Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC -9th March 2024


1. PM Inaugurates Spiritual Experience Project In Chitrakoot 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated projects worth Rs 118 crore 72 lakh in Madhya Pradesh through video conferencing. These projects are under the Swadesh Darshan 2.0 scheme and the Prasad scheme. 
  • The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the “Experience of Spirituality at Chitrakoot Ghat” project in Chitrakoot. 
  • He also performed the Bhoomi Pujan for the upgradation and development of Ganga Ghats at a cost of around Rs 26 crore 55 lakh. 

2. Today the Coast Guard forces of USA and India will start the joint exercise "Sea Defenders2024" in Port Blair. 

  • “Sea Defenders-2024” joint exercise between the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) will be conducted off the Port Blair coast of Andaman and Nicobar on 09-10 March 2024. 
  • Taking an important step in strengthening bilateral cooperation, USCG Ship Bertholf arrived Port Blair on 07 March 2024. 
  • The exercise will simulate scenarios related to piracy and asymmetric threats, including simulated drone attacks on commercial merchant traffic, joint maritime search and rescue operations, major firefighting, marine pollution response and drug interdiction exercises. Additionally, a simulated medical evacuation will be conducted to increase readiness in emergency situations. 
  • The Legend-class United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Bertholf is equipped with advanced technology and weaponry, including a helicopter landing pad, state-of-the-art sensors and communications equipment. 
  • First all-women maritime surveillance mission in Andaman and Nicobar Command The first all-female maritime surveillance mission was launched by Andaman and Nicobar Command on 08 March 2024, the 40th anniversary of INAS 318 and International Women's Day. The crew, based at INS Utkrosh, included Lieutenant Commander Shubhangi Swarup, Lieutenant Commander Divya Sharma and Lieutenant Vaishali Mishra. 
  • The occasion highlighted the important role played by women combatants in all segments of the Naval Air Arm, including pre-flight briefings, meteorological briefings, medical check-ups and Air Traffic Control (ATC) briefings, all conducted by women. 
  • INAS 318 is the elite Naval Air Squadron at Andaman and Nicobar Command, engaged in continuous surveillance role since its commissioning on 08 March 1984. 

3.Launch Of Digital Exhibition “Subhash Abhinandan” On 134th Foundation Day Of National Archives Of India 

  • On the occasion of the 134th Foundation Day of the National Archives of India, Union Minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal, will inaugurate a digital exhibition titled “Subhash Abhinandan” in New Delhi on March 11th. 
  • Organized by the National Archives of India, the exhibition commemorates the life of Subhash Chandra Bose, featuring 16 sections covering key aspects from his birth to the present day. It spans 16 sections, encompassing significant milestones from Bose’s birth to his enduring legacy. 

4.Hong Kong Introduces Stricter National Security Law, Tougher Jail Terms 

  • Hong Kong has introduced a new national security law draft. The proposed legislation, covering treason, espionage, and external interference, signifies a significant increase in state authority in the region. 
  • This development arises amidst a wider crackdown on dissent, resulting in pro-democracy figures being imprisoned or exiled. 
  • The draft introduces stricter penalties for various offenses. Legal analysts highlight broad definitions, particularly regarding sedition and state secrets. 

5.Bichom Becomes Arunachal Pradesh’s 27th District 

  • Bichom, carved out of West and East Kameng, has been declared the 27th district of Arunachal Pradesh. Chief Minister Pema Khandu led the inauguration ceremony, marking a significant milestone for the region. 
  • In February, the state assembly passed the Arunachal Pradesh (Re-Organisation of Districts) (Amendment) Bill, 2024, facilitating the creation of Bichom and Keyi Panyor districts. 
  • Bichom district encompasses 27 villages from West Kameng and 28 from East Kameng, contributing to its formation. 

