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Important Current Affairs for CLAT-20th October 2023

What is ‘IRON BEAM’ Missile Defence System?

Israel tested its new laser-based ‘Iron Beam’ missile defence system. The system is designed to destroy short-range rockets, artillery, and mortar bombs. The system could also intercept unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It has a range of up to 7 km. Iron Beam constitutes the sixth element of Israel’s integrated missile defense system, in addition to Arrow 2, Arrow 3, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome. Iron Beam uses a fiber laser to generate a laser beam to destroy an airborne target. The main benefits of using a directed energy weapon over conventional missile interceptors are lower costs per shot, an unlimited number of firings, lower operational costs, and less manpower. There is also no interceptor debris to fall on the area protected.

What is Directed-Energy Weapon?

A directed-energy weapon (DEW) is a ranged weapon that damages its target with highly focused energy without a solid projectile, including lasers, microwaves, particle beams, and sound beams. Potential applications of this technology include weapons that target personnel, missiles, vehicles, and optical devices.

What are the Operational advantages?

Directed-energy weapons can be used discreetly; radiation does not generate sound and is invisible if outside the visible spectrum. Light is, for practical purposes, unaffected by gravity, windage, and Coriolis force, giving it an almost perfectly flat trajectory. This makes aim much more precise and extends the range to line-of-sight, limited only by beam diffraction and spread (which dilute the power and weaken the effect), and absorption or scattering by intervening atmospheric contents.

Lasers travel at light speed and have long range, making them suitable for use in space warfare. Laser weapons potentially eliminate many logistical problems in terms of ammunition supply, as long as there is enough energy to power them. Depending on several operational factors, directed-energy weapons may be cheaper to operate than conventional weapons in certain contexts.

Arindam Bagchi Appointed as India’s Ambassador to UN in Geneva

Arindam Bagchi, currently serving as Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, has been appointed as India’s next Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva. This significant appointment marks a key change in India’s diplomatic representation in Geneva.

Arindam Bagchi is set to succeed the incumbent Indian envoy to the UN in Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey, who assumed the role in July 2020. After a three-year tenure, Pandey is now scheduled to return to New Delhi, paving the way for Bagchi to take the helm.

Arindam Bagchi, A Seasoned Diplomat

Arindam Bagchi, a seasoned Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer from the 1995 batch, has a rich and diverse background in the foreign service. He took on the pivotal role of MEA spokesperson in March 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when India was grappling with various international and national challenges.

Key Responsibilities as MEA Spokesperson

During his tenure as MEA spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi demonstrated adept handling of media discussions on critical issues such as the Sino-Indian border dispute in eastern Ladakh, the Indian government’s strategy to combat COVID-19, and New Delhi’s role as the G20 presidency.

Varied Experience

Arindam Bagchi’s diplomatic career has encompassed various roles. He has served as a director in the Prime Minister’s Office, where he was involved in managing significant national and international affairs. Additionally, Bagchi has worked at India’s permanent mission at the United Nations in New York, gaining valuable experience in international diplomacy.

Replacement for MEA Spokesperson

While Bagchi’s move to Geneva has been confirmed, his replacement as MEA spokesperson is yet to be named. However, reports suggest that four senior diplomats, including K. Nandini Singla, the high commissioner of Mauritius, and Nagaraj Naidu Kakanur, the joint secretary (G20), are being considered for the pivotal position.

Arindam Bagchi’s appointment as India’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva reflects his commendable diplomatic journey and expertise. This transition in diplomatic roles underscores India’s commitment to actively participating in international forums and enhancing its presence on the global stage.

NSO Released Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Annual Report 2022-2023

The PLFS (Periodic Labour Force Survey), by the NSO (National Statistical Office), has released its results for the period of April to June 2023. The report indicates a notable decrease in the country’s unemployment rate, a rise in the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR), and an improvement in the Worker-Population Ratio (WPR).

This survey, which sampled data from 5,639 first-stage sampling units (FSUs) and 1,67,916 individuals across 44,190 urban households, provides valuable insights into the changing dynamics of India’s labor market.

Positive Shift in Labor Force Participation

One of the key takeaways from the PLFS is the increase in the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for individuals aged 15 years and above. In urban areas, the LFPR has risen from 47.5% in April-June 2022 to 48.8% in the same period of 2023. This data reflects a promising trend, indicating growing participation in the labor force.

