Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 8th January 2024


1. ISRO successfully tested the Poem3 Orbital platform during the PSLV-C58 mission 

  • ISRO's PSLV-C58 has been launched on 1 January 2024 from the space 2. Central Government approved and started 'Prithvi Vigyan Scheme' port in Sriharikota carrying an Xray pollier satellite (Xposat) and 10 other satellites. 
  • Along with this, POEM3 achieved a significant achievement by successfully testing the 100 W category polymer electroly membrane membrane fuel -based power system (FCPS).
  • The primary purpose of the experiment was to evaluate the operation of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel in the challenging environment of space. Additionally, the purpose of the mission was to collect valuable data to inform the design of power systems for upcoming space efforts. 
  • ISRO also stated that it has used the 10 AH silicone-graphite-based high energy density Lee-ion cell as currently used as a low weight and low cost option of cells being used. 

2. Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell 

  • During short -term testing on POEM, FCPS generated 180 W power using hydrogen and oxygen gases stored in high pressure vessels. 
  • FCPS has unique capacity to produce power directly from hydrogen and oxygen gases in the hydrogen fuel cells employed. Unlike traditional generators dependent on combustion reactions, fuel cells operate on electrical chemical principles similar to the battery. 
  • The FCPS payload tested in the POEM-3 experiment holds significant implications for India's proposed space station, which is expected to be operational by 2035. 

3. Aditya L-1 satellite successfully established in final class 

  • Indian Space Research Organization- ISRO successfully set up Aditya L-1 satellite in the final class on 6 January 2024. ISRO told in a social media post that Aditya El-1 has been successfully entered in Hallo class near the L-1 point. 
  • Aditya L-1 is India's first solar campaign to study the Sun's corona, the severe heat of the Sun and its effect on Earth. Lagrangeon Point - L One is the place where an object can remain in balance due to the gravitational effect of the Sun and Earth. This point is about 1.5 million kilometers from the earth. 

4. 7 Odisha products received GI tag 

  • Seven products in Odisha, including Similaepal Kai Chutney to the red weavers, to the embroidered clothing shawl, have obtained a prestigious geographical signal (GI) tag in recognition of their uniqueness. In India, the Department of Industry and Internal Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, gives prizes to GI. 
  • Each of the authorized traders is assigned a unique GI number. If an unauthorized merchant tries to sell the product under that name, they can be prosecuted under the Geographical Signs (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 of the goods. 

Kapdaganda shawl 

  • This specific shawl worn by both men and women is embroidered with red, yellow and green thread. The tribal group (PVTG) in the Niyamgiri hills in Raigadha and Kalahandi districts of Odisha is a shawl woven and embroidered by Dongaria Kondh tribe women. 

Lanjia Saura Painting 

  • One of the oldest tribal art forms, painting is also known as Idil. The artifacts are famous for their beauty, aesthetics, ritualistic association and statue science. This art belongs to the Lanjia Saura community, which mainly lives in Raigada district. These paintings are in the form of external frescoes painted on the soil walls of the houses. White paintings remain on the red-maroon background. 

Koraput Kaala jeera Rice 

  • The variety of black rice, also known as the 'prince of rice', is famous for its aroma, taste, texture and nutritional value. Rice grains are similar to cumin, so it is also called Kaala jeera. Consumption of rice type helps in increasing the level of hemoglobin and improves metabolism in the body. 

Similipal Kai Chutney 

  • Red weavers are a traditional dish of tribals in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, a chutney made of ants. Pharmaceutical and nutritional value rich in protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium etc. are considered a good source of nutrients. Tribal ants prepared moss chutney by grinding the ants on a silbe or mill. 

Nayagarh Kantimundi Brinjal 

  • Nayagarh Kantimundi is known for brinjal trunks and thorny thorns on the entire plant. Green and round fruits have more seeds than other genotypes. 

Odisha Khajuri Guda 

  • Odisha's "Khajuri Guda" or jaggery is a natural sweetener extracted from dates and originated in Gajapati district. Traditionally, jaggery is prepared in a homosexual form called 'Patali jaggery'. 

Dhenkanal Magji 

  • Dhenkanal Magji is a type of dessert made from buffalo milk cheese. It also has unique nutritional values that distinguish it from other cheese-based sweets 

5. Project 'Veer Gatha 3' organized as part of Republic Day celebrations 

  • The third edition of Project 'Veer Gatha', a joint initiative of the Ministry of Defense and the IPS Rashmi Shukla became Maharashtra's first woman DGP .
  • Ministry of Education as part of the Republic Day celebrations, has received an overwhelming response at the All India level. 
  • According to the Defense Ministry, around 1.37 crore students from around 2.43 lakh schools have participated in this initiative. From these students, hundred winners are being selected at the national level. 
  • Each winner will be given Rs 10,000 and will get an opportunity to witness the Republic Day Parade as a special guest on the duty path this year.
  • The government started the project 'Veer Gatha' during the 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' in the 75th year of independence. Its objective is to spread the heroic stories of bravery award winners among the students so that the feeling of patriotism is strengthened. 

