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Here are the topics covered for 19th October 2023:
GS-2: India to Procure 31 MQ-9B Drones from U.S. , Prevention of Money Laundering Act
GS- 3: Inclusive Disaster Preparedness , Unlocking the Power of Quantum Algorithms
Facts for Prelims: Minimum Support Price (MSP), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
India to Procure 31 MQ-9B Drones from the U.S. by February 2024
- In a significant defence development, India is poised to acquire 31 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from the United States, marking a significant advancement in its defence capabilities.
- The procurement includes 15 Sea Guardians designated for the Indian Navy and eight Sky Guardians each for the Indian Army and Air Force.
- Definitive Timeline: The deal’s conclusion is anticipated in February 2024, while the actual drone deliveries are set to begin in February 2027.
- Government Clearances: The Ministry of Defence cleared the procurement in June, granting the green light for the acquisition of these advanced UAVs from General Atomics (GA).
- Variants: The 31 drones encompass two variants – 15 Sea Guardians for naval use and eight Sky Guardians for both the Indian Army and Air Force.
- Estimated Cost: The cost for this acquisition is estimated at $3,072 million through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
- Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Facility: As part of the plan, General Atomics (GA) is preparing to establish a global Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility in India. However, the specific location for this facility, although likely to be in Bengaluru, is yet to be finalized.
- Procurement Process: The process began with the Ministry of Defence issuing a Letter of Request (LoR) to the U.S. government, which sets the stage for finalizing the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA). The LOA will encompass detailed equipment specifications and the terms of the procurement and will adhere to the FMS program.
- U.S. Congressional Approval: The U.S. administration will notify the U.S. Congress of the sale, a formality expected in this case. Afterwards, the deal is subject to approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security within the Indian government, culminating in the contract’s conclusion.
- Enhanced Capabilities: The MQ-9B drones are expected to significantly bolster the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of the Indian armed forces. These drones are designed for extended, over-the-horizon missions via satellite, capable of up to 40 hours of flight time, depending on the configuration. They can operate effectively in various weather conditions and safely integrate into civil airspace.
- This procurement represents a notable advancement in India’s defence capabilities, enhancing its ability to monitor and secure its interests, both domestically and internationally.
- The acquisition of these advanced UAVs is expected to reinforce India’s defence infrastructure and strategic capabilities for years to come.
Prevention of Money Laundering Act
- A three-judge Bench has indicated its willingness to refer specific aspects of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to a Constitution Bench.
- This decision comes in response to a series of petitions that have challenged the correctness of a Supreme Court judgment delivered in July 2022 regarding the PMLA. The previous judgment, issued by a Coordinate Bench of three judges, and had upheld key amendments to the PMLA, which granted extensive powers to the Enforcement Directorate and shifted the burden of proof of innocence from the prosecution to the accused.
- Challenging the July 2022 Judgment: Multiple petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the impact of the PMLA on personal liberty, legal procedures, and the constitutional mandate following the July 2022 judgment. Some of these petitions also included review requests against the previous verdict.
- Special Bench Formation: The case faced a considerable delay until a Special Bench, assembled to consider these petitions.
- Scope of Review: SC clarified that the Special Bench does not intend to engage in a comprehensive reconsideration of the July 2022 judgment, avoiding what he termed an “unwieldy exercise.” The aim is to examine whether any specific issues addressed by the earlier Coordinate Bench require reconsideration.
- Referral to Larger Bench: If the Special Bench deems that certain aspects require further review, they are prepared to refer them to a larger Bench of five or seven judges, as necessary.
- Solicitor General’s Argument: Solicitor General argued that every provision of the PMLA had been debated before the SC Bench. He expressed concerns about the abuse of the legal process when petitioners challenged the previous judgment without first addressing their review petitions.
- Constitutional Challenge: The Solicitor General contended that petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, which challenge a judgment, cannot be referred to Constitution Benches. Justice Kaul stated that the court would deliberate on this point.