Gender Disparity in Labor Force Participation

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation noted that while the LFPR remained relatively steady at 73.5% for males during this period, there was a notable increase for females, with their LFPR going up from 20.9% to 23.2%.

Worker-Population Ratio on the Rise

The Worker-Population Ratio (WPR) is another important indicator of the health of a nation’s labor market. In urban areas, the WPR increased from 43.9% in April-June 2022 to 45.5% in the same months of 2023 for individuals aged 15 years and above.

A Promising Shift in Employment

The rise in WPR signifies a positive trend in the proportion of the working-age population that is employed. The data shows that this improvement was seen in both genders, with the WPR for males increasing from 68.3% to 69.2%, and for females, it rose from 18.9% to 21.1%.

Decreasing Unemployment Rate

Perhaps the most encouraging finding from the PLFS is the decreasing trend in the Unemployment Rate (UR) for individuals aged 15 years and above. In urban areas, the UR decreased from 7.6% in April-June 2022 to 6.6% in the same period of 2023.

Balanced Decline in Unemployment

The report highlights that this decline was observed in both male and female unemployment rates. For males, the UR dropped from 7.1% to 5.9%, while for females, it decreased from 9.5% to 9.1%. This decline in unemployment is a positive sign for the Indian labor market, indicating that more people are finding gainful employment.

Comparing to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The government claims that the improvements in these key labor market indicators in urban areas are not just positive but also surpass pre-pandemic levels. Comparing the data to the period between April-June 2018 and October-December 2019, the LFPR ranged from 46.2% to 47.8%, while in the latest report, it reached 48.8%.

Pre-Pandemic Labor Market Recovery: Robust Gains

Similarly, the WPR was between 41.8% and 44.1% before the pandemic, but now it stands at 45.5%. The Unemployment Rate ranged between 7.8% and 9.7% in the pre-pandemic period, while the latest survey indicates a lower rate of 6.6%. According to the government, this is notably lower than the unemployment rates observed in the quarters covered in the pre-pandemic period.

Indications of Recovery and Growth

The decrease in the unemployment rate, the rise in the Labor Force Participation Rate, and the increase in the Worker-Population Ratio are indicative of an improving job market. Moreover, the government’s claim that these indicators have surpassed pre-pandemic levels suggests that India’s labor market has not only recovered but is also on a growth trajectory. These trends can be seen as a positive sign for the country’s economic stability and the well-being of its citizens.

Kempegowda International Airport tops global on-time performance rankings

In a recent report published by aviation analytics firm Cirium, the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru, also known as the Bengaluru International Airport, has earned a remarkable distinction. It has been recognized as the “world’s most punctual airport” for the past three consecutive months. This accolade underscores the airport’s exceptional commitment to on-time departures and an impressive travel experience for passengers.

On-Time Performance Acknowledgment

Cirium’s report, titled ‘The On-Time Performance Monthly Report,’ specifically commended KIA for its consistently outstanding on-time departure performance. The airport, managed by Bangalore International Airport Limited, achieved punctuality rates of 87.51% in July, 89.66% in August, and 88.51% in September.

Cirium evaluates on-time performance (OTP) by assessing whether an aircraft arrives at the gate within 15 minutes of the scheduled departure time. The report covered approximately 89.03% of the total flights operated from KIA, amounting to 18,913 flights.

While KIA excelled in on-time departures, it had an OTP rate of 79.46% for arrivals, which was the lowest among the top five airports featured in the report.

National Recognition

Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport was the only other Indian airport listed among the top five punctual airports globally, further emphasizing India’s growing prominence in the aviation industry.

Terminal 2 Expansion

Notably, the Kempegowda International Airport expanded its services by commencing international operations from its Terminal 2, a development that occurred just over a month ago. This expansion serves as a testament to the airport’s continuous efforts to enhance its services and contribute to the country’s aviation growth.

The consecutive recognition of KIA as the world’s most punctual airport underlines its dedication to providing travelers with a reliable and timely flying experience, reinforcing its position as a leading international aviation hub.

