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Current Affairs (June 14th - 20th, 2020)

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  • Nepal passes amendment on new map
    Current Affairs The Lower House of Nepal’s Parliament has unanimously voted for the Second Constitution Amendment Bill, which guarantees legal status for the new political map of the country that includes part of Indian territory in Uttarakhand.

    Background:
    The territorial dispute stems from the fact that Nepal claims the land to the east of river Kali, which forms the country’s western border.

    As per Kathmandu’s understanding, the river originates from Limpiyadhura in the higher Himalayas, giving it access to a triangular-shaped land defined by Limpiyadhura-Lipulekh and Kalapani. India opposes the notion and says the origin of the river is much further down, which reduces Nepal’s territorial demand.

    Nepal unveiled the new map after India inaugurated Darchula-Lipulekh link road Nepal had also earlier strongly protested when the updated Indian map published in November 2019, showing the region as part of Uttarakhand.

    Nepal claims right to the region and says India was allowed to station troops there in the 1950s and that India has refused to remove forces from the region ever since.

  • International Albinism Awareness Day on 13 June
    International Albinism Awareness Day (IAAD) is observed on 13 June. The day is observed to celebrate the human rights of persons with albinism across the world.

    Theme:
    The theme for 2020 International Albinism Awareness Day is "Made To Shine." The theme has been selected to celebrate the achievements and successes of persons with albinism worldwide. Bullying, Killings, attacks, dehumanizing stigma, and discrimination continue against people with albinism.

    History:
    In the mid-2000s, there occurred a rising number of violent attacks on and murders of persons with albinism in Tanzania. Persons with albinism were accused to attribute magical powers. Such persons were used for lucky charms and occult rituals. By the year 2015, perpetrators killed over 70 victims and many were more. In response to this, the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) and other NGOs began campaigning for the human rights of persons with albinism.

    On 4 May 2006, TAS celebrated the first Albino Day. From the year 2009, the day became National Albino Day and was eventually called National Albinism Day. In December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution 69/170 and designated the observation of IAAD with effect from 13 June 2015.

    Albinism:
    Albinism is a congenital condition that is characterized by complete or partial lack of pigmentation in hair, skin, and eyes. The condition might last for several years or even a lifetime.

    Symptoms: The symptoms for Albinism are: the absence of color in the hair, skin, or eyes, lighter than normal coloring of the hair, skin, or eyes and patches of skin that have an absence of color. It is accompanied by a number of vision defects including nystagmus, amblyopia, and photophobia.

    Treatment: Albinism can not be cured. But, treating many symptoms can be relieved and sun damage can be prevented. Treatment includes sunglasses to protect the eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, protective clothing, and sunscreen to protect the skin from UV rays, prescription eyeglasses to correct vision problems & surgery on the muscles of the eyes to correct abnormal eye movements.

  • Indian Naval LOs at Madagascar and Abu Dhabi
    India is planning to post Naval Liaison Officers (LOs) at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar and the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) in Abu Dhabi for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).

    This move comes after India joined the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) as Observer in March 2020 along with Japan and the United Nations.

    Key Points
    The move aims to improve linkages of the Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurugram with other IFCs and become the repository for all maritime data in the IOR.

    India is working closely with France, who is a pre-eminent member of IOC, to post a Naval LO at the RMIFC in Madagascar.

    The RMFIC functions under the aegis of the IOC and is designed to deepen maritime domain awareness by monitoring maritime activities and promoting information sharing and exchange.

    The Navy LO is expected to be posted at EMASOH by July and at the RMIFC by September or October 2020.

    India has a LO at the IFC in Singapore for over four years now.

    India’s Other Initiatives:
    To strengthen the naval forces and surveillance, India has signed a series of white shipping agreements, Logistics Support Agreements (LSA) and maritime cooperation agreements with several countries, recently.

    For example, India Australia Virtual Summit announced a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in which they agreed to deepen navy-to-navy cooperation and strengthen MDA in the Indo-Pacific region through enhanced exchange of information.

