before the Apex Court.

What is the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950?

  1. In 1950, when the Constitution was being framed, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, was issued under Article 341 of the Constitution which says that the President may for any State or UT publicly notify and specify the “castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes, which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Caste.”

  2. The original order was passed in 1950 and allowed only Hindus to be classified as SCs.

  3. However, it was later amended to include Sikhs in 1956, and Buddhists in 1990, in the wake of political pressure.

  4. Despite these amendments, no provisions were made to include backward communities within Christians and Muslims under the definition of SCs.

Abel Prize for Mathematics

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

The Abel Prize for mathematics was awarded to Argentine-American Luis Caffarelli, an expert in "partial differential equations" which can explain phenomena ranging from how water flows to population growth. A professor at the University of Texas, Mr. Caffarelli, 74, was honoured for his "seminal contributions to regularity theory for nonlinear partial differential equations," the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters said.

Implication of Research

  • This type of equation models how several variables change with respect to each other, and play a prominent role in many disciplines, including engineering, physics, economics and biology.

  • The academy hailed in particular his groundbreaking contributions to the field of regularity theory over 40 years.

  • “Combining brilliant geometric insight with ingenious analytical tools and methods, he has had and continues to have an enormous impact on the field,” as per the chair of the Abel committee, Helge Holden.

  • Last year, the prize was won by U.S. mathematician Dennis Sullivan for his research into topology and chaos theory.

  • Named after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829), the distinction comes with a 7.5-million-kroner ($710,000) prize.

Awarded for

  • The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, which awards the prize, has highlighted his “technically virtuous” results, especially in the so-called free boundary problems, such as those mathematical models of what happens at the contact surface between water and ice, or in an alloy of different molten metals that solidify at different rates.

  • Caffarelli has also shone by delving into the Navier-Stokes equations, which describe since 1845 the flow of a viscous fluid, such as oil.

  • The applications of his work are incalculable: the analysis of a person’s blood circulation, the prediction of the movement of oil, the manufacture of an automobile engine, financial mathematics, and the refinement of the fundamental models that explain the universe.