7.EAM S. Jaishankar Boosts India-Nepal Relations In Two-Day Visit 

  • In a diplomatic triumph, India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar concluded his two-day visit to Nepal, solidifying ties through various initiatives and agreements. 
  • The pivotal event of the visit was the 7th India-Nepal Joint Commission meeting, culminating in a landmark accord for India to import 10,000 MW of hydroelectricity from Nepal over the next decade. 
  • Moreover, India announced a financial package of Nepali Rs 1,000 crore (USD 75 million) for rebuilding infrastructure in areas affected by the 2015 earthquake. 

8.Kyrgyzstan Declares Snow Leopard As National Symbol 

  • Kyrgyzstan, a country nestled in the heart of Central Asia, has officially declared the snow leopard as its national symbol, signifying a profound commitment to conservation and ecological balance. 
  • President Zhaparov has directed the Cabinet of Ministers to actively recognize the snow leopard as a national symbol and take measures to protect its population and the ecosystems it inhabits. 
  • President Sadyr Zhaparov, through a signed decree, emphasized the snow leopard’s role not only as a symbol of natural wealth and cultural prosperity but also as a vital indicator of the stability and health of the mountain ecosystems that cover a substantial portion of the global territory. 

9.Bangladesh Election 2024: Sheikh Hasina Secures Fifth Term Amid Opposition Boycott 

  • In a momentous turn of events, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been re-elected for a fifth term, marking a significant milestone in the country’s political landscape. According to the Election Commission and reports from various TV stations, the Awami League secured 216 seats out of 299 in the parliamentary election. 
  • The ruling Awami League, under Hasina’s leadership, has triumphed once again, securing more than half of the parliamentary seats. This victory reaffirms Sheikh Hasina’s position as the world’s longest-serving female head of government. 

10.West Bengal Secures GI Tags For Unique Products, Boosting Local Economies

  • In a significant stride towards safeguarding its cultural and agricultural heritage, West Bengal has successfully obtained Geographical Indication (GI) tags for several products under the National GI Drive Mission. 
  • Recognition of Sunderbans Honey – ‘Mouban’: The coveted GI tag has been granted to Sunderbans honey, locally known as ‘Mouban,’ collected by the ‘Mouli’ community. 
  • Black Nunia Rice – ‘Prince of Rice’: Hailing from Jalpaiguri district, Black Nunia rice, known as the ‘Prince of Rice,’ has earned its GI tag. This indigenous rice variety adds to the agricultural richness of the state. 
  • Distinctive Sarees – Tangail, Gorod, and Kadiyal: West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Limited (WBFDCL) applied for the GI tag for Tangail, Gorod, and Kadiyal sarees, reflecting the rich textile heritage of the region. Mirzapur in Murshidabad district is renowned for producing exclusive Kadiyal sarees. 

11.GIM2024: Tamil Nadu’s $1 Trillion Economy Vision Unveiled 

  • The Tamil Nadu government, led by Chief Minister MK Stalin, revealed its ambitious vision for the state to achieve a $1 trillion economy by 2030 during the Global Investors Meet in Chennai on January 7. 
  • It strategically aims for $3.8-4.3 trillion in investments to attract FDI and boost local expansion. The goal is holistic growth, ensuring prosperity across all regions with a focus on climate consciousness and sustainability in all initiatives. 
  • Priorities include human capital growth, innovation through industry-academia partnerships, fostering an industry-friendly climate, advocating transparent governance, and developing sustainable infrastructure. 

12.RBI’s Financial Stability Report (FSR) – December 2023: Key Highlights 

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently released the 28th issue of the Financial Stability Report (FSR), offering a comprehensive evaluation of the Indian financial system’s resilience and potential risks. 
  • The report, based on the findings of the Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), sheds light on both global and domestic economic conditions. 
  • Scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) showcase strength with a Capital to Risk-Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of 16.8% and a Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio of 13.7% in September 2023. 
  • SCBs’ Gross Non-Performing Assets (GNPA) ratio hits a multi-year low at 3.2%, with Net Non-Performing Assets (NNPA) at 0.8% in September 2023. 

13.Vietnam Invests $2 Billion In Tamil Nadu EV Facility 

  • Vietnamese electric vehicle giant VinFast Auto Ltd made a significant announcement on Sunday, revealing plans to establish an integrated electric vehicle facility in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 
  • With an eye on breaking into the world’s third-largest automobile market, the automaker confirmed its commitment to invest a staggering $2 billion in the state. 
  • VinFast Auto earmarked an initial investment of $500 million for the first phase of the project, spanning a five-year period from the commencement date. The ambitious project is set to kick off construction this year, with the capacity to produce as many as 150,000 electric vehicles annually. 