6. Prime Minister presented the first National Entrepreneur Award in New Delhi 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented the National Initiator Award at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on 8 March 2024. The purpose of this award, started for the first time, is to honor the creative talents of the country. 
  • The award will be given in 20 categories including Best Storyteller, Disruptor, Celebrity Creator, Green Champion, Best Creator for Social Change, Most Influential Agriculture Creator, Cultural Ambassador, Best Travel Creator, Cleanliness Ambassador, New India Champion, Technical Creator Heritage Fashion , Most Creative Creator (Male and Female), Best Creator in Food Category, Best Creator in Education and International Creator Awards. 
  • He called upon content creators to launch the 'Create on India Movement' to share India's stories, culture, heritage and traditions with the entire world. 
  • Addressing the gathering on the occasion, the Prime Minister said that the country has witnessed a data revolution in the last ten years. He said that Digital India Mission has created a new field of content creators. 
  • Shri Modi urged them to engage the global audience to create content that brings maximum likes not only for the creator but also for the country. He said, content creators are the digital ambassadors of India across the world and they are also the brand ambassadors of Vocal for Local. 
  • The Prime Minister suggested creating more awareness about the serious issues of mental health and stress among children and focusing on content creation in local languages. He also recommended creating content that highlights the negative effects of drugs on youth. 

7. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Ministry of Rural Development launched the portal including ‘Krishi Sakhi Adaptation Programme’ 

  • Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda and Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh inaugurated the 'Krishi Sakhi Adaptation Programme' in New Delhi. It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and the Ministry of Rural Development. 
  • Shri Giriraj Singh said that Krishi Sakhi training program has been started to certify Krishi Sakhis as para-extension workers. He said that Modi government is giving importance to soil health. 
  • Krishi Sakhis play an important role in implementing National Mission on Natural Farming (NMNF), BioResource Centre, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and many other schemes. 
  • Krishi Sakhis are not just agricultural guides; They are farmers, farmers' friends, community resources and awareness creators, connecting research institutions with the grassroots level for technology dissemination. 
  • Apart from this, both the ministries jointly inaugurated four major initiatives of the agriculture sector i.e. Revised Soil Health Card Portal and Mobile Application, School Soil Health Programme, Krishi Sakhi Convergence Program and Central. 

School Soil Health Program 

  • The Department in collaboration with the Department of School Education and Literacy has launched a pilot project on School Soil Health Programme. Under the project, 20 soil laboratories were established in 20 Central and Navodaya Vidyalaya schools in rural areas. Study modules were developed and training was given to students and teachers. 
  • Now, this program has been extended to 1000 schools. Kendriya Vidyalaya, Navodaya Vidyalaya and Eklavya Model Schools have been taken under this programme. DA&FW through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) will set up soil laboratories in these schools. 
  • CFQCTI Portal One Time Password (OTP)/SMS application facility for sample collection and testing at ports has been introduced in the Fertilizer Quality Control System (FQCS) portal. 
  • In the new portal, an OTP will be generated by the system and sent to the mobile number of the authorized persons of the importer, wherein the person can verify that the details have been filled by the Fertilizer Inspector in the prescribed Form-J as FCO. 
  • The sample will be automatically allotted by the system to the respective laboratories on random basis and the analysis report will be issued through the system on the email-id of the authorized person of the importer or directly to the importer, as the case may be. In the second phase, the portal may be updated for sampling of indigenously manufactured fertilizers including live sampling at ports/dealer sales points etc. 

8.CISF Raising Day 2024 

  • CISF Raising Day is celebrated every year on March 10. This day marks the establishment of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in 1969. CISF is under the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
  • CISF was established on March 10, 1969, by an Act of Parliament. Initially, it had a few battalions. Over the years, CISF has grown bigger and stronger. It has now become a multi-skilled security force with specialized training. 

9.No Smoking Day 2024 

  • Every year, No Smoking Day is celebrated across the world to spread awareness about the harmful effects of smoking. 
  • It encourages people to quit smoking and promotes the importance of a smoke-free environment. No Smoking Day is observed annually on March 13. 
  • Each year, the No Smoking Day campaign is promoted with an innovative theme. The theme for No Smoking Day 2024 is ‘Protecting children from tobacco industry interference.’ 