    In 2015, India unveiled it's strategic vision for the Indian Ocean i.e. Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). It is an increasing recognition of the increasing importance of maritime security, maritime commons and cooperation.

    Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.

  • Jet Zero Plan
    Recently, the United Kingdom (U.K.) announced a ‘Jet Zero’ plan to bring down its aviation emissions.

    Key Points
    Aim: The Jet Zero aims to bring down greenhouse gas emissions from aviation to make carbon-free transatlantic flights possible within a generation.

    A transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa.

    Jet Zero Council: A group called ‘Jet Zero Council’ has been formed by the U.K. government by bringing together leaders from the aviation sector, environmental groups and government.

    This group has been given charge for making net zero emissions possible for future flights.

    Challenges: To achieve its target of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, it is important to cut transport emissions.

    Aviation emissions currently account for more than 2% of global greenhouse gases and have risen by 70% since 2005.

    The International Civil Aviation Organization forecasts that the emissions will rise another 300% by 2050 in the absence of measures to bring them down.

    The U.K. government is also funding Velocys (aviation biofuels making company) in support of its plans to build a major jet biofuel plant in Lincolnshire.

  • Increasing Nuclear Stockpiles
    According to a recent report published in the SIPRI Yearbook 2020, India, Pakistan and China have increased their nuclear stockpile in the past year and all nations already having them, are modernising their nuclear arsenals.

    The SIPRI Yearbook is released by the Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which researches international armament and conflict.

    SIPRI also releases the annual report ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure’ and in 2019, India was among the top three largest military spenders.

    Key Points
    Data Analysis:
    The nine nations that have nuclear weapons include the USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

    The report has not counted North Korean numbers because of the ‘highly uncertain’ number of nuclear heads.

    The total number of nuclear warheads in these nuclear-armed countries has gone down from 13,865 in 2019 to 13,400 in 2020.

    The decline in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the USA (New START) which together account for more than 90% of the nuclear warheads in the world.

    Russia and the USA have already announced extensive plans to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

    India, Pakistan and China have increased their nuclear stockpile and are significantly modernising their arsenals.

    Both China and Pakistan have a larger stockpile of nuclear weapons compared to India.

    India and Pakistan are slowly increasing the size and diversity of their nuclear forces.

    China is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.

    Less Transparency:
    The report noted that the availability of reliable information on the status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the nuclear-armed states varies considerably because governments are hesitant to fully disclose the information on their arsenals.

    The governments of India and Pakistan told about some of their missile tests but provided little information about the status or size of their arsenals.

    In 2019, the USA ended the practice of publicly disclosing the size of its stockpile.

    New START:
    The USA and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) 2010 but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.

    However, discussions on its extension have made no progress so far because of the USA’s insistence that China must join any future nuclear arms reduction talks, which China has categorically ruled out.

    The deadlock over the New START and the collapse of the Soviet-USA Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty 1987) in 2019 suggest that bilateral nuclear arms control agreements might be coming to an end.

    Both countries have given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalisation of nuclear weapons.

  • USA Sanctions Against the International Criminal Court
    Recently, the USA has authorised sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) officials involved in investigations into possible war crimes by USA troops and its allies.

    Key Points
    The Sanction:
    Under it, any individuals who have directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States or have attempted the same against the USA ally may be subject to sanctions.

    It has broadened the visa restrictions on ICC officials or anyone who has sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to them.

    The restrictions also extend to the officials’ family members.

    The economic sanctions would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

    Israel supported the decision as it accused the ICC of fabricating charges against the country.

    The USA’s Stand:
    The USA has considered the ICC a threat to USA sovereignty, and announced the strict punitive measures that are generally reserved for use against terror groups and those accused of abusing human rights.

    It has called the 123 nations-strong tribunal a “kangaroo court”.

    It blamed the ICC office for financial corruption and maladministration.

    It has also blamed Russia for manipulating the ICC in its favour.

    The ICC’s Stand:
    The ICC supported its officials, and called the sanction as an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law.