14.Chennai Tops As Best City For Indian Women 

  • Chennai emerged as the top Indian city for women in 2023 in terms of inclusivity and conduciveness to working women, as per findings from diversity, equity, and inclusivity consultant Avtar Group’s Top Cities for Women in India (TCWI) 2023. 
  • Tamil Nadu cities topped both categories that the study covered – 49 cities in the million-plus population category and 64 cities in the less than a million-population category. 
  • National capital Delhi, notorious for crimes against women, made its debut in the top 10 by positioning itself on the 8th rank. Delhi held a CIS rank of 14 last year. 

15.International Purple Fest 2024 

  • The International Purple Fest – Goa 2024, India’s inaugural inclusive festival for persons with disabilities, kicked off today and is set to captivate audiences until January 13. 
  • The festival, organized by the Office of the State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities, Government of Goa, and supported by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, showcases unity and diversity in a spectacular display. 
  • The Opening Ceremony boasts engaging music, dance, and entertainment performances by Persons with Disabilities, symbolizing their remarkable talents. 
  • With an expected global turnout of over 8,000 delegates, the International Purple Fest promises to be a global celebration of diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. Stay tuned for updates on this extraordinary journey towards a more inclusive future. 

16.Cabinet Greenlights India-Guyana MoU For Hydrocarbon Sector Collaboration 

  • The Union Cabinet has granted approval for the signing of a MoU between the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India, and the Ministry of Natural Resources, Republic of Guyana. This MoU aims to foster collaboration in the hydrocarbon sector, covering various aspects of the value chain. 
  • Under the MoU, collaborative initiatives include: Crude Oil Sourcing, where India acquires oil from Guyana; Exploration and Production (E&P) Sector, with Indian companies actively participating; Oil Refining, involving joint efforts in refining Guyana’s crude oil. 
  • Capacity Building, with skill development initiatives in the hydrocarbon sector; Bilateral Trade, focusing on enhancing trade relations; Natural Gas Sector, collaborating in exploration and development; jointly developing policies for Guyana’s oil & gas sector; Clean Energy, involving collaboration in biofuels and renewables like solar energy. 

17.Ministry Of Youth Affairs & Sports Declares ‘Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar’ 2023 

  • The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has recently unveiled the recipients of the prestigious ‘Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar‘ for the year 2023. 
  • These awards are a testament to the commendable contributions made by corporate entities, Sports Control Boards, NGOs, and sports bodies at the State and National levels towards the promotion and development of sports in India. 
  • Recognizing the commendable efforts of Jain Deemed to be University in identifying and nurturing young talent, this award highlights the institution’s commitment to the growth and development of budding athletes. 
  • Odisha Mining Corporate Limited has been acknowledged for its outstanding contribution to sports through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), emphasizing the role of corporate entities in supporting and promoting sports at the grassroots level. 

18.ICC Rule Changes In Cricket: Stumping Replays Limited; Concussion Substitute And BCCI’s Decision 

  • In a significant alteration to cricket playing conditions, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has restricted the Decision Review System (DRS) for stumping incidents. 
  • Effective from December 12, 2023, teams can now only challenge caught-behind decisions with a separate DRS option, preventing misuse observed in the 2020 series against India. 
  • The amended rule mandates umpires to rely solely on side-on camera images for stumping reviews, eliminating the examination of potential snicks. This ensures a focused review for stumped incidents without allowing teams a free review for other modes of dismissal. 

19.Indian Army Chief Gen MM Naravane’s Book “Four Stars Of Destiny 

  • General Manoj Mukund Naravane, the former Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) of the Indian Army, has penned his autobiography titled “Four Stars of Destiny: An Autobiography.” 
  • Scheduled to be published in January 2024 by Penguin Veer, an imprint of Penguin Random House India, the book delves into the diverse experiences that have shaped Gen MM Naravane’s character, spanning from his childhood to his illustrious years in the armed services. 
  • Gen MM Naravane served as the 28th Chief of Army Staff, leading the Indian Army with distinction from December 2019 to April 2022. His tenure at the helm was marked by strategic decisions and a commitment to the nation’s defense.

20.Swedish Scientists Create ‘E-Soil’ That Accelerates Plant Growth

  • Scientists from laboratories of Linkoping University in Sweden have unveiled an electrically conductive “soil” engineered to foster exceptional growth in crops, particularly barley seedlings, marking a potential 50 per cent surge in growth within a mere 15-day period. 
  • This innovative soilless cultivation method, termed hydroponics, harnesses a sophisticated root system activated through a novel cultivation substrate. With hydroponics, the prospect of cultivating food in urban landscapes under meticulously controlled conditions becomes a tangible reality. 
  • Published in the esteemed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their groundbreaking research highlights the remarkable acceleration in barley seedling growth by up to 50 per cent within a fortnight when their roots were electrically stimulated. 

