CURRENT AFFAIRS


30th Sep, 2020

Leuser Ecosystem

Recently, Leuser Ecosystem was in the news.

An investigation by the global watchdog Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has shown that various food, cosmetics and finance companies have links with companies which are responsible for the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

It is a forest area on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Leuser Ecosystem

It is among the most ancient and life-rich ecosystems ever documented by science.

It is a world-class hotspot of biodiversity.

It is widely acknowledged to be among the most important areas of intact rainforest left in all of Southeast Asia.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The ecosystem stretches across the province of Aceh and North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Its diverse landscape includes lowland and montane rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands.

It supports viable populations of rare species like Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants, clouded leopards and sun bears.

It plays an important role regulating the global climate by storing massive amounts of carbon in its peatlands and standing forests.

Threats:

(1) Industrial development for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations and mining;

(2) The fires from this widespread destruction have caused major haze pollution

 

Arrest under Official Secrets Act

Recently, Delhi police has arrested a strategic affairs analyst under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923 for passing information such as the deployment of Indian troops on the border to Chinese intelligence officers.

Official Secrets Act (OSA)

OSA broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage and disclosure of secret information of the government.

However, the OSA does not define the secret information.

Generally secret information includes any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information.

If guilty, a person may get up to 14 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Both the person communicating the information and the person receiving the information can be punished under the OSA.

 

India-Sri Lanka Virtual Bilateral Summit held

Recently, Indian Prime Minister and Sri Lankan PM held the first-ever India-Sri Lanka Virtual Bilateral Summit.

A grant assistance of 15 million dollars shall be provided to Sri Lanka.

The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism.

They agreed that the Indian side would facilitate the visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka in the first inaugural flight to Kushinagar.

Both sides also agreed to explore opportunities in the areas of Ayurveda and Yoga.

India and Sri Lanka have reached an understanding to extend the MoU on High Impact Community Development Projects for a five-year period beginning 2020.

Both leaders agreed to continue the successful Indian housing project and gave instructions to the relevant officials to fast-track the construction of 10,000 houses in the plantation sector.

Implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution was also emphasised as it is essential for carrying forward the process of peace and reconciliation and realizing the expectations of Tamils for equality.

Kushinagar Airport was designated as an international airport recently recognizing its importance as a Buddhist site.

 

Increase in Frequency of Medicanes

Recently, scientists have warned that extra-tropical storms in the Mediterranean Sea, known as ‘Medicanes’ or ‘Mediterranean Hurricanes’, could become more frequent due to human-induced climate change.

Medicanes

Medicanes are tropical-like cyclones formed over the Mediterranean Sea.

With the surrounding dry climate and the relatively shallow waters of the sea, the occurrence of tropical-like cyclones is infrequent.

They typically form in the fall or winter months and occur once or twice a year.

On September 18, 2020, a medicane named Lanos made landfall along the coast of Greece and caused heavy rainfall and flooding in Greece and surrounding islands.

 

India based Neutrino Observatory

An India based Neutrino Observatory (INO) is going to be set up in Bodi West Hills, in Theni district, Tamil Nadu.

Funded by: Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Dept. of Science and Technology (DST).

Objective: To observe neutrinos and antineutrinos produced in the atmosphere of the Earth.

Features: The project includes:

(1) Underground laboratory and associated surface facilities at Bodi West Hills;

(2) Construction of a magnetized Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) detector for studying neutrinos.

Advantages:

(1) This observation will tell us more about the properties of neutrino particles;

(2) This will also help in developing a model of physics beyond the so-called Standard Model of Particle Physics;

(3) It would also have a great impact on diverse fields such as nuclear and particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology, medical imaging etc.

INO Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approx. 1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India.

National Neutrino Collaboration group (NNCG) includes more than 50 scientists from about 15 Institutes and Universities in India.

It is tasked with detailing various aspects related to INO activity and to come up with a proposal for an underground neutrino laboratory.

 

Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center

Recently, the Government of India has created the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe).

It is an independent nodal agency under the Department of Space.

IN-SPACe is to be established as a single-window nodal agency, with its own cadre, which will permit and oversee the activities of private companies.

Functions:

(1) Encourage, promote and handhold the private sector for their participation in the Space Sector;

(2) Draw up an integrated launch manifest considering the requirements for ISRO, New Space India Limited (NSIL) and private companies;

(3) Work out a suitable mechanism to offer sharing of technology, expertise and facilities;

(4) Permit establishment of facilities, within ISRO premises, based on safety norms and feasibility assessment.

The decision of IN-SPACe shall be final and binding on all stakeholders including ISRO and private players will not be required to seek separate permission from ISRO.

 

Insolvency And Bankruptcy Code (2nd Amendment) Bill passed

Rajya Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (2nd Amendment) Bill, thereby temporarily suspending initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process.

It amends the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

The Bill seeks to temporarily suspend initiation of the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) under the Code.

When a default occurs, the Code allows the creditors of the company or the company itself to initiate CIRP by filing an application before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The Bill provides that for defaults arising during the six months from March 25, 2020, CIRP can never be initiated by either the company or its creditors.

The central government may extend this period to one year through notification. The Bill clarifies that during this period, CIRP can still be initiated for any defaults arising before March 25, 2020.

 

World Bank’s Human Capital Index 2020

Recently, the World Bank released the Human Capital Index (HCI) report for 2020.

India has been ranked at the 116th position in the HCI 2020.

Last year India was ranked 115 out of 157 countries.

India’s score increased to 0.49 in 2020 from 0.44 in 2018.

Parameters Used in HCI: Health and education data of children for 174 countries up to March 2020.

