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Prelim Bits 31-12-2022 | UPSC Daily Current Affairs

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December 31, 2022

Queen Ahilyabai Holkar (31 May 1725 – 13 August 1795)

Maharashtra Education Minister has sought a proposal from the district administration to rename the Western Maharashtra city of Ahmednagar as Punyashlok Ahilyadevi Nagar.

  • Ahilyabai, born in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, was the Holkar Queen of the Maratha Malwa kingdom.
  • Ahilyabai took control of Malwa after her husband’s death in the Battle of Kumbher against the king of Bharatpur in 1754.
  • She moved the capital to Maheshwar, south of Indore on the Narmada River.
  • She appointed Tukojirao Holkar as the Chief of Army and also personally led armies into battle.
  • She built hundreds of temples and Dharmashalas throughout India.
  • In 1780, she had the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi rebuilt, nearly a century after Mughal king Aurangzeb ordered its destruction.


  1. The Indian Express - Ahmednagar to Ahilyadevi Nagar
  2. The Print - Somnath and Gyanvapi temples were rebuilt

Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT)

India and Saudi Arabia are in talks to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to obtain formal assistance from each other in investigations related to criminal cases.

  • MLAT is a mechanism whereby countries cooperate with one another in order to provide and obtain formal assistance in the prevention, suppression, investigation, and prosecution of crime.
  • This is to ensure that the criminals do not escape or sabotage the due process of law for want of evidence available in different countries.

MLAT can also be signed for civil and commercial matters.

  • Saudi Arabia is only among a dozen other countries that does not have either an MLAT or any other bilateral agreement with India to facilitate such investigations.
  • India has so far signed MLATs with 45 countries, and is also in talks to finalise MLATs with Italy and Germany.
  • Germany had refused to sign MLAT with India on death penalty grounds.
  • India has signed MLAT in civil and commercial matters with Bahrain, France, Russia, Azerbaijan, UAE, and Mongolia.


  1. The Hindu - India, Saudi Arabia discuss MLAT
  2. The Economic Times - India, Poland sign legal help treaty


The sky glows in the dark night sky too due to a phenomenon called airglow.

  • Blue sky - The Sun produces a broad spectrum of visible light (includes all the colours of the rainbow but looks white).
  • When sunlight passes through the air, atoms and molecules in the atmosphere scatter blue light in all directions, thus it appears blue.
  • This is called Rayleigh scattering, and results in a white Sun and blue skies on clear days.
  • Red sky - At sunset, when the Sun is close to the horizon, the sunlight has to pass through more air to reach us.
  • Thus almost all the blue light is scattered (or absorbed by dust) and the Sun appears red with bluer colours surrounding it.

Glowing Night sky

  • The night sky is dark but it glows itself in a coloured mix of green, yellow and red.
  • The glow produced by atoms and molecules in the atmosphere is called airglow.
  • The distinct colours of airglow are the result of atoms and molecules releasing particular amounts of energy (quanta) in the form of light.
  • In visible light,
    1. Oxygen produces green and red light.
    2. Hydroxyl (OH) molecules produce red light.
    3. Sodium produces a sickly yellow.
    4. Nitrogen does not contribute much to airglow.
  • At high altitudes ultraviolet light can split oxygen molecules (O₂) into pairs of oxygen atoms.
  • When these oxygen atoms later recombine into oxygen molecules they produce a distinct green light.
  • Sodium atoms make up a minuscule fraction of our atmosphere, but they make up a big part of airglow.
  • These sodium atoms in atmosphere unusually originates from the smoke trails of shooting stars.


  1. The Hindu - Airglow makes sky green, yellow and red

Voice Technology

Banks and establishments consider the use of voice biometrics as a way to reduce fraud and identity theft risks.

  • Voice Technology (VT) is an emerging technology which uses the unique characteristics of a person’s voice as identification.
  • It encompasses voice biometrics or voice/speech recognition technology.
  • The technology creates a digital voiceprint and compares it to a caller’s voice.
  • It provides an extra layer of protection for data.

Advantages of VT over other biometrics

  • Cheapest Technology - Voice technology uses voice and does not require a reader or special device.
  • Hack Proof - Unlike a password, a customer’s voice is impossible to spoof or copy, and is far more challenging to hack.
  • Swifter - VT verifies a caller in seconds by analysing the caller’s voice and flags suspicious calls.
  • Accuracy – VT has much less error rate and high accuracy authentication.
  • Privacy - VT does not require users to reveal personal information.
  • Sensitivity – Highly sensitive enough to identify impersonation, recorded voice, cold or sore throat.
  • It is also non-invasive, portable and affords remote identification.

Potential Application area

  • Financial Institutions - The voice biometrics industry is growing exponentially now and can help financial institutions to ensure higher levels of protection.
  • Voice authentication can significantly improve security over knowledge-based authentication methods, which fraudsters have exploited to scam people.

In February 2019, HSBC became the first bank to introduce voice recognition for mobile banking customers and the telephone banking fraud cases fell by over 50%.

  • Detecting Criminals - VT is an essential tool for forensics and law enforcement.
  • The police can leverage voice to improve investigation efficiency, identify criminals, track criminals, and better respond to and prevent crimes.


  1. The Hindu - Leveraging voice technology to combat cyber-fraud

Polar Vortex

Experts are taking a closer look at the link between the winter storms and climate change.

  • The polar vortex is a large area of cold air and low pressure surrounding both the poles of the Earth.
  • The polar vortex is located high in the stratosphere.
  • A whirling mass of cold air circulates in the counter-clockwise direction (west to east) called Jet Stream.
  • The jet streams keeps the polar vortex closer to the poles.
  • It always exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter.


Polar Vortex

  • Strong Jet Stream (In case of North Pole) – The Jet stream which surrounds the polar vortex, acts as a barrier between the cold air in the north, and the warmer air in the south.
  • Weak Jet Stream (In case of North Pole) - As the polar vortex weakens, jet stream begins to undulate and take on a more oval shape, bringing more cold air southward.
  • The band of air then meanders in such a way that it allows cold air from the north to intrude at lower latitudes, particularly over the eastern United States.
  • Effects of Weak polar vortex - When the polar vortex becomes perturbed or disrupted, there is an increase in the probability of severe winter weather.
  • According to a 2021 study, this type of disturbance is occurring more often, and is reflected lower in the atmosphere and the jet stream.
  • Other effects are - The Lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes region, Bomb cyclone and Stratospheric warming.
  • Reason for increased disturbances - The changes in the Arctic, accelerated by climate change, the rapid melting of sea ice, and an increase in snow cover in Siberia.


  1. The Hindu - The link between winter storms and global warming
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