21.Sarbananda Sonowal chair first Inland Waterways Development Council Meeting in Kolkata 

  • Union Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has chaired the first Inland Waterways Development Council Meeting in Kolkata. 
  • During the meeting, Mr Sonowal unveiled groundbreaking initiatives, including Harit Nauka – Guidelines for Green Transition of Inland Vessels and the River Cruise Tourism Roadmap 2047. 
  • The Ministry has set a target to elevate the modal share of Inland Water Transportation from the current two percent to five percent, aligning with the goals outlined in the Maritime India Vision 2030. 
  • The establishment of the Inland Waterways Development Council in October last year underscores the government’s commitment to the comprehensive development of inland waterways and the associated Inland Water Transport ecosystem for improved cargo efficiency, passengers. 

Sarbananda Sonowal in News 

  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches Port Health Organization under Sagar Setu 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches 3rd edition of Global India Maritime Summit 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates DGNSS “SAGAR SAMPARK 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches ‘SAGAR SAMRIDDHI’ 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal flags off India’s 1st International Cruise Vessel from Chennai to Sri Lanka 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurated “PCIM&H e-Office Portal” and an online portal. 

22.Amit Shah chairs ‘National PACS Mega Conclave’ in New Delhi 

  • Union Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation, Amit Shah has chaired the ‘National PACS Mega Conclave’ on ‘Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra’ at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. 
  • The Mega Conclave is being organized by the Ministry of Cooperation in collaboration with the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC). 
  • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs) provide quality generic medicines to the general public, which cost 50-90 percent less than the branded medicines available in the open market. 
  • More than 2000 types of generic medicines and around 300 surgical items are made available through these Kendras to common citizens at affordable prices. 
  • This initiative will provide new opportunities to PACS for diversification and expansion of their economic activities, thus leading to an increase in the incomes of millions of small and marginal farmers associated with them. It will also help in creating new employment opportunities in rural areas. 

Amit Shah in News 

  • Amit Shah launched logo, website and brochure of National Cooperative for Exports Limited (NCEL) 
  • Amit Shah inaugurated India’s first nano DAP plant in Gandhinagar, Gujarat 
  • Amit Shah chairs review meeting on Left Wing Extremism in New Delhi
  • Amit Shah chaired Northern Zonal Council at Amritsar 
  • Amit Shah chaired Northern Zonal Council at Amritsar 
  • Amit Shah launches “Amrit Kalash Yatra” under ‘Meri Maati-Mera Desh’ campaign in New Delhi. 

23.Suchetha Satish sets new world record for singing in most languages during single concert in Dubai 

  • In a historic and awe-inspiring event, Suchetha Satish (from Kerala) has etched her name in the annals of music history by setting a new world record for singing in the most languages during a single concert in the UAE. 
  • The Guinness Book of World Records officially attested to this feat earlier this week. 
  • Suchetha’s groundbreaking performance was part of a Concert for Climate, a unique initiative aimed at raising awareness about the critical issue of climate change. 
  • The talented artist delivered an astounding rendition of songs in an unprecedented 140 languages, captivating the audience with her musical prowess and a powerful message. 

24.Vikas Sheel appointed as ED of Asian Development Bank 

  • India has appointed seven accomplished civil servants to crucial positions abroad, showcasing the country’s global engagement.
  • Senior bureaucrat Vikas Sheel has been appointed as Executive Director of Asian Development Bank (ADB). 
  • Sheel, a 1994-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Chhattisgarh cadre, is currently Additional Secretary and Mission Director, Jal Jeevan Mission under the Ministry of Jal Shakti. 
  • He has been appointed as ED, Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a period of three years from the date of assumption of the charge. 
  • While, Smita Sarangi has been appointed to the post of Adviser to the Executive Director, ADB, Manila, Philippines for a period of three years from the date of assumption of charge. 
  • Senior bureaucrat Kalyan Revella will be Counsellor (Economic) in the Embassy of India, Beijing for 3 years. 
  • Senthil Pandian C, a 2002-batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, has been appointed to the post of Ambassador/Permanent Representative (PR), Permanent Mission of India (PMI) to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva. 
  • M Balaji has been appointed to the post of Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Brussels. He is a 2005-batch IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre. 
  • Parveen Kumar, a 2004 batch Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) officer will be Adviser to the Executive Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Washington DC, USA. 
  • He was appointed, in place of Simanchala Dash, for a period of three years. 
  • Tanu Singh, an Indian Trade Service (2012 batch) officer, has been named as First Secretary, Permanent Mission of India (PMI), World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva for a period of three years. 

