UPSC Daily Current Affairs - 4th March 2023

UPSC Daily Current Affairs – Prelims [4th March 2023]

Salt flats around the world are covered in a similar pattern of ridges

Source – TH

In News

Salt flats around the globe display a pattern of interconnected ridges forming a mosaic of pentagonal and hexagonal shapes on their surfaces.

What are salt flats?

  • A salt flat is a naturally occurring terrain where an extensive flat area is covered with salt.
  • The most renowned salt flat globally is Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, which possesses more than 50% of the earth’s lithium reserves.
  • Salt flats develop from a natural water body with a recharge rate lower than the rate of evaporation. The underlying soil is rich in salt content; hence, the groundwater is too saline for human consumption even if the water table is shallow.

How are the shapes form?

  • Starting with the hypothesis that the salt on the surface is impacted by the salt flow in the underlying soil, the researchers discovered that the salt seeped further into the soil directly beneath the ridges, while remaining close to the surface under the flat regions.

Experts suggest that to reduce the harmful impact of salt flats, covering them with a thin layer of water can be beneficial. This can help distribute the salt on the surface evenly, preventing it from being carried away by the wind.

Salt Lake

Select central govt employees get a one-time option to opt for an old pension scheme

Source – TOI

In News

A significant development has taken place as a specific group of central government employees are being granted a one-time opportunity to choose the old pension scheme.

  • The old pension scheme, which falls under the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules of 1972 (now 2021), is available for those employees who were appointed to central government services through posts advertised or announced before December 22, 2003 – the date when the National Pension System (NPS) was notified.

Difference between old and new pension schemes

Feature Old Pension SchemeNew Pension Scheme
Pension AmountFixed, based on years of service and last pay drawn Depends on the contribution and market performance of investments
ContributionThe government bears the responsibility mostly. Both employee and employer contribute a fixed percentage of the salary
PortabilityNot portable, benefits tied to a specific employer Portable, benefits can be transferred to another employer
WithdrawalLimited options, typically only a lump sum paymentMore flexible options, including partial withdrawals and systematic withdrawal plans
ApplicabilityOnly to government employeesAvailable to all individuals (including government employees)

‘K-shaped’ economic recovery

Source – BS

In News

V Anantha Nageswaran, the Chief Economic Advisor (CEA), has refuted the notion that India’s recovery can be described as “K-shaped”, as he believes that both rural and urban economies are recuperating at varying speeds.

  • In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the urban and rural regions of India have experienced contrasting growth rates, with urban areas recovering at a faster pace than their rural counterparts.
Economic Recovery

Liberalised Remittance Scheme funds

Source – ET

In News

Over the past few months, affluent individuals in India have invested all of their excess foreign remittances in different securities in order to comply with a directive from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which ended last week.

  • In August 2022, the RBI had instructed that any overseas remittances made by Indian residents that remain unused for over 180 days must be brought back to India.

What is Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)?

LRS (introduced in 2004) allows Indian individuals to send up to $250,000 outside the country annually.

  • Aim of LRS: Simplify the process of remitting money outside India and encourage foreign investments by Indian individuals.
  • Permissible transactions under LRS include education, travel, medical treatment, gifting, investment in shares or property, etc.
  • Non-permissible transactions include trading in foreign exchange or buying lottery tickets.
  • LRS is not available to corporations, partnership firms, Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), trusts, etc.
  • Benefits of LRS include diversification of investments and assets, as well as financing opportunities for foreign education or travel.
  • However, outward remittances can add pressure to the forex reserves of the country, leading the government to propose a 20% Tax Collection at Source (TCS) for foreign remittance transactions in FY24.

SC names panel to review investor protection norms

Source – IE

In News

Following the decline in Adani Group securities, the Supreme Court has announced the formation of an expert committee to review India’s regulatory framework for investor protection.

The objective of the committee is threefold

  • Evaluate the factors that contributed to the market volatility.
  • Investigate whether there has been any regulatory lapse in this instance.
  • Propose recommendations to enhance the regulatory framework and ensure that investors are safeguarded through compliance with the existing regulations.

The selection process of the committee has been called into question due to its lack of transparency.

Additionally, SEBI has initiated an investigation and will scrutinize the market activity of Adani stocks both before and after the report’s release.

