10th December 2020

INS Kalvari

Recently, the Indian Navy celebrated Submarine Day on December 8th to mark the unfurling of the first submarine i.e. INS Kalvari, to be inducted in the Indian Navy.

  • It was a diesel-electric submarine of the Foxtrot Class from the erstwhile USSR.
  • Kalvari is the Malayalam name for Tiger Shark, a predator in the Indian Ocean.
  • It was decommissioned in 1996 after 29 years of service.
  • It had a range of 32,000 km at a speed of 8 knots when on surface and a submerged range of 610 km at a speed of 10 knots.

Present Kalvari Class submarines

  • INS Kalvari, a diesel-electric submarine of Scorpene-class, was inducted into service in 2017 after having being built at the Mazagon dock in Mumbai.
  • It has been designed by French company DCNS.
  • INS Khanderi is the other submarine of Kalvari class currently in service.
    • The other submarines slated to join service under this class are Vela, Karanj, Vaghir and Vaghsheer.


Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity

Recently, the Union Cabinet has given its approval for provision of Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity between Mainland (Kochi) and Lakshadweep Islands (KLI Project).

  • The Project envisages provision of a direct communication link through a dedicated submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) between Kochi and Islands of Lakshadweep.
    • The 11 islands of Lakshadweep are Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Agati, Amini, Androth, Minicoy, Bangaram, Bitra, Chetlat, Kiltan and Kadmat.
  • The estimated cost of implementation is about Rs. 1072 crore including operational expenses for 5 years.
  • The Project would be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund.

Impact of KLI Project

  • It is evident that the growth of telecom infrastructure is closely linked with the economic and social development.
  • The telecommunication connectivity plays vital role in employment generation.
  • The present approval for Provision of Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity will vastly improve telecommunication facility in the Lakshadweep Islands by providing large bandwidth.
  • The submarine connectivity project will have vital role for delivery of e-Governance services at the doorstep of citizens, potential development of fisheries, coconut based industries and high-value tourism.
  • It will help in establishment of numerous businesses, augment e-commerce activities and provide adequate support to educational institutes for knowledge sharing.

Implementation Strategy and Targets of KLI Project

  • The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has been nominated as Project Execution Agency and Telecommunications Consultant India Ltd. (TCIL) as the Technical Consultant of the Project.
  • The ownership of the asset under the project will rest with USOF, the funding agency, under DoT.
  • The project is targeted to be completed by May 2023.

Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity

  • A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the seabed between land-based stations to transmit telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean and sea.
  • In August 2020, the government of India has inaugurated the submarine optical fibre cable (OFC) connecting Andaman and Nicobar to the rest of the country.
  • The inauguration of the submarine Optical Fibre Cable in Andaman and Nicobar Islands ensures:
    • High-speed broadband connectivity,
    • Fast and reliable mobile and landline telecom services,
    • Big boost to the local economy,
    • Delivery of e-governance, and
    • Telemedicine and tele-education


Universal Service Obligation Fund Scheme

Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the provision of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) Scheme for providing Mobile Coverage in Arunachal Pradesh and two Districts of Assam.

  • The provision for providing Mobile Coverage is approved under the Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan (CTDP) for North Eastern Region (NER).
  • The project envisages providing mobile coverage to 2374 uncovered villages at an estimated cost of implementation about Rs.2029 crore including operational expenses for five years.
  • The project would be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund. 
  • The project is targeted to be completed by December, 2022.
  • The work related to provision of 4G mobile services in identified uncovered villages will be awarded through open competitive bidding process as per extant USOF procedures.

Universal Service Obligation Fund Scheme

  • The New Telecom Policy (NTP) 1999 of Department of Telecom had Universal Service as one of its main objectives.
  • The NTP 1999 provided that the resources for meeting the Universal Service Obligation (USO) were to be generated through a Universal Access Levy (UAL).
  • The NTP 1999 envisaged the implementation of USO Obligation for rural and remote areas would be undertaken by all fixed service providers.
  • The Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003 giving statutory status to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was passed by both Houses of Parliament in December 2003.
    • As per the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 (as amended in 2003, 2006), the Fund is to be utilized exclusively for meeting the Universal Service Obligation.


Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)

Recently, the Union Cabinet has given its approval for Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY).

Salient Features of Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)

  • The cabinet has approved an expenditure of Rs. 1,584 crore for the current financial year and Rs.22810 crore for the entire Scheme period i.e. 2020-2023.
  • The government of India will provide subsidy for two years in respect of new employees engaged on or after 1st October, 2020 and upto 30th June, 2021.
  • The government of India will pay both 12% employees’ contribution and 12% employers’ contribution i.e.  24% of wages towards EPF in respect of new employees in establishments employing upto 1000 employees for two years.
  • The government of India will pay only employees’ share of EPF contribution i.e. 12% of wages in respect of new employees in establishments employing more than 1000 employee for two years.

Eligibility under Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)

  • An employee drawing monthly wage of less than Rs. 15000 and who was not working in any establishment registered with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) before 1st October, 2020;
  • An employee who did not have a Universal Account Number or EPF Member account number prior to 1st October 2020.
  • Any EPF member possessing Universal Account Number (UAN) drawing monthly wage of less than Rs. 15000/- who made exit from employment during Covid pandemic; and
  • An employee who did not join employment in any EPF covered establishment up to 30 September 2020 will also be eligible to avail benefit.

Significance of Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)

  • It aims to boost employment in formal sector and incentivize creation of new employment opportunities during the Covid recovery phase under Atmanirbhar Bharat Package 3.0.
  • EPFO shall work out modality to ensure that there is no overlapping of benefits provided under ABRY with any other scheme implemented by EPFO.


Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)

Recently, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) undertook the project for development of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

  • Quantum key distribution utilizes the unique properties of quantum mechanical systems to generate and distribute cryptographic keying material using special purpose technology.
  • The technology is developed by CAIR, Bengaluru and DYSL-QT, Mumbai.
  • Quantum Communication using time-bin Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) scheme was performed under realistic conditions.
  • The setup also demonstrated the validation of detection of a third party trying to gain knowledge of the communication.
  • Quantum based security against eavesdropping was validated for the deployed system at over 12kms range and 10dB attenuation over fibre optic channel.
  • Quantum cryptography is a technology that uses quantum physics to secure the distribution of symmetric encryption keys.

Importance of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)

  • Quantum based communication offers a robust solution to sharing the keys securely.
  • The work being done at DRDO will be used to enable start-ups and SMEs in the domain of Quantum information technologies.
  • It will also serve to define standards and crypto policies that can leverage QKD system in a unified Cipher Policy Committee (CPC) framework for more secure and pragmatic key management for current and future military cryptographic systems.
  • QKD provides a way of distributing and sharing secret keys that are necessary for cryptographic protocols.


Eco-bridges in the forest

Recently, the Ramnagar Forest Division in Nainital district has built its first eco-bridge for reptiles and smaller mammals.

  • A 2020 study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) noted that nearly 50,000 km of road projects have been identified for construction in India over the next five to six years.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority, New Delhi, had identified three major sites that were cutting across animal corridors.
    • It includes National Highway 37 through the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape in Assam and State Highway 33 through the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.
  • The Eco-bridges include canopy bridges (for monkeys, squirrels and other arboreal species), concrete underpasses or overpass tunnels or viaducts (for larger animals) and amphibian tunnels or culverts.
  • The Wildlife corridors, also known as “eco-bridges” are areas of habitat that connect wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures.
  • The wildlife corridor is a link of wildlife habitat, generally made up from native vegetation, which joins two or more larger areas of similar wildlife habitat.

Why Eco-bridges?.

  • Eco-ducts or eco-bridges aim to enhance wildlife connectivity that can be disrupted because of highways or logging.
  • The newly built bridge will be an awareness-building campaign for the congested tourist route as it will be a way of seeing how the ecosystem necessary for reptiles.
  • Eco-bridges play a very important role in maintaining connections between animal and plant populations that would otherwise be isolated and therefore at greater risk of local extinction.
  • Human activity and intervention in our natural environment leave fragmented patches of intact or relatively intact ecosystems whose ties with others are severed.
  • The fragmentation ultimately leads to a breakdown in the various ecological processes such as species migration, recycling of nutrients, pollination of plants and other natural functions required for ecosystem health.
  • The Animals may also suffer by not being able to access particular habitats.