- Next Hearing: The case is scheduled for the next hearing on November 22, despite concerns raised by the Solicitor General regarding the ongoing evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This international watchdog is currently engaged in a “mutual evaluation” exercise, and any doubts about the statutory provisions of the PMLA could have significant repercussions, he noted.
- National Interest: The Solicitor General argued for a two-month adjournment, asserting that the PMLA is part of a global response to combat money laundering and terror financing. Justice Kaul responded that even scrutiny can be in the national interest.
- The court’s decision to continue the case and consider these complex issues underlines the need for a balanced approach to legal challenges, ensuring that both individual rights and broader national and international interests are addressed.
- The forthcoming proceedings on November 22 will provide further clarity on the potential implications for the PMLA and its enforcement.
Inclusive Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities
- A recent survey by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) highlights the concerning lack of progress in government policies for safeguarding people with disabilities during natural disasters. This report is released on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction observed on October 13.
Findings of the UNDRR’s Survey:
- Survey Scope: The 2023 survey gathered data from 6,000 respondents across 132 countries.
- Lack of Awareness: It reveals that 84% of people with disabilities are not informed about crucial information such as evacuation routes, shelter locations, or personal preparedness plans. This number has increased from 71% in 2013, indicating a lack of improvement over the last decade.
- Awareness of Disaster Management Plans: Only 11% of respondents are aware of disaster management plans in their local areas, a decline from 17% in 2013. Moreover, less than half of the respondents have access to disaster risk information that is tailored to their specific needs.
- Vulnerability: People with disabilities face a significantly higher risk during disasters. Globally, up to 16% of the population has disabilities, and they are two to four times more likely to be killed by disasters.
- Exclusion: Despite an increased interest in participating in community-level disaster planning, 86% of the respondents still feel excluded. This highlights the urgent need for inclusive disaster preparedness.
Suggestions from the Survey:
- Addressing Inequality: The report emphasizes the strong link between disasters and inequality. Unequal access to services exacerbates the vulnerability of the most at-risk groups during disasters.
- Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 advocates for disability inclusion, the availability of accessible disaster risk information, and the establishment of inclusive early warning systems.
- Importance of Early Warning Systems: Strengthening early warning systems is identified as crucial. Approximately half of the countries lack these mechanisms, yet timely warnings can significantly improve evacuation rates and save lives.
- Call for Immediate Action: The report underscores the pressing need for action to address these challenges and ensure the meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities in community disaster risk reduction planning.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-30:
- Adoption: The Sendai Framework was adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015 in Sendai, Japan.
- Scope: It applies to risks from a wide range of disasters, whether small or large scale, frequent or infrequent, sudden or slow-onset, and whether caused by natural or human-made hazards.
- Objectives: The framework aims to guide the management of disaster risk across all levels of development and within and across all sectors.
- Priority Areas: The framework delineates actions in four priority areas:
- Understanding Disaster Risk
- Strengthening Disaster Risk Governance to Manage Disaster Risk
- Investing in Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience
- Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction
- Inclusive disaster preparedness is a pressing issue, as evident from the UNDRR’s survey findings. People with disabilities must not be left behind in disaster risk reduction and management.
- To achieve this, international frameworks like the Sendai Framework need to be implemented effectively, and countries should enact and enforce legislation that empowers persons with disabilities and ensures their inclusion in disaster preparedness and response efforts.
Unlocking the Power of Quantum Algorithms
- In the world of computing, the advent of quantum technology has sparked both excitement and anticipation. Quantum computers promise to revolutionize problem-solving, offering the potential to tackle challenges that have long eluded classical computers.
- The key to harnessing this transformative power lies not just in the hardware itself but in the development of ingenious quantum algorithms.
Unlocking Quantum Algorithms:
- Quantum algorithms are the driving force behind quantum computing, powered by quantum gates and qubits. Unlike their classical counterparts, quantum algorithms make use of quantum gates and the unique properties of qubits. A qubit, as opposed to a classical bit, can exist in a superposition of 0 and 1, offering a fundamental advantage.