Recent Appointment in Foreign 

  • India’s Permanent Representative to UN – Arindam Bagchi 
  • President of European Investment Bank – Nadia Calviño (replace Werner Hoyer) 
  • Defense Minister of China – Dong Jun (replace Li Shangfu) 
  • Deputy Executive Director (Management) of UNFPA – Andrew Paul Saberton, UK (replace Ib Petersen, Denmark) 

About Asian Development Bank (ADB) 

  • Founded – 19 December 1966 
  • Headquarters – Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines 
  • President – Masatsugu Asakawa 
  • Vice President – Ashok Lavasa 
  • Director of ADB for India – Takeo Konishi 
  • Executive Director – Vikas Sheel 
  • Adviser to the Executive Director – Smita Sarangi 
  • Member Countries – 68 (Niue) 

25.Rajiv Shah named as ‘Class C’ director on Board of Directors of Federal Reserve Bank of New York 

  • In the US, Dr. Rajiv Shah, current president of ‘the Rockefeller Foundation’ and former head of USAID, has been named as a ‘Class C’ director on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 
  • He has been appointed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for a three-year term ending the 31st of December, 2026. 
  • Shah has been leading the prominent philanthropic organization ‘the Rockefeller Foundation’ since 2017. 

Recent Appointment 

  • CEO of Indian Olympic Association – Raghuram Iyer 
  • MD & CEO of National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited (NIFFL) – Sanjiv Aggarwal (replace Rajiv Dhar) 
  • President of All India Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA) – Shashi Singh (Ramesh Kejriwal) 
  • Senior VP of AIRIA – Zafar Ahmed 
  • Vice president of AIRIA -Indra Parekh 
  • Spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs – Randhir Jaiswal (replace Arindam Bagchi) 

26.Indra Mani Pandey assumes charge of BIMSTEC Secretary General 

  • Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, a senior diplomat of India, assumed the position of Secretary General (SG) of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in Dhaka. 
  • Pandey, who succeeded Tenzin Lekphell of Bhutan, is the 4th SG of BIMSTEC and will remain in office for a period of three years. 
  • The new SG reiterated his commitment to work earnestly and with a new vigour to translate into reality the grand vision of BIMSTEC member states. 
  • A career diplomat, Ambassador Pandey joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1990. 
  • Prior to taking over as SG, he served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. 

27.Ashwani Gupta appointed as CEO of Adani Ports 

  • Ashwani Gupta has been appointed as CEO of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone. 
  • He was the former global Chief Operating Officer at Nissan Motors. 
  • This appointment is part of Adani Port’s internal restructuring that also elevated Karan Adani to the role of Managing Director and Gautam Adani has been re-designated as ‘Executive Chairman’ of APSEZ. 
  • Gupta, an automotive market veteran was appointed Nissan COO in December 2019 and has a notable track record in fostering key partnerships worldwide, and brings nearly three decades of experience across the automotive, retail and manufacturing sectors. He has played key role in the Renault Nissan Alliance as well.  

28. Google DeepMind Introduces Mobile ALOHA Humanoid Technology

  • Researchers at Google DeepMind and Stanford University has introduced Mobile ALOHA, a low-cost open-source hardware system for bimanual teleoperation. 
  • It is a humanoid robot that can be remote operated by a user and perform autonomously by imitation learning. 
  • ALOHA can autonomously cook and serve shrimps, call and take the elevator, and store a 3lbs pot in a cabinet – tasks it learned through imitation of 50 demos. 
  • Further, through user-controlled teleoperations, it can do laundry, self-charge, use a vacuum cleaner, water plants, load and unload a dishwasher, use a coffee machine and much more. 
  • ALOHA is a lightweight robot walking at a human speed of 1.42 metre a second and can carry up to 100-kilogramme weight. 
  • Both the hardware and machine-learning algorithm of ALOHA are open-sourced. 
  • The whole system costs less than $20,000 with off-the-shelf robots and 3D-printed components, according to Trossen Robotics website where buyers can place an order for ALOHA. 
  • Other humanoid robots Optimus by Tesla Optimus, the robotics arm of Elon Musk’s auto behemoth Tesla, released its first version of humanoid robot Bumblebee in September 2022, followed by Optimus Gen-1 and Optimus Gen-2 last year. 
  • Sophia by Hanson Robotics Sophia by far is the oldest and most loved humanoid robot which shot to fame in 2017 when Saudi Arabia granted her citizenship, making her the world’s first robot to become a legal person in any country. 

29.8 January – Earth’s Rotation Day 

  • Earth’s Rotation Day is celebrated every year on January 8. 
  • It’s a day dedicated to recognizing the pivotal discovery of Earth’s rotation on its axis. 
  • In 470 BC, the Greeks claimed that the earth rotated on its own back. In 1851, French Physicist Leon Foucault showed the world’s rotation with the assistance of a pendulum. 
  • This was additionally used to exhibit the experimentation and was subsequently shown at the Pantheon in Greece and the Paris Observatory. 
  • Earth’s Rotation Day is celebrated to mark the experiment by Leon Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of earth, and this is given importance over other different experiments that were conducted to prove the earth’s rotation around its axis. 