10. Indian diplomat met Afghan authorities' in Kabul, says govt. Kallol Bhattacherjee 

  • A senior Indian diplomat has met with "Afghan authorities" in Kabul, the External Affairs Ministry confirmed on Friday. 
  • The development came months after the Embassy of Afghanistan here, which was earlier run by officials with affiliation to the pre-Taliban government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanai) istan, was shut down and the consular responsibilities were taken over by Afghan officials who are considered to be pro-Taliban. 
  • "An Indian delegation led by the Joint Secretary (PAI), a Ministry of External Affairs, is on a visit to Afghanistan... During the visit, the delegation held meetings with senior members of the Afghan authorities. The delegation held discussions on India's humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and also discussed the use of Chabahar port by Afghan traders," said Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal. J.P. Singh, the official in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran PAI-related issues, met Taliban's Foreign Affairs in-charge Amir Khan Muttaqi on Thursday. 
  • Mr. Singh had visited Kabul in 2022 as India had begun making the first moves to reconnect with Afghanistan, after the violent overthrow of the Ashraf Ghani government in 2021. That visit was followed by renewed delivery of humanitarian assistance to the country. 
  • On Thursday, Taliban's Foreign Ministry spokes- person Abdul Qahar Balkhi was the first to announce that Mr. Singh had met with the "Foreign Minister". 
  • "Mr. Muttaqi expressed gratitude for the recent Indian humanitarian and medical assistance to Afghanistan, stressing the resumption of projects by India, their diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and the provision of consular services to Afghans particularly Afghan students and patients," Mr. Balkhi said in a social media post. 

11. Heart of the matter Development of Kashmir must happen alongside restoration of political rights 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi painted a rosy picture of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) during his first visit to the Union Territory that was formed by the bifurcation of the erstwhile State, and also stripped of its special constitutional status, in 2019. Mr. Modi's speech, on March 7, at a rally in Srinagar and his interaction with local entrepreneurs who have benefited from central schemes, were efforts to win hearts. While Mr. Modi positioned the impressive attendance at his rally as an endorsement of the government's integrationist approach in the last five years, the Opposition parties have said that at least a part of the attendees were brought there by the administration. The Prime Minister was also addressing the electorate outside of J&K just ahead of the Lok Sabha election. He steered clear of any political outreach and, instead, catalogued the achievements of his government in creating more opportunities for the people. Kashmiris were "breathing free now", the Prime Minister said. Mr. Modi also trained his guns on the Congress and the two regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for "ruining" J&K for seven decades through "self-centric dynastic politics''. 
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always seen Kashmir as an example of the Indian state's indecisiveness that it pledged to reverse. The Prime Minister's speech underlined this perspective of Kashmir as a developmental and management challenge rather than a question of political and cultural federalism. Mr. Modi also urged rich Indians to plan their weddings in Kashmir, asked countrymen overseas to motivate non-Indians to visit the Valley and requested domestic tourists to buy local products to boost employment opportunities in Kashmir. Development of the region may help locals, who have been wounded by decades of conflict, but the restoration of politi- cal and democratic rights that have been cur- tailed since 2019, is also essential. Leaders of the NC and PDP have expressed disappointment with Mr. Modi's visit, by saying that showcasing the hollowing out of Article 370 as an achievement was akin to rubbing salt into the wounds. Though the Centre may not accept their legitimacy, these parties remain the closest approximation of public opinion in Kashmir. Restoring Statehood and conducting Assembly elections could only be the beginning of the political process in Kashmir, which continues to face multiple challenges that range from militancy to revolving-door detentions of youth. The BJP will be using its Kashmir policy in its campaigning in the run-up to the election to sway public opinion in its strong-holds, but it should also pay attention to public opinion in the Valley. 

12. Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay to visit India next week 

  • Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will arrive in Delhi next week, on his first visit abroad since he took over office in January this year, sources con Armed to The Hindu. 
  • The visit, which is expected to be amongst the Modi government's last few high-level diplomatic engagements before the election process begins, will focus on bilateral agreements, development and connectivity projects, including plans for a major economic hub in Gelephu. According to the sources, Mr. Tobgay, who was Prime Minister earlier from 2013 to 2018, will arrive in Delhi for an official visit from March 13 to 17. Mr. Tobgay had lost during a primary vote in 2018 but won with a massive majority in general elections held on January 9. His party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), won 30 of 47 seats in the legislature. He will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for delegation-level talks focused on India's promise of enhanced support for Bhutan's 13th Five-Year Plan, as well as specific border infrastructure and connectivity projects that Mr. Modi and Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck had announced it after their meetings in Delhi last year. 
  • Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra visited Thimphu in January, soon after Mr. Tobgay took charge, and Bhutanese Foreign Secretary Aum Pema Choden visited Delhi earlier this month to discuss progress on more than 80 joint initiatives and 500 high impact community development projects in areas of "education, health, digital development, capacity development, law, infrastructure, trade, agriculture, sports and culture" that have been successfully implemented by the two countries in Bhutan, the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. 
  • Gelephu project of particular interest for Bhutan is India's support to the ambitious "Gelephu Mindfulness City" project launched by the Bhutanese King in December 2023, which will require Indian assistance with rail and roadways connecting up to Gelephu that borders Assam, and upgrading Gelephu airport to facilitate international flights. 
  • The Bhutanese King had traveled to Guwahati and Mumbai to meet industrialists and health and hotel infrastructure magnates. During his visit, Mr. Tobgay is expected to take forward the talks for Gelephu to shore up the Bhutanese economy that has been hit by the pandemic and to stem "out-migration" by young Bhutanese students and professionals who are traveling overseas in search of jobs. "We have to reverse this trend by creating opportunities within Bhutan," Mr. Tobgay had told The Hindu in an interview in December. 
  • Meanwhile, New Delhi has followed developments in Bhutan-China border resolution talks that include areas around the Doklam plateau to Bhutan's west, given their proximity to the Siliguri corridor, and would hope to be briefed on how the new government in Thimphu will take forward the talks. 

13.DST And T-Hub Launch AI-ML Hub In Hyderabad 

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST), in collaboration with T-Hub, has launched the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Technology Hub (MATH) in Hyderabad. 
  • This initiative aims to accelerate AI innovation, facilitate job creation, and foster a supportive ecosystem for AI and ML startups. 
  • The MATH initiative targets to generate over 500 AI-related jobs by 2025. It aims to nurture more than 150 AI and ML startups annually, providing them with essential resources and mentorship. 

14. Two key RTI portals under 'emergency maintenance’ 

  • Bodies, has been undergoing emergency maintenance preventing applicants from betraying their field applicuims conse meme merging the page: The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team.coordinated with the EC to resolve the vulnerability. 
  • It has aisu the Election Commission EOL which maintains is awm RTI portal, panched a pressurusly unreported vulnerability that exposed RTI applicants pessenall dam, a security vulnerability that was disclosed by security researcher Razorpay typically Sainio news portal. The Indian Computer Response Teens (CERTF-in coordinar ed with the BC to resolve the vulnerability Scrunch in a solid statement, adiding that it had fixed the issue. 
  • This was not the only issue on the EC'S RITI portal, which had been facing issues over accepting payments although its payment gateway. While the pay near gateway is now working and applications are going through, the accepted methods have been limited to Net banking and credit or debit cards, even effient most digital payment methods on other sites it serves at least one major bank, the State Bank of India, is not a listed op dom for Net banking.
  • Error message As for the government's RTV online portal, users have been able to log in to the portal and file fresh applications, but cannot see lists of applications they have filed from the website to view the status of an application, applicants have to retrieve the filing number mammally and view its status. An error on the site claims that there is ongoing emergency maintenance that will last for a "few minutes. The error has persisted for almost a week 
  • The Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), under the Home Ministry, runs the RTI Online portal. The DoPT did not respond to queries by The Hindu. A technical support agent for the web site said they had no information on the cause of the current dowretimes and that the issue may take up to 15 days to resolve. Public authorities continue to be able to access the government side of the portal and process applications, a Public information Officer working with a government body told The Hindu 
  • The RTI portals maln tainted by different governments have had a spotty record in the past few years. In August 2023, data of applications before 2022 went missing from the portal without explanation. The DoPT restored that data after The Hindu's report on the change, and added a message that "[tjo make the RTI online portal faster, archival mechanism has been implemented." The site has faced speed and availability issues at different instances over 
  • The Telangana RTI portal had gone down that same month, as officials said that "essential training" for government officers to use the portal was still under way. 
  • The site was down again in February and was restored after the Bharat Rashtra Samithi highlighted the issue on X. 

15. India Receives ‘Measles And Rubella Champion’ Award 

  • India has been awarded the prestigious ‘Measles and Rubella Champion’ Award by The Measles and Rubella Partnership. This award recognizes India’s exemplary efforts in preventing measles and rubella diseases. 
  • The award was presented on March 6th, 2024, at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington D.C., USA. Ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, received the award on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. 

