20 Apr 2024

Case against Maldives ex-President Yameen

Why in News? Recently, Maldives High Court(HC) overturned the conviction and sentence of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and ordered a retrial.

About the Case-In 2016, Yameen (then President) was indicted in the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) scandal uncovered through Al Jazeera investigation, where over $90 million was embezzled from MMPRC, a government body, to cover election costs and broker deals for votes in Parliament. Also, leases of 50 Maldivian islands were given to private companies without following due process. This resulted in Yameen’s defeat in 2018 Presidential election. New government began graft proceedings against him and seized his assets. Maldives HC sentenced him to five years imprisonment with $5million fine. In 2021, Yameen approached Supreme Court (SC) against the sentence and was acquitted. But, in 2022, Maldives Criminal Court awarded him 11 years imprisonment and $5 million fine for corruption and money laundering charges related to receiving kickbacks. Now, the HC has ruled that the trial was unfair, acquitted Yameen and ordered a lower court to restart proceedings.

Context of Maldives’ Domestic Politics-Yameen was unable to contest in 2023 Presidential elections. At his place, his party fielded Mohamed Muizzu, who won the elections due to his massive ‘India Out’ campaign- calling for exit of Indian military stationed in Maldives. This campaign was a continuation of Yameen’s 2013-18 policies when he openly courted Saudi Arabia and China and was hostile to New Delhi. After taking office, Muizzu immediately acted on ‘India Out’ campaign, committing to a ‘Maldives First’ policy that prioritizes national interests and sovereignty, resulting in a strained relationship with India.


International Relations

20 Apr 2024

Spotting Disinformation amid Elections

Why in News? Two deep fake videos of actor Aamir Khan went viral this week, both manipulated versions of his show, Satyamev Jayate where he appears to be explicitly supporting Congress party and speaking about Nyaya (justice)- title of Congress’s manifesto (Nyaya Patra).

How are Deepfake Videos Made? an AI detection tool developed in collaboration with IIT Jodhpur, shows that these videos were generated using ‘Voice Swap’ Technology which uses an AI algorithm to either alter or mimic an individual’s voice. It allows the creators to change voice characteristics such as accent, tone, pitch, and speech patterns to make the videos more realistic. The creator can use several easy-to-use AI voice swap tools (freely available) for this purpose where he can simply upload or record the audio sample that he wants to replace and customize the settings to make the uploaded sample sound as realistic as possible.

How to Spot Deepfakes? Although, well-produced deepfakes are difficult to spot, one can use following techniques-

  1. Verifying Sources: One should be cautious of audio or video content from unfamiliar sources, especially if it seems controversial or sensational and should verify its authenticity by cross-referencing with reliable sources, and trustworthy media organizations.
  2. Listening for Anomalies: like voice’s unnatural tenor, slightly robotic speech, irregular pauses, manipulated or synthetic speech.
  3. Scrutinizing Visual Content: Check both audio and visuals elements for any discrepancies or inconsistencies. For example, if lips do not sync with speech, then the video may be manipulated.
  4. Staying Informed: about day-to-day news and events helps recognizing the risks associated with deepfakes.
  5. Using AI Voice Detectors: Optic’s ‘AI or Not’ (available for free) can be used to upload any suspicious audio or video and check its authenticity.




Science & Tech

20 Apr 2024

What is Indelible Ink - The Classic Symbol of Indian Polls?

Why in News? With the first phase of voting for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections beginning, the classic symbol of Indian polls is visible everywhere - a left hand with only its index finger extended, marked by a purple-black indelible ink.

What Makes the Ink Indelible? Indelible (that cannot be removed or washed out) ink contains silver nitrate, which is a colourless compound which becomes visible when exposed to ultraviolet light, including sunlight. The higher the silver nitrate’s concentration (say ~20%), the higher will be the ink’s quality. For up to 72 hours after application it can remain resistant to soap, liquids, home-cleansing, detergents, etc. This water-based ink also contains a solvent like alcohol to allow its faster drying.

Who Makes the Indelible Ink for Indian Elections? It was first manufactured at the ECI’s request by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). Then, Mysore Paints & Varnish Ltd. - a Karnataka Government Undertaking, has been licensed to manufacture the ink. Since 1962, it has been the sole manufacturer of the ink in India. Around 26.5 lakh phials or small bottles (each with a capacity of 10 ml and sold at a fixed rate of Rs 174) will be made for this election cycle.

Is There Any Legal Backing for the Use of Indelible Ink? Section 61 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) 1951 states that rules may be made under the Act for the marking with indelible ink of the thumb or any other finger of every elector when they cast their vote.

What is the Significance of the Indelible Ink? It has been used since the first general elections (1951-52). Currently, it is exported to more than 25 countries. However, the procedure of application can differ.


Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

What is the National Security Guard (NSG)?
A new Director-General has been appointed for the National Security Guard (NSG).
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About National Security Guard (NSG):

  • It is a special force in India that has primarily been utilised for counter-terrorism activities. It is an elite force providing a second line of defence for the nation.
  • The NSG members are also known as Black Catsbecause of the black drill cotton coveralls and balaclavas, or helmets, they wear.
  • Establishment
    • It was raised in 1984, following Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
    • It was created by the Cabinet Secretariat under the National Security Guard Act of the Indian Parliament in 1986. 
    • It was modelled on the pattern of the SAS of the UK and the GSG-9 of Germany.
  • The Union Ministry for Home Affairs exercises administrative and operational control over NSG.
  • Motto: Sarvatra Sarvottama Suraksa.
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.
  • Director General (DG): 
    • The head of the NSG, designated as Director General (DG), is selected by the Home Ministry.
    • All the selected DGs have been officers from the Indian Police Service (IPS).
  • The NSG's specific goals include:
    • Neutralization of terrorist threats
    • Handling hijacking situations in the air and on land.
    • Bomb disposal (search, detection, and neutralisation of IEDs).
    • PBI (Post Blast Investigation)
    • Hostage Rescue
    • VIP Security
  • It is designed to be employed as a specialised counter-terrorism force "only in exceptional situations," not to take over "functions of the State Police Forces or other paramilitary forces."
  • The teams of NSG work on a basic philosophy of swift and speedy strike and immediate withdrawal from the theatre of action.
  • The force is task-oriented and has two main elements in the form of the Special Action Group (SAG), comprising Army personnel, and the Special Ranger Group (SRG), comprising personnel drawn from the Central Armed Police Forces and State Police Forces.
  • The NSG also has a National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) that maintains a centralised database of bombing activities reported in India and abroad.
    • The NBDC collects, collates, analyses, and evaluates all terrorist bombing activities and disseminates relevant information to concerned law enforcement agencies.
Internal Security

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

National Curriculum for Early Childhood Care and Education 2024
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) recently released the National Curriculum for Early Childhood Care and Education 2024 titled ‘Aadharshila’.
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About National Curriculum for Early Childhood Care and Education 2024:

  • Aadharshila (translated as foundation stone) is a detailed 48-week curriculum meant for learning in the age group of three to six-year-olds in anganwadis
  • It has been finalized by an internal committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Department of School Education and Literacy, the Ministry of Education, the NCERT, the Institute of Home Economics, Delhi University and civil society organisations.
  • Features:
    • The curriculum includes a weekly based play calendar with four weeks of initiation that include academic activities which help children transition from home to anganwadi centre by engaging them in fun and free play.
    • The next 36 weeks are spent exploring, free play, conversation, creation and appreciation, reflection that involves various activities, including storytelling, singing rhymes, art and craft, and so on.
    • Storytelling themes revolve around conflict resolution, taking responsibility, and working with and helping others.
    • Children learn about colours, shapes, numbers, the use of senses, body parts, family and friends, listening and responding to instructions, basic counting, imitating and recognizing sounds, themes like seasons, festivals, food and so on. 
    • The last eight weeks are spent in recap and reinforcing the learnings of previous weeks with worksheets and observation of kid’s performance. 
    • Activities and time table are segregated age-wise, with detailed requirement of materials needed, age-appropriate specifications, variation, notes for teachers, targeted curricular goals and competency that children achieve, and observing children’s interests. 
    • Children from the age three to six attend anganwadi in what is a mixed crowd. The curriculum targets at least 48 weeks of learning in the duration of three years. 
    • The curriculum helps in developing listening skill, vocabulary building, boosting imagination, narration, following instructions, creativity, social development, developing self-expression and self-esteem, which will help a child to easily transition into Grade 1.
    • A special focus has been given for the screening, inclusion, and referrals of Divyang children in every activity.
    • The national framework for three to six years will serve as a base for States to develop their own culturally appropriate curriculum seen as a solution to tackle later school challenges of children. 
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

Key Facts about Nagorno-Karabakh Region
Russian peacekeepers have begun withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh following Azerbaijan's recapture of the disputed territory from Armenian separatists last year.
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About Nagorno-Karabakh Region:

  • It is a landlocked mountainous area in the South Caucasus. It was claimed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia after the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917 and has remained a point of tension ever since.
  • It is internationally recognised as part of oil-rich Azerbaijan, but its inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenians and have their own government, which has enjoyed close links to the government in neighbouring Armenia but has not been officially recognised by it or other United Nations member states.
    • Armenians, who are Christians, claim a long historical dominance in the area, dating back to several centuries before Christ.
    • Azerbaijan, whose inhabitants are mostly Muslim, links its historical identity to the territory, too.
  • What is the history?
    • Over the centuries, the enclave has come under the sway of Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans and Soviets.
    • After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought over the region.
    • When the Bolsheviks took over Azerbaijan, Armenia agreed to Bolshevik control, ushering in the Sovietisation of the whole of the Caucasus.
    • Karabakh, with its borders redrawn to include as many Armenians as possible, remained part of the Azeri Soviet Socialist Republic but with autonomy. Its name was “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”.
    • Under the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region within the republic of Azerbaijan.
    • As the Soviet Union crumbled, what is known as the First Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994) erupted between Armenians and their Azeri neighbours.
    • Azerbaijan lost a chunk of its territory, with Armenians left in control of most of Karabakh, alongside extra territory around Karabakh’s perimeter.
  • The 44-day war in 2020:
    • In 2020, after decades of skirmishes, Azerbaijan began a military operation that became the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, swiftly breaking through Armenian defences.
    • Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, won a resounding victory in the 44-day war, taking back parts of Karabakh.
  • The region is of key strategic importance as well, surrounded by Turkey, Iran, and Russia, and the hydrocarbon deposits of the Caspian Sea.
International Relations