Significant Facts

  • The Earth’s diameter is 12,714 kilometres (7,900 miles) from the North toward the South Poles and 12,756 kilometres (12,756 miles) via the equator (7,926 miles). 
  • There has been a cyclical connection between the continents of Earth for millions of years. 
  • 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water. Just 3% of that is freshwater, with 97% being saltwater. 

30.8 January – South African Native National Congress (SANNC) Day 

  • African National Congress (ANC) was formed on 8 January 1912. Its primary goal was to unite African people and defend their rights and freedoms. 
  • South Africa’s governing party is the African National Congress and has been in power since the transition to democracy in April 1994. 
  • Initially, the organization was founded as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) on 8 January 1912 in Bloemfontein. 
  • It aimed to fight for the rights of black South Africans, to bring all Africans together as one people, and to defend their rights and freedoms. 

31.In a first, IAF C-130 with Garud commandos makes night landing at Kargil 

  • First, a C-130j Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force made a night landing at the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Kargil close to the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan along with a team of Garud special forces. 
  • "In a first, an IAF C-130J aircraft recently carried out a night landing at the Kargil airstrip. Employing terrain masking en route, the exercise also detailed a training mission of the Guards," the IAF said in a social media post. 
  • Earlier, transport aircraft landed here during the daytime, one official said. Explaining the signifi- cance, the official said the ALG was located at an altitude of around 10,000 feet and was a restricted air- strip with a unidirectional approach surrounded by rough terrain. It does not have night-landing facilities. This demonstrates the capability to carry out specialized missions round the clock in this area, the official said. 
  • The Kargil ALG is also significant because this is the only airstrip in this area critical for any exigency. In Jammu and Kashmir, the IAF has full-fledged airfields at Srinagar, Awantipora, Udhampur and Jammu. In Ladakh, the IAF has airfields at Leh and Thoise and ALGs at Nyoma, Fukche and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO). 
  • In the past decade, the Defence Ministry has reactivated a series of ALGS close to the border, especially along the Line of Actual Control with China 

32.How voice cloning through artificial intelligence is being used for scams 

  • A few years ago, voice cloning through Artificial Intelligence (AD was just a phenomenon of mild amusement. Al-generated songs by famous artists like Drake and Ariana Grande were floating around online. However, fears around the Al software were realized when Al voice cloning-related scams burgeoned. In April last year, a family living in Arizona, US., was threatened to pay ransom for a fake kidnapping pulled off by an Al cloned voice. And scams weren't the end of it. Easy access to Al voice clones also spawned disinformation. Earlier in January, 4chan users started flocking to free Al voice cloning tools to generate celebrity hate speech, wherein Harry Potter actress Emma Watson read out a portion of the Mein Kampf and conservative political pundit Ben Shapiro made racist comments against Democrat politician Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. 

Why is India a major target for Al voice clone scams? 

  • Similar incidents have made their way in India. A report titled "The Artificial Imposter published in May last year revealed that 47% of surveyed Indians have either been a victim or knew someone who had fallen prey to an Al generated voice scam. The numbers are almost twice the global average of 25%. In fact, India topped the list with the maximum number of victims to Al voice scams. Even as several cases went unreported, some came to light. 
  • In December, a Lucknow resident fell prey to a cyberattack that used Al to impersonate the voice of the victim's relative, requesting the person to transfer a substantial amount through UPI Another report in August stated that a man from Haryana was duped of 230,000 after a call was made from a scamster who used an Al app to sound like the victim's friend in dire need of money due to an accident. 
  • Indians have been found to be particularly vulnerable to scams of this nature. According to McAfee, 66% of Indian participants admitted that they would respond to a voice call or a phone call that appeared to be from a friend or family member in urgent need of money, especially if the caller was supposedly a parent (46%), spouse (34%) or their child (12%). The report stated that messages that claimed the sender had been robbed (70%), involved in a car accident (69%), lost their phone or wallet (65%) or needed financial aid while traveling abroad (62%) were the most effective excuses. 
  • While these tools aren't perfect, scammers have relied on creating a sense of exigency to glide over these flaws. The report also shared that 86% Indians were prone to sharing their voice data online or via voice notes at least once a week which has made these tools potent. 

How are voice clones done? 