16.Sudha Murty Nominated To Rajya Sabha 

  • President Droupadi Murmu nominated author and philanthropist Sudha Murty to the Rajya Sabha. PM Modi announced this and congratulated Sudha Murty, saying her contribution to diverse fields has been “immense and inspiring”. 
  • Sudha Murty is an Indian educator, author, philanthropist, and the former chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. She is also a member of the public healthcare initiatives of the Gates Foundation. Murty has established the Murty Classical Library of India at Harvard University. 

17.England’s James Anderson Joins Elite 700 Test Wickets Club 

  • England’s James Anderson claimed his 700th Test wicket by dismissing India’s Kuldeep Yadav in Dharamsala on the morning of Day 3 of the final Test against India. 
  • This historic milestone makes Anderson the third bowler to reach the 700-wicket mark in Test cricket. 
  • Anderson’s first Test wicket came in 2003 against Zimbabwe at Lord’s, where he took a five-wicket haul. It took him another 184 Tests to enter the 700-club as the only pacer at the age of 41. 

18.Minister Hardeep S Puri Inaugurates 5th ONGC Para Games 

  • Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Housing & Urban Affairs, inaugurated the 5th ONGC Para Games, praising para-athletes for their unwavering determination. 
  • The event took place at Thyagaraj Stadium, New Delhi with the presence of Shri Pankaj Jain, Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, and senior officials from Oil & Gas PSUs. 
  • 371 athletes, including 249 ONGCians, participating in the 5th ONGC Para Games across various sporting disciplines. 

19.“The Conspiracy” By Gotabaya Rajapaksa 

  • Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emerged from a long period of silence, unveiling a book in which he asserts that his removal from office was orchestrated by geopolitical tensions, particularly between China and other nations. 
  • Entitled The Conspiracy to Oust Me from the Presidency, Rajapaksa’s book hit the shelves without an official launch, shedding light on his perspective regarding the circumstances leading to his departure. 

20.India To Construct A 10,000-GPU Supercomputer For Self-Sufficient AI Advancement 

  • The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved a new $1.24 billion investment for the IndiaAI mission. 
  • This initiative aims to create an all-Indian AI ecosystem from scratch, bolstering India’s technological prowess and fostering innovation in AI. 
  • The high-performance computing (HPC) system expected to include 10,000 “or more” GPUs as AI accelerators, will be developed through a public-private partnership to support startups and research organizations. 

21. Modi announces ₹100 cut in LPG refill price 

  • Weeks before the Lok Sabha election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a reduction in domestic LPG prices by ₹100 a cylinder. 
  • "This will significantly ease the financial burden on millions of households across the country, espe- cially benefiting our Nari Shakti. By making cooking gas more affordable, we also aim to support the wellbeing of families and ensure a healthier environ- ment," Mr. Modi said on X, 
  • The graph shows the price of a non-subsidised 14.2-kg LPG refill in Delhi 100% cut, a non-bobl O subsidized 14.2-kg LPG refill would cost 1803 in Delhi adding that the announcement was being made on the occasion of International Women's Day. 
  • This is the second reduction in cooking gas down from a nine-year high of 1,103 per 14.2-kg cylinder to 1903. With Friday's cut, an LPG cylinder will cost ₹803. 
  • Congress leader Randeep Surjewala called the announcement an "election gimmick". 
  • That revision brought prices in six months. Rates were cut by ₹200 per cylinder in late August ahead of the Assembly elections in five States. 
  • "The Congress-UPA government used to buy LPG at the international price, which was 28% more than the current price, but gave it to people at less than half Am the price by giving huge subsidies," he said in a post on X. 