Importance of Eco Bridges in Biodiversity Management

  • To prevent genetic isolation of fragmented flora and fauna populations, the bridge would encourage the interaction of wildlife by facilitating movement between the once separated forests and effectively expand habitat, mating and foraging ranges of flora and fauna.
  • With wildlife crossing the expressway from one nature reserve to another, the chances of pollination and dispersion of rare native plants could greatly increase.
  • Eco-bridges would also bring about greater interaction between individuals leading to a healthy exchange of genetic materials, thereby reducing the occurrence of inbreeding and increasing the long-term survival of our native species.
  • Providing crossing infrastructure at key points along transportation corridors is known to improve safety, reconnect habitats and restore wildlife movement. 


Scheme for Tharu Tribes

Recently, the Uttar Pradesh government has embarked upon a scheme to take the unique culture of its ethnic Tharu tribe across the world.

  • The state government is working to connect Tharu villages in Uttar Pradesh with the home stay scheme of the UP Forest Department.
  • The idea is to offer tourists an experience of living in the natural Tharu habitat, in traditional huts made of grass collected mainly from the forests.
  • Under the scheme, the Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation will train the Tharu people to communicate effectively with visitors, and encourage villagers to acquaint them with aspects of safety and cleanliness, and with the rules of the forest.
  • Tharu homeowners will be able to charge tourists directly for the accommodation and home-cooked meals.
  • The UP government expects both domestic and international tourists to avail of the opportunity to obtain a taste of the special Tharu culture by staying with them, observing their lifestyle, food habits, and attire.

Tharu Tribes

  • The community belongs to the Terai lowlands, amid the Shivaliks or lower Himalayas.
    • Most of them are forest dwellers and some practice agriculture.
  • The word Tharu is believed to be derived from sthavir, meaning followers of Theravada Buddhism.
  • Tharus resides in the districts of Balrampur, Bahraich, Lakhimpur and Pilibhit bordering Nepal.
    • The Tharus live in both India and Nepal and in the Indian terai, they live mostly in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
  • They speak various dialects of Tharu, a language of the Indo-Aryan subgroup, and variants of Hindi, Urdu, and Awadhi.
    • In central Nepal, they speak a variant of Bhojpuri, while in eastern Nepal, they speak a variant of Maithili.
  • Tharus worship Lord Shiva as Mahadev, and call their supreme being “Narayan”, who they believe is the provider of sunshine, rain, and harvests.
  • Tharu women have stronger property rights than is allowed to women in mainstream North Indian Hindu custom.


Software to track down child pornography

Recently, the cyber wing of the Maharashtra Police acquired a software from Interpol that would help them track down child pornography uploaded online.

  • The Interpol has a software that uses various mechanisms like detecting nudity in images, recognising age of the person through facial structures, among other filters.
  • It also has in-built algorithms to look for keywords around child pornography that would for example help law enforcement agencies track forums that indulge in these crimes.
  • The software ‘crawler’ scans the internet looking for such images, videos and text.

TRACE team to counter child pornography

  • The Maharashtra Cyber Cell has set up the Tactical Response Against Cyber Child Exploitation (TRACE) team.
  • The team was comprised of 12 officers who went for training to the South Asian wing of Interpol.
  • The TRACE unit was primarily set up to act against child pornography in Maharashtra that is part of a larger campaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country since 2019.

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

  • The United States federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (a person less than 18 years old).
  • India’s fight against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) received a boost in 2019 when National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) started sharing tip-offs about child pornography in India with Indian agencies.
  • The tip offs were received by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which then passed it on to the states where the child pornography related incident had taken place.

Operation Blackface

  • ‘Operation Blackface’ is part of the larger action taken against CSAM across the country.
  • The operation was started by the Maharashtra Cyber Cell.
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