  • Once a scammer finds an audio clip of an individual, all it takes is to upload their voice clip to the online program that is able to replicate the voice accurately barring some intonations. There's a host of these applications online with popular ones like Murf, Resemble and Speechify While most of these providers have a monthly subscription fee from under $15 for basic plans to $100 for premium options, they have a free trial period. 
  • An especially lauded one has been a year-old Al startup called ElevenLabs that was founded by former Google and Palantir employees. The Andreesen Horowitz-backed firm has been releasing a steady stream of tools. In October last year, it released a product called Al Dubbing which can translate even long-form speech into 20 different languages. 
  • In mid-December, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's political party used an Al-generated speech from the now imprisoned leader in an attempt to rally for votes virtually. Mr. Khan had reportedly sent his party a shorthand script from jail which was later edited and then dubbed by Eleven Labs. Prominent tech companies also have a hand in the Al voice game now. Recently, Meta launched SeamlessM4T, an open-source multilingual foundational model that can understand nearly 100 languages from speech or text and generate translations in real-time. Apple introduced a voice cloning feature in iOS 17 intended to help people who may be in danger of losing their voice to a degenerative disease.
  • ChatGPT, the poster boy for Al chatbots, also has a voice transcription feature that can be used for cloning. But OpenAl has been careful to partner with specific parties to prevent the illegal use of these capabilities.
  • YouTube took a similar soute and announced Dream Track which partners with just 100 creators in the US the would allow them to create song clips featuring Al vocals with permission from pop stars like Demi Lovato, Sta and John Legend 

What can be done? 

  • The speed and easy access of these sociis have sent alarm bells ringing in November last year, the US. The Federal Trade Commission or FTC launched a Voice Cloning Challenge which asked the public to send in their ideas to detect, evaluate and monitor cloned devices. Just yesterday, the contest posted a prize of $25,000 for the winner. The FTC is also considering the adoption of a recently-proposed Impersonation Rule that will help deser deceptive voice cloning 
  • But the pace at which generative Al releases are moving has regulators gasp for air. On January 2, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MITY and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and members of Al startup Bey Shell released Open Voice, an open-source spice cloning tool that is almost instant and offers granular controls to modify one's voice that isn't found on other sach platforms. 
  • And the segment is only expected to grow exponentially. A report by Market US has revealed that the global market for these applications stood at $1.2 billion in 2002 and is estimated to touch almost $5 billion in 2032 with a CAGR above 15-40%. 

33.Rajnath Singh leaves for a 3-day visit to U.K 

  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is set to embark upon a three-day visit to the UK. from Monday, seen as significant to the bi- lateral partnership in the sphere of defense and security as the last ministerial level visit took place 22 years ago. 
  • Besides wide-ranging talks with his U.K. counterpart, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Mr. Singh is expected to inspect a ceremonial Guard of Honour and undertake visits to Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar memorials in London. A community-interaction with members of the Indian diaspora in the U.K. is also expected to be part of the Defence Minister's three-day itinerary. 
  • As both India and the U.K. prepare for a general election this year, all aspects of the relationship are in sharp focus, includ- ing sped-up negotiations towards a free trade agreement (FTA) expected to significantly enhance the GBP 36-billion partnership. 

34. A new high ISRO should help everyone enjoy the fruits of its new science missions 

  • On January 6 evening, a stream of commands transmitted by scientists and en- gineers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) were translated by a computer onboard the Aditya-L1 spacecraft into maneuvers that guided it into orbit around an imaginary point in space. Thus, Aditya-Ll reached its destination, around the Li Lagrange point, from where it will have an unfettered view of the sun for its expected lifetime of five years. Aditya-LI is an observatory-class solar mission that will study the sun with seven instruments: VELC, a coronagraph to study the uppermost layer of the sun's atmosphere; SUIT, an ultraviolet imaging telescope; SoLEXS and HELIOS, to study solar flares and coronal mass ejections
  • ASPEX and PAPA, to study the solar wind and plasma; and a set of dig- ital magnetometers to measure properties of the magnetic field around the spacecraft. ISRO picked the Li Lagrange point 1.5 million km from the earth in the earth-sun direction and one of five Lagrange points in the earth-sun system because the gravitational influences of the two bodies interact such that a smaller body here will not experience a net tug towards either. 
  • So, Aditya-LI can stay at Ll while expending little fuel. Its scientific mission will begin in a month or so, once its thrusters' emissions drift away. As such, Aditya-Li supplements India's storied history of observing the sun-dating back to the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory, which commenced operations in 1901 by lifting it into space. It also follows the XPoSat mission, launched on January 1 to become only the world's second X-ray polarimetry satellite, and eight years after AstroSat, which reached several highs of its own. 
  • An important issue with such achievements is public perception. For example, while Aditya-Li and AstroSat are big strides from India's point of view, they pale in comparison to the imaging abilities of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is operated by three space agencies. Yet, many continue to expect the Indian spacecraft to capture photographs of the cosmos and are disillusioned when it does not. This is not fair (setting aside the fact that not all instruments are imagers). ISRO can do more, too, by expanding its own and its collaborating institutes' public outreach efforts, such as by hosting open days focused on specific missions and commissioning science communication on new results at regular intervals. 
  • Everyone should be able to celebrate a new high, but especially the people at large, so ISRO should also consider including components on missions that feed public interest. All these efforts will require funds, but considering the love ISRO has been getting from the government of late, it may just be a matter of asking. 