22. Backed by BrahMos, Navy's Minicoy - base to keep watch over Arabian Sea 

  • Radars, jetries, airfield and BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles the Indian Na vy's newest base being established on Minicoy island in Lakshadweep, INS Jatayu, will have all these and many more. The up- grade is part of a long-term capability development plan which officials and experts say will shore up in dia's security footprint on the islands located very close to critical Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC), 
  • This is especially significant as the Chinese naval footprint, which includes research vessels, has seen massive expansion in the Indian Ocean. Minicoy is false just a few hundred miles from the Maldives, 
  • In addition to INS Jatayu, new infrastructure and facilities were inaugurated at Karwar naval base in Karnataka by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday. These include two major piers and seven residential towers comprising 320 houses for officers and civilian defense personnel as well as 149 single accommodation. officers 
  • "New radar facilities at Minicoy will augment surveillance and coastal batteries of extended range BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles with a range of around 450 km will give huge flexibility in responding to threats," officials in the know said. 
  • "As we commission [INS] Jatayu, it is crucial to recognise the pressing need for heightened awareness. 
  • Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar and Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel at the commissioning of INS Jatayu veillance anuidade the prevailing geopolitical deve kopmenes, Many Chief Admiral R. Hari Kenmar said. "INS Baaz to the east in Andamans and now, IMS Jatayu in the west at Mini coy, will serve as the eyes and ears of the Navy," he stated 
  • Jatayu will be the 'watch-keeper for Bharat at the gateway of Arabian Sea," said Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sisiha, former Western Naval Commander, noting its proximity to the busy Nine Degree Channel, the approximate by 266-aas wide area between Minicoy and Kalpenty Saheli Par islands of Lakuls adweep. Situated at the tip of India's Exclusive Bop nomic Zone (EEZ), it also serves as a deterrent against any future adversarial presence, making ja tayu a "formidable static aircraft carrier Karwar naval base. 
  • The Phase I construction of Karwar base under Project Seabird, which was completed in 2011, was designed to accommodate 10 ships. The Cabinet Committee on Security has since granted approval for Phase ILA of Project Sea- bird which will see the base expanded for berthing of 32 ships and submarines, along with 23 yard craft and include piers, providing a berthing space of more than 6 km. 
  • "The centerpiece of Phase MA works is an iconic Covered Dry Berth, standing at a height of 75 meters, taller than the Qutub Minar in Delhi, cording to the Navy. 

23. Safety guide for journalists covering LS polls launched 

  • The Committee to Protect ve Journalists (CP), along with The Hindu, launched a "Safety Guide for Journal tal ists covering Indian elections 2004 at an online event on Friday. 
  • The guide has specific advice, including editor's in safety checklist while deploying staff on a hostile story, and detailed information on digital safety. It features ways to tackle online campaigns, which particularly target women journalists in an orchestrated way, manage stress in the newsroom, and address security challenges faced by Indian journalists. 
  • Kunal Majumder, the CPJ's Indian representative, said the guide, which contains details on how to prepare for elections and ensure physical, digital, and psychological safety, is available in four regional hat languages and in English.
  • Journalism has become increasingly hazardous both in physical and online realms, N. Ram, Director, in The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited, said at the event. He said India was clearly more dangerous for journalists, particularly in the run up to the elections, going by global surveys on the state of media freedom in India. 
  • Tackling challenges Elaborating on the Crys documentation of work-related killings of journalists since 1992, Mr. Ram sald the death toll had surged since 2014, and reporters from remote locations as well as experienced journalists of influential media organizations were targeted. "We need to recognise and confront such challenges and work towards safeguarding the integrity and freedom of journalists," he said. 
  • The necessity for workshops to train journalists on pressing concerns related to digital safety was discussed at a panel discussion. Ishani Dutta Ray, Editor, Anandabazar Patrika; Ashish Pandey, Editor, Navbharat Times; Dhanya Rajendran, Editor-in-Chief, The News Minute; and Colin Pereira, chief strategist on journalist safety, CPJ, deliberated over the need for institutional support, strong legal teams, and emotional support for journalists facing safety threats. Pragya Tiwari, cofounder of Oijo, moderated the session. 