It covers 98% of the world’s population.

The pandemic puts at risk the decade’s progress in building human capital, including the improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment, and reduced stunting.

More than 1 billion children have been out of school and could lose out, on average, half a year of schooling.

It has created significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.

It has increased income inequality, its economic impact has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.

 

Tata CRISPR Test

India’s first CRISPR Covid-19 test, developed by the Tata Group and CSIR-IGIB, has been approved for use in India.

The Tata CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) test is powered by CSIR-IGIB (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology) FELUDA.

This test uses an indigenously developed, cutting-edge CRISPR technology for detection of the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

CRISPR is a genome editing technology for diagnosing diseases.

It is the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus causing Covid-19.

It achieves accuracy levels of traditional RT-PCR tests, with quicker turnaround time, less expensive equipment, and better ease of use.

 

Virgin Hyperloop to do feasibility study

India’s IT hub, Bengaluru may soon get its own hyperloop network as a future mode of mobility.

Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Virgin Hyperloop and Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed Hyperloop corridor from Bengaluru Airport.

The pre-feasibility study, which focuses on technical, economic and route feasibility, is expected to be completed in 2 phases of six months each.

With speeds of up to 1,080 kmph, hyperloop could transport thousands of passengers per hour from Bengaluru Airport to the city center in under 10 minutes, according to the preliminary analysis.

This will help the people of Bengaluru to save a lot of the time that goes to travel in one of India’s most congested cities.

Passengers travelling to the Bengaluru airport could streamline their multimodal trip with seamless check in and security – for both their hyperloop as well as air travel at centrally-located hyperloop portals which will help in reducing the overall travel time.

In addition to the road network, the airport will also be connected with the sub-urban railway soon and will have Metro connectivity in four years.

 

Margadarshika for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis under Jal Jeevan Mission unveiled

Indian Prime Minister released the new logo for the Jal Jeevan Mission.

‘Margadarshika for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis under Jal Jeevan Mission’ (Guidelines

for the Village Panchayats and Water Committees) was also unveiled.

Referring to the Margadarshika, it was highlighted that they are equally important for the Gram Panchayats, people living in rural areas and for the Government machinery.

The Mardarshika Guidelines will guide the members of the Water Committee and Gram Panchayats in taking the right decisions.

A special 100-day campaign is being launched on 2nd Oct this year under Jal Jeevan Mission to ensure drinking water connection to every school and Anganwadi in the country.

The Jal Jeevan Mission aims at providing every rural household in the country with piped-water connection.

The new logo of the Mission shall continue to inspire the need to save every drop of water.

Jal Jeevan Mission adopts a bottom to top approach, where the users and Paani Samitis (Water Committees) in the villages envision the whole project from its implementation to maintenance and operation.

The mission has also ensured that at least 50% of the members of the water committee would be women.

 

Defence Acquisition Procedure – 2020 released

Union Defence Minister unveiled the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) – 2020 recently.

DAP 2020 will be applicable with effect from 01 October 2020.

The first Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was promulgated in 2002 and has since been revised periodically.

The New Category of Buy (Global – Manufacture in India) incorporates ‘manufacture of either the entire/part of the equipment or Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for the equipment, through its subsidiary in India.

The categories of Buy(Indian-IDDM), Make I, Make II, Production Agency in Design & Development, OFB/DPSU and SP model will be exclusively reserved for Indian Vendors meeting the criteria of Ownership and Control by resident Indian Citizens with FDI not more than 49%.

A simple and practical verification process has been instituted and Indigenous Content (IC) will now be calculated on ‘Base Contract Price’.

Provision for exploring options for operating base applications like Fire Control System, Radars, Encryption, Communications etc. on indigenous software in Buy (Indian- IDDM) & Buy (Indian) cases has been included.

A separate dedicated chapter has been incorporated in the DAP 2020 for acquisition of systems Designed and Developed by DRDO/DPSUs/OFB.

The Offset guidelines have been revised, wherein preference will be given to manufacture of complete defense products over components and various multipliers have been added to give incentivisation in discharge of Offsets.

 

6 Mega development projects inaugurated under Namami Gange Mission

Indian Prime Minister inaugurated 6 mega development projects in Uttarakhand under the Namami Gange Mission.

The Ganga Avalokan Museum, the first of its kind on the River Ganga at Haridwar was also inaugurated.

“Rowing Down the Ganges” book was also released which explains in detail how the River Ganges stands as a glowing symbol of India’s Culture, Faith and Heritage.

These six mega projects of Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) are constructed at Haridwar, Rishikesh, Muni ki Reti, Chorpani, and Badrinath.

The Government would provide upfront around 40% of the project cost to the developer to start the work and the remaining 60% would be borne by the private party.

 

Brucellosis

An outbreak of brucellosis disease was recently reported from China.

More than 3,000 people have been infected with the disease since 2019.

It is a bacterial disease that mainly infects cattle, swine, goats, sheep and dogs.

Humans can get infected if they come in direct contact with infected animals or by eating or drinking contaminated animal products or by inhaling airborne agents.

Most cases of the disease are caused by ingesting unpasteurised milk or cheese from infected goats or sheep.

Symptoms: Fever, sweats, malaise, anorexia, headache and muscle pain.

Human to human transmission of the virus is rare.

Samvedna

SAMVEDNA (Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance), a Toll Free Tele counselling service for children was recently launched.

Launched by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

It will provide psychological first-aid and emotional support to children who are in quarantine or at COVID care centers and children who have COVID positive family members or children who

have lost their parents due to COVID-19.

It will cater to children all over India in various regional languages also.



 






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