  • The SEBI Act of 1992 entrusts SEBI with the responsibility of regulating the stock market to safeguard the interests of investors in securities.
Market manipulation

Samarth Scheme

Source – PIB

In News

The “Samarth” scheme, which aims to build capacity in the textile sector, will remain operational until March 2024 under the Ministry of Textiles.

About the Scheme

The Ministry of Textiles’ “Samarth” program is an umbrella skilling initiative that is demand-driven and focused on job placements. The scheme was developed within the broader framework of skilling policies adopted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

ObjectiveTo create jobs and provide skilling opportunities to marginalized sections
Implementation PeriodUp to March 2024
Implemented ByThe implementation partners (IPs) for the “Samarth” scheme include industry associations and organizations, state government agencies, and sectoral organizations under the Ministry of Textiles.

The “Samarth” initiative falls under the “Skill Development in Handicrafts Sector” component of the National Handicrafts Development Programme (NHDP), and is being executed by the office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts).
FeaturesThe end-to-end digital solution for attendance management includes Aadhaar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS), Training of Trainers (ToT), CCTV recording, a dedicated call centre with a helpline, a mobile app, Web-based Management Information System (MIS), and online monitoring.
Courses Offered184 courses aligned with National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF)
Target BeneficiariesThe target for skilling is 3.47 lakh beneficiaries, out of which 1.5 lakh have been trained. It is worth noting that more than 85% of the trained beneficiaries are women.
PlacementFor entry-level programs, 70% placement is mandatory, while for upskilling programs, it is 90%. Interestingly, over 70% of the beneficiaries who underwent training in organized sector courses have already been placed in suitable jobs.

Prelims PYQ

Consider the following statements: ( UPSC2020)

1. The value of Indo-Sri Lanka trade has consistently increased in the last decade.
2. “Textile and textile articles” constitute an important item of trade between India and Bangladesh.
3. In the last five years, Nepal has been the largest trading partner of India in South Asia.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: B

Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog

Source – DTE

In News

The Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog, previously thought to be extinct, has been rediscovered after 89 years.

  • The species is found in the Western Ghats, and is classified as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN.
  • Researchers are pushing for the species to be reclassified as ‘Endangered’ due to its rarity and vulnerability.

About Frogs

  • Frogs (amphibians) play a dual role as both predators and prey in various ecosystems.
  • They contribute to controlling insect populations and serve as indicator species, reflecting the general health of an ecosystem by their presence or absence.
  • In India, a total of 380 species of frogs and toads have been documented so far.

About Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of mountain ranges across six Indian states.
  • It is home to diverse flora and fauna, including many endemic species and evergreen forests.
  • The Western Ghats are also referred to as the Great Escarpment of India due to their unique geographical features.

Russian bots to boost Instagram reach

Source – TH

In News

According to reports, popular Instagram accounts with millions of followers were suspected of using Russian bots to increase their reach. The bot service, allegedly connected to Russia, came to light when it began exposing private information and messages of its clients.

What are bots?

  • Bots refer to computer programmes that can perform tasks automatically, such as collecting information from the internet or executing repetitive tasks.
  • Bot accounts are often associated with spamming, spreading cryptocurrency scams, and falsely inflating social media engagement.
  • Bot accounts have also been implicated in disinformation campaigns that aim to target political opponents and manipulate public opinion in multiple countries.

Types of bots


Phytoplankton blooms

Source – TH

In News

Huge blooms of phytoplankton have become larger and more frequent along the world’s coastlines.

  • Phytoplankton is microscopic algae floating on the ocean’s surface.
  • Marine animals such as fish and whales eat phytoplankton.
  • It can be toxic in large amounts, leading to “dead zones” that wreak chaos on the food chain and fisheries.
  • In large amounts, phytoplankton can starve the ocean of oxygen.

Reason for increase in phytoplankton blooms

  • Warmer sea surface temperatures are the cause of the increase in blooms of phytoplankton.
  • Changes in climate can disrupt ocean circulation, leading to changes in nutrient movement and availability, which can also contribute to the blooms.
  • Human activities, particularly agricultural practices, can contribute to the increase in nutrient loads in the ocean, which can result in the formation of blooms.

Related News

WMO: Hottest year ever in next three, 1.5 degrees Celsius to be breached

Source – DTE

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released an update on El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
  • The update states that there is a 93% chance that one of the years between 2022 and 2026 will be the warmest year on record due to an impending El Niño.

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