35. 29,000-plus firms busted since May for fake invoices’ 

  • Over 29,000 bogus firms, involved in evading Goods and Services Tax (GST) dues of more than 44,000 crore, have been busted over the past seven months, leading to 121 arrests, the Finance Ministry said on Sunday. 
  • This is a result of a special drive against fake invoices supplied by non-existent firms, being carried out by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs with State governments. Fake invoices are used by firms to avail input tax credit (ITC) without any underlying supply of goods and services taking place. 
  • "Since the initiation of the special drive against fake registrations in mid-May 2023, a total of 29,273 bogus firms involved in suspected Input Tax Credit (ITC) evasion of ₹44,015 crore have been detected. This has saved 14,646 crore of which 3,802 crore is by blocking of ITC and 1844 crore is by way of recovery," the Ministry said 

36.With flexible courses, IITs open doors for students studying in far-flung areas of India 

  • Studying in an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is usually considered inspirational for students from colleges in Tier-2 or 3 towns. Five IITs Ropar, Guwahati, Mandi, Patna and Kanpur are now set to change this notion. 
  • For the academic year 2024-25, students studying in such colleges can also get an IIT tag by opting for a minor specialization, a diploma or a Bachelor's or a Master's degree, which will be offered in partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and these IITs, NSDC Chief Executive Officer Ved Mani Tiwari told 
  • The Hindu. "IITs have opened their doors to those who want to e pursue a short-term skill- Acing programme through Pradhan Mantri Kaushal 
  • Vikas schemes or an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) student who would like to pursue a certificate or diploma programme from the IITs. All the skilling programmes will be facilitated via Skill India Digital platform," Mr. Tiwari said. The courses will work on a credit-based system, where a minor specialization from the IIT will entail taking 10 to 18 credits. "While the core degree will be awarded by the Institute. 
  • In a four-year undergraduate degree program, 160 credits would be required to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from an IIT. "Out of total 160 credits, it is proposed to deliver skill component of 18 credits through Skill India Digital (SID) via a strategic delivery partner," Mr. Tiwari added. 
  • Also, for garnering an executive M.Tech., the student will have to complete 62 credits, out of which 12 credits of skill component are proposed to be delivered on the SID portal of NSDC through its strategic delivery partner. 
  • For instance, in the tripartite partnership between IIT-Patna, NSDC and Teamlease, they have coling university to which the college is affiliated, there will be a mention of minor specialization from IIT," he said. 
  • laborated for a three-year degree programme Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA). It is a 155-credit programme of which 146 academic credits shall be provided by the IIT-Patna, and nine credits (three per year) shall be covered through the skill-based programmes offered in collaboration between NSDC and Teamlease. 
  • As per provisions of the National Education Policy (NEP), all programmes have been designed with provision of multiple entry and exit options." 
  • "Any student enrolled under four-year online UG programme will have the option to exit with a foundational certificate after first year, diploma in the second year, Bachelor's degree in third year and Honors degree in fourth year," Mr. Tiwari said. 
  • For the two-year executive M.Tech., he said that students who enroll in a 12. month PG diploma programme can further extend the course to obtain the Master's degree from the IIT after completion of the diploma 
  • In addition, candidates will have an option to take up the 12-month PG diploma and opt out without going for the M.Tech. course. The students choosing to opt out after the first semester of PG Diploma will have an option to exit with a PG certification. 

37.Maldives suspends three Deputy Ministers for remarks against Modi 

  • The Indian High Commission in the Maldives on Sunday "strongly raised" the Issue of disrespectful remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi made by a few members of the government of President Mohamed Muizzu. 
  • The Maldivian government suspended three Deputy Ministers who are at the center of the controversy which erupted just a day before Mr. Muizzu is scheduled to depart for his first trip to China. 
  • "Our High Commission in the Maldives had strongly raised and expressed concerns about the comments made in regard to the PM by certain Ministers in the Maldives Government with the Foreign Office today," said a source. 
  • The issue started after three Deputy Ministers in the Ministry of Youth Affairs Maryam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef and Mahzoom Majid made disparaging remarks about India and Mr. Modi after the Prime Minister's recent visit to Lakshadweep. 
  • In a post on socialIn damage-control mode, the Muizzu government distanced itself from the remarks, with the Maldivian Foreign Ministry saying that "it believes in freedom of expression but that has to be exercised in a responsible manner". "These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives. Moreover, the relevant authorities of the Government will not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks," the Foreign Ministry said. The three Deputy Ministers were suspended later.

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