Dharmendra Pradhan Launched IndiaSkills 2023-24 In New Delhi

The Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship unveiled the IndiaSkills 2023-24 program and celebrated the remarkable achievements of the WorldSkills 2022 winners. India, securing the 11th position in the global competition last year, is now poised to make giant strides in skill development. This event witnessed the announcement of ambitious goals by Union Minister for Skill Development, Dharmendra Pradhan, emphasizing the need for a quantum leap in skill acquisition.

A Vision for Skill Development

In his address, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan outlined the need to increase the number of participants from 0.25 million to 2.5 million. This visionary step aims to provide impetus to the ecosystem of skill development and underscores the significance of competencies over traditional degrees. The minister emphasized the importance of introducing employable skills, which would enhance the market acceptance of the workforce.

Competencies Over Degrees

Minister Pradhan’s statement underscores the paradigm shift in the approach to education and skill development. In the 21st century, competencies, applied knowledge, and hands-on training are becoming increasingly vital. This shift recognizes that practical skills and vocational excellence are equally valuable in the workforce, if not more so, than traditional academic degrees.

Reducing the Skills Gap

Minister Pradhan also highlighted the need for mapping skill gaps. Reducing the disconnect between degrees earned and skills acquired is pivotal for creating a workforce that is not only educated but also equipped with the skills needed in the job market. Bridging this gap can help enhance employability and job readiness.

IndiaSkills: The Pathway to WorldSkills

IndiaSkills serves as the precursor to the prestigious WorldSkills competition, a global platform for assessing and celebrating vocational excellence. Participants who excel in IndiaSkills at the national level earn the opportunity to represent India on the global stage in the WorldSkills competition, scheduled to be held in Paris next year.

Celebrating India’s Success at the World Skills Competition 2022 Special Edition

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, extended his congratulations to 18 candidates from India for their exceptional performance at the World Skills Competition 2022 Special Edition. India’s participation across 50 skills resulted in a commendable 11th position, accompanied by 2 Silver Medals, 3 Bronze Medals, and 13 Medallions for Excellence. The accomplished winners and their dedicated trainers received certificates and cash prizes during a splendid ceremony.

WorldSkills: A Global Benchmark

The WorldSkills competition, organized by WorldSkills International with 86 member countries, sets a global benchmark for high-performance vocational skills. It provides a unique opportunity to assess the excellence of the workforce on an international scale. This competition brings together participants from diverse industries and academic backgrounds.

Industry and Academic Partnerships

WorldSkills 2022 witnessed active participation from over 200 industry and academic partners, including prominent names like Toyota Kirloskar, Mahindra, Saint Gobain, Larsen & Toubro, Maruti Suzuki, and Infosys. These partnerships indicate the widespread recognition of the importance of skill development in various sectors.

India’s Remarkable Performance At WorldSkills

India participated in 50 skills at the WorldSkills 2022 competition, including new-age skills like robot system integration, additive manufacturing, industry 4.0, digital construction, mobile application development, and renewable energy. With its outstanding performance, India secured the 11th position, its best ranking to date since its participation began in 2007.

A Milestone in India’s Skill Development Journey: IndiaSkills and WorldSkills

The launch of IndiaSkills 2023-24 and the recognition of WorldSkills 2022 winners mark a significant milestone in India’s journey towards skill development and vocational excellence. With IndiaSkills serving as a stepping stone to the global platform of WorldSkills, India is poised to continue its ascent in the world of vocational skills and competencies, bridging the gap between academia and the workforce.

India to Invest ₹143 Lakh Crore in Infrastructure by 2030

India is gearing up for a substantial infrastructure spending spree, with a plan to invest nearly ₹143 lakh crore between fiscal years 2024 and 2030. This represents more than double the ₹67 lakh crore spent on infrastructure over the past seven financial years starting from 2017. The rating agency CRISIL shared this information in its Infrastructure Yearbook 2023, underlining the significance of this ambitious undertaking.

Green Investments on the Rise

A notable aspect of this investment is that ₹36.6 lakh crore will be allocated to green projects. This marks a fivefold increase compared to the amount spent on sustainability-focused initiatives between fiscal years 2017 and 2023. The emphasis on green investments reflects India’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Economic Growth and Income Projections

CRISIL Ltd.’s Managing Director and CEO, Amish Mehta, expects India’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at an average rate of 6.7% through fiscal year 2031, positioning India as the fastest-expanding large economy. He predicts a significant increase in per capita income, rising from $2,500 to $4,500 by fiscal year 2031, effectively transitioning India into a middle-income country. This growth trajectory will be driven by extensive infrastructure development with a strong focus on sustainability.