- Shor’s Algorithm – Factorization Prowess: Shor’s algorithm, an early quantum breakthrough, excels at factoring large numbers efficiently. Its polynomial time complexity challenges classical cryptography’s reliance on the difficulty of factorization for security.
- Grover’s Algorithm – Search Efficiency: Grover’s algorithm excels in data search tasks, offering exponential speed-up over classical methods. While classical searches require approximately half the number of patterns in the list, Grover’s algorithm defies this limitation. It proves invaluable in fields such as database queries and data mining, where speed and efficiency are paramount.
- Deutsch-Jozsa Algorithm – Quantum Parallelism: The Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm showcases the power of quantum parallelism. It efficiently determines whether a mapping is constant or balanced, a problem that can be pivotal in various computing tasks. Classical computers would require three steps, but a quantum computer accomplishes it in a single computation. Quantum parallelism, enabled by qubit superposition, permits quantum computers to explore multiple possibilities simultaneously.
- Expanding Quantum Algorithm Frontiers: Researchers are exploring quantum algorithms for optimization, drug design, and pattern search, promising more efficient solutions compared to classical methods.
- Quantum algorithms are the catalysts propelling quantum computing into uncharted territory.
- They challenge classical computing’s limits and unlock new avenues for innovation. As reliable, large-scale quantum devices near reality, quantum algorithms are poised to tame problems that once seemed untameable, ushering in a new era of efficient problem-solving.
- The future holds vast potential for these quantum algorithms to redefine the boundaries of computation.
Facts for Prelims:
Minimum Support Price (MSP)
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a price at which the government guarantees to purchase crops from farmers at a pre-announced price. MSPs are announced by the Government of India on an annual basis, before the sowing season, based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- It is calculated to ensure that farmers receive at least one and a half times the production costs they have incurred.
- The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP), which operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, recommends Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for a total of 22 crops.
- These encompass 14 kharif season crops, 6 rabi crops, and 2 other commercial crops. Furthermore, the CACP determines fair and remunerative prices (FRP) for sugarcane.
How MSP is calculated
- The CACP calculates MSP based on a number of factors, including:
- Cost of cultivation: This includes the cost of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and labour.
- Market prices: The CACP also considers the prevailing market prices of crops when recommending MSPs.
- Demand and supply: The CACP also takes into account the demand and supply of crops when recommending MSPs.
- Inter-crop price parity: This ensures that farmers get a fair price for their produce relative to other crops.
- Effect on consumers: The CACP also considers the effect of MSPs on consumers when recommending MSPs.
- MSPs are important for farmers as they provide them with a safety net against price falls. MSPs also help to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their produce.
- One of the biggest challenges in implementing MSPs is that the government often does not procure all of the produce that is offered by farmers at MSPs. This is because the government has limited storage capacity and financial resources.
- MSPs are not always profitable for farmers. This is because the cost of production of crops has been increasing in recent years, while MSPs have not increased at the same pace.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
- RCEP, a pivotal economic pact, unites ASEAN members and FTA partners. It’s the world’s largest trading bloc, fostering economic integration, trade liberalization, and cooperation among member nations.
- Commencing negotiations in 2012, RCEP reached a historic milestone with its official signing in November 2020 and came into force on January 1, 2022.
- With 15 member countries including China, Japan, Australia, and ASEAN nations like Brunei and Thailand, RCEP spans trade in goods, services, investment, intellectual property, and more.
- The pact’s objectives include easing trade and investment, eliminating barriers, boosting regional supply chains, and reaping benefits like economic growth, streamlined trade processes, foreign investments, competitiveness, and innovation.
- Covering over 30% of the global GDP and one-third of the world’s population, RCEP wields the potential to reshape global trade dynamics.
- On the global trade stage, RCEP bolsters the Asia-Pacific region’s influence and acts as a blueprint for future trade accords and regional collaboration.
- India, a founding RCEP member, exited negotiations in 2019, citing domestic economy concerns tied to Chinese imports, service mobility, and reservations from the agriculture and small business sectors.