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

What is Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)?
The Supreme Court recently agreed to consider a petition for quashing prohibitory orders issued under Section 144 of the CrPC, particularly those linked to the election.
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About Section 144 of CrPC:

  • It authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. 
  • According to the law, every member of such an 'unlawful assembly' can be booked for engaging in rioting. 
  • Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.
  • It generally prohibits public gatherings. It has been used in the past to impose restrictions as a means to prevent protests that can lead to unrest or riots. 
  • The executive magistrate of the given jurisdiction has been conferred the power to issue orders under Section 144 when there is an impending emergency situation.
  • Section 144 also restricts carrying any sort of weapon in the area where it has been imposed and people can be detained for violating it.
    • The maximum punishment for such an act is three years.
  • According to the order under this section, there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed, and there will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order.
  • Moreover, obstructing law enforcement agencies from dispersing an unlawful assembly is a punishable offence. It also empowers the authorities to block internet access.
  • It prohibits the conduct of some events that are otherwise allowed during regular times.
  • Duration of Section 144 Order:
    • No order under Section 144 shall remain in force for more than two months, but the state government can extend the validity for two months and a maximum up to six months.
    • It can be withdrawn at any point of time if the situation becomes normal.
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

What is Vasuki indicus?
Researchers recently reported the discovery of fossils of one of the largest snakes that ever existed, which has been named Vasuki Indicus.
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About Vasuki indicus:

  • The fossils of Vasuki indicus were found in Kutch, Gujarat. Vasuki refers to the mythical snake often depicted around the neck of the Hindu god Shiva.
  • It lived in the Middle Eocene period (roughly 47 million years ago) in India
    • The organism lived at a time when temperatures were relatively warm, at roughly 28 °C. 
  • It belonged to the now-extinct Madtsoiidae snake family but represents a unique lineage from India.
    • Madtsoiidae are Gondwanan terrestrial snakes that lived between the Upper Cretaceous (100.5 million to 66 million years ago) and the Late Pleistocene (0.126 million years ago to 0.012 million years ago).
    • These snakes spread from India through southern Eurasia and into north Africa after the Indian subcontinent collided with Eurasia about 50 million years ago.
  • Features:
    • It likely had a broad and cylindrical body, hinting at a robust and powerful build, and was as big as Titanoboa, a massive snake that once roamed the earth and is reportedly the longest ever known.
    • It was a slow-moving ambush predator that would subdue its prey through constriction, like anacondas and pythons. 

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

Ethylene oxide
The Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong recalled Everest Fish Curry Masala from India alleging the presence of a pesticide called ethylene oxide at levels exceeding permissible limit.
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About Ethylene oxide:

  • It is a flammable gas with a somewhat sweet odor. It dissolves easily in water. It appears as a clear colorless gas with an ethereal odor. It is a man-made chemical that is used primarily to make ethylene glycol.
  • Applications: A small amount (less than 1%) is used to control insects in some stored agricultural products and a very small amount is used in hospitals to sterilize medical equipment and supplies.
  • Health impacts: It mainly impacts human central nervous system depression and irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure to ethylene oxide in humans can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and damage to the brain and nervous system.

Current Affairs
April 20, 2024

Parkinson Plus Syndrome
Recently, a patient suffering from Parkinson’s plus syndrome has undergone a high cervical spinal cord stimulation.
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About Parkinson Plus Syndrome:

  • It is a neurodegenerative disorder that manifest in a similar fashion to Parkinson’s Disease. It attacks the brain cells and nerves and lead to movement disorders, just like Parkinson’s.
  • It is also called atypical parkinsonism, refers to a group of neurodegenerative movement disorders that resemble idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) with certain distinguishing clinical and pathophysiological features.
  • There are several conditions that are categorized as Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome, some of which include;
    • Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), and Corticobasal Ganglionic Degeneration (CBGD).
  • The cause of Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome is unknown, with a combination of genetic and environmental factors usually held responsible.
  • Symptoms:
    • Tremors in one hand
    • Balance and coordination problems
    • Difficulty walking or shuffling gait
    • Stiffness in the jaw or reduced facial expressions
  • Treatment: Medication can help some people move more easily and feel less stiff. 
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