24. EC, ChatGPT-maker held talks in February on misuse of AI 

  • Representatives from OpenAl, the artificial intelligence firm that developed ChatGPT, met officials from the Election Commission in February to ensure that its platform was not misused during the upcoming Lok Sabha tions, and to find ways to collaborate with the EC. The EC confirmed the meeting in a Right to Information response to The Hindu. Rishi Jaitly, an OpenAI adviser and former India head at Twitter (now X), had reached out to the EC to request the meeting. 
  • His emailed request sheds some light on what the executives may have discussed at the meeting. "It goes without saying that we [OpenAI] want to ensure our platforms are not misused in the coming general elections and, in this OpenAl's Jason Kwon, James Hairston, Becky Waite attended the February meeting, would like to discuss any concerns ECI may have as well as explore opportunities for collaboration to ensure more voters are able to exercise their franchise," Mr. Jaitly wrote. 
  • Mr. Jaitly added that as OpenAl's senior adviser, he was focused "on ensuring the company's artificial intelligence mission advances the India story, and that India becomes a global leader in the AI story". 
  • OpenAl's chief strategy officer Jason Kwon, its global public policy head James Hairston, and its global elections head Becky Waite attended the meeting from the company's side. 
  • The EC declined to disclose which officials represented them in the meeting. Anuj Chandak, an EC joint director to whom Mr. Jaitly had addressed the meeting request, but declined to discuss the meeting when contacted. The EC's spokesperson did not respond to queries from The Hindu. 
  • On the day that the EC meeting was held, OpenAI executives also held a roundtable discussion with civil society representatives in India on the upcoming elections. 
  • During and after the meeting in Delhi, as The Hindu reported last month, former top IT Ministry officials and tech scholars who attended the meeting said the EC could be doing much more in coordination with major tech platforms to combat misinformation and disinformation during a time of heightened sensitivities. 

25. Center tweaks PM solar 'free electricity' scheme 

  • The Union government has tweaked the new ₹75,000 crore PM Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana (rooftop solar: free electricity scheme). 
  • From an initial plan to fully subsidize the installation of 1 kW-3 kW solar systems in one crore households via tie-ups with renewable energy service companies, the scheme will now only contribute up to 60% of the costs, The Hindu has learnt Households interested in availing the scheme benefits will have to fork out the balance amount and pay a minimum of 20,000 depending on the power capacity of the installed system though this could be defrayed by a low-interest, collateral-free loan. 
  • Only houses with a suitable roof and an existing connection to the grid will be eligible for the scheme and consumers still have to pay for all the net power supplied and consumed via the grid. "The free component in this, is in the sense that it will reduce your electricity bill. You will get a payback and that can range from three to seven years. Whatever capital cost [is invested by consumer] will be recovered in three to five years and after that it could mean even income, Bhupinder Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the nodal body coordinating the scheme, told The Hindu on Friday. 
  • Through a system of net-metering, any solar power produced in a household and unused will flow back into the grid and will be offset in the household's electricity bill. Depending on consumption patterns, this could even mean consumers earning money, though the general experience, the world over, shows a reduction in bills. 
  • Power Minister R.K. Singh had explained the financing of the scheme differently in an interaction with reporters.
  • Currently, a rooftop solar system in India costs nearly ₹50,000 per kW. with reporters on February 3. 
  • He had said that public sector units, affiliated to the Power Ministry, would be reaching out to "eligi- ble" households and in- stalling the rooftop solar systems for free. 
  • "Sixty per cent of the cost of installation will be subsidized by the Centre. For the rest, [a Central] Public Sector Enterprise will take a loan [from a bank] and will repay from the cost of electricity [used by the household over and above the 300 units. You as a householder pay nothing," he had said. 
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget Speech had first mentioned the scheme envisaged to generate up to 300 units of free electricity every month. 
  • Mr. Bhalla clarified that while there would be an "option" for having service companies provide solar installations, the "focus" of the scheme had shifted towards consumers taking loans and getting installations. 
  • The major difference from previous versions of the scheme is a doubling of the subsidy on rooftop solar (from an earlier 14,500 per kW) and an anticipated improvement in service delivery. "We have learnt from past mistakes. There are 4,300 vendors and a convenient system for a household to apply online and get it installed," reckoned Mr. Bhalla. "Unlike in the past you don't have to run around to get an installation." 
  • As the scheme is now envisaged, 12 public sector banks will offer a collateral free loan (1% above the current prevailing RBI repo rate, now 6.5%) to anyone with a viable roof and grid connectivity and wanting to install a rooftop system. A 3 kW-hour system can generate up to 300 units a month, depending on available sunshine and for this a maximum subsidy of up to 178,000 will be available. 
  • Currently a rooftop solar system costs about ₹50,000 per kW. A householder can either pay the balance or take a loan. A vendor will appraise the site and then install the sys- tem along with an inverter and a smart meter that can switch between grid and solar supply. Operation and maintenance costs up to five years will be factored into the cost. 
  • "We already have 40 lakh registrations and some installations are already underway in Gujarat. We expect to reach the target of one crore houses in three years," he added.

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