Sectors Poised for Growth

While releasing the ‘CRISIL Infrastructure Yearbook 2023,’ Mehta highlighted several sectors that are key to this growth:

  1. Infrastructure Sectors with High Scores: Four sectors, namely roads and highways, power transmission, renewable energy, and ports, have earned an overall score of 7 or higher out of 10. This demonstrates the pace of reforms and developments in these areas over the past few years.

  2. Mega-Scale Projects: The next phase of infrastructure development will see an increase in the average project size and a substantial number of mega-scale projects. This reflects the nation’s ambition to undertake large and transformative initiatives.

  3. Policy and Regulatory Support: Mehta emphasized the importance of consistent policy and regulatory support to create an attractive environment for stakeholders to accelerate investments across infrastructure sectors.

  4. Emerging Sectors: Prominent sectors such as roads and power are expected to remain major contributors to the infrastructure expansion. Meanwhile, relatively nascent areas such as electric vehicles (EVs), solar, wind, and hydrogen are poised for significant growth.

Electric Vehicle Revolution

CRISIL predicts a substantial shift towards electric vehicles, with the share of EVs in India’s overall automobile sales projected to reach 30% by 2030. Two-wheeler EV sales are expected to outpace other segments up to 2028, while demand for EV buses will be driven by state transport undertakings. Factors such as favorable total cost of ownership and total cost of acquisition, along with increased model availability for two- and three-wheelers, are expected to support EV adoption in the coming years.

Renewable Energy Surge

CRISIL also anticipates a significant expansion of renewable energy capacity, estimated to grow fourfold between fiscal years 2023 and 2030. Solar energy will account for half of the incremental non-fossil generation. To further enhance sustainability, the adoption of emerging technologies like ‘floatovoltaics’ (floating solar), offshore wind technology, and green hydrogen will be pivotal.

Green Hydrogen Potential

The hydrogen sector is set to attract substantial investments, estimated at ₹1.5 lakh crore between fiscal years 2024 and 2030. Mandates for green hydrogen use and incentive schemes will play a crucial role here, as the production cost of green hydrogen is double that of fossil-based hydrogen.

Sovereign Green Bond Issuance

India’s plan to issue its first sovereign green bond will pave the way for the development of the domestic bond market for green projects. In recent years, there has been a growing global appetite for green assets among investors, leading Indian companies to seek funding in global markets. This move aligns with India’s commitment to green financing and sustainability.

Biden’s Visit to Israel Amid Ongoing Conflict

United States President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel amid an ongoing conflict with Hamas fighters. The trip was confirmed by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and the White House released an official statement emphasizing strong support for Israel.

Preventing Wider Conflict

  • Washington aims to prevent the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza from spreading to a larger conflict in the Middle East.

Recent Events

  • Biden’s visit comes after Hamas fighters breached Israel’s heavily fortified Gaza border, initiating a surprise attack.

  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas, resulting in significant casualties and destruction.

US Military Response

  • The United States has dispatched two aircraft carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean to deter hostile actions against Israel.

  • The Pentagon has also put 2,000 troops on deployment alert for security purposes in the Middle East.

Security Concerns

  • During Secretary Blinken’s visit to Israel, sirens went off, prompting a temporary relocation to a bunker due to security risks.

Political Implications

  • Biden has urged caution on Israel’s actions and expressed reservations about occupying Gaza again. The political impact of his visit remains uncertain.

Comparison to Ukraine Visit

  • Biden’s visit to Israel resembles his trip to Ukraine during the conflict with Russia. Both visits show strong support for allies during times of crisis.

Biden’s Statement

  • Following the attack by Hamas, President Biden stated that the US would provide Israel with the necessary support to defend itself and protect its citizens.

Meetings During Biden’s Visit

  • President Biden will meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

  • He will then travel to Jordan’s capital, Amman, for discussions about increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

  • In Amman, he will meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who opposes Hamas and governs the West Bank.

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