    It said the sanction represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes.

    Reactions Against the Sanction:

    The United Nations had taken serious note about the USA order.

    The European Union called the USA decision a matter of serious concern.

    The international NGO Human Rights Watch has observed that by penalising war crimes investigators, the USA is openly siding with those who commit and cover up human rights abuses.

    Background
    The Bill Clinton administration (1993-2001) was involved in Rome Statute negotiations, and signed the document in 2000.

    The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (International Criminal Court Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    However, the next president, George W. Bush in 2002 had unsigned the Statute and signed into law the American Service-Members’ Protection Act to protect the USA nationals from the ICC’s reach.

    The USA adopted a positive approach towards the forum during several instances– in 2005 it did not veto a UN Security Council request to the ICC to investigate crimes during the Darfur crisis (Sudan) and in 2011 voted for Libya’s referral to the court.

    It also provided critical support in transferring suspects from Africa to the ICC for trial.

    However, in the UN General Assembly in 2018, the USA decided that it would not support or recognize the International Criminal Court.

    According to it, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.

    In 2020, the ICC asked for a formal probe into alleged atrocities committed during the Afghanistan War between 2003 and 2014– leading to possible charge against the USA military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA-USA’s agency) officials.

  • Iran Blocking Sites Access: IAEA
    In two unreleased reports, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed serious concerns after Iran has been blocking inspections of two suspect locations for more than four months.

    Key Points
    Although IAEA did not publicly name these sites, it held that Iran's enriched uranium stockpile has exceeded the agreed limit.

    According to the IAEA, Iran may have used the sites for processing and converting uranium ore in 2003.

    Iran denied the reports and hinted that queries were based on fabricated information from intelligence services.

    Iran has always denied that it has ever sought to develop a nuclear weapon, insisting that its programmes have been peaceful.

    It comes amid rising tensions between Iran and the USA, which pulled out of the 2015 international agreement.

  • Iran Nuclear Program and JCPOA
    In 2015, Iran with the P5+1 group of world powers - the USA, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany agreed on a long-term deal on its nuclear programme.

    The deal was named as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and in common parlance as Iran Nuclear Deal.

    Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of sanctions and access to global trade.

    The agreement allowed Iran to accumulate small amounts of uranium for research, but it banned the enrichment of uranium, which is used to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.

    Iran was also required to redesign a heavy-water reactor being built, whose spent fuel would contain plutonium suitable for a bomb and to allow international inspections.

    In May 2018, the USA abandoned the deal criticising it as flawed and reinstated and tightened its sanctions.

    The USA held that it would attempt to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil and put pressure on Iran to negotiate a new nuclear accord.

    The top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani (the commander of the Al-Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC) was assassinated by the USA during his visit to Iraq. This escalated tensions in the international arena.

    Amid rising tensions, Britain, France and Germany declared that Iran was violating the 2015 pact and launched a dispute mechanism that could eventually see the matter referred back to the Security Council and the reimposition of UN sanctions.

    Since sanctions were tightened, Iran has been steadily breaking some of its commitments to pressure the remaining signatories to find a way to provide sanctions relief.

  • World Blood Donor Day is observed on 14 June
    World Blood Donor Day 2020 is observed on 14 June every year. The aim is to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.

    It also aims to raise wider awareness of the urgent need to increase the availability of safe blood for use wherever and whenever it is needed to save a life.

    Theme:
    The theme of 2020 Blood Donor Day is "Safe Blood Saves Lives". The theme aims to achieve universal health coverage. The slogan for the campaign this year is "Give Blood And Make The World A Healthier Place" It also aims to raise awareness about the universal need for safe blood in the delivery of health care

    History:
    World Blood Donor Day is observed every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of Karl Landsteiner on 14 June 1868. This event was first initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on 14 June 2004. The aim is to raise public awareness about the need for safe blood donation voluntarily and unpaid by the healthy person.

  • World wind day is observed on 15 June
    World wind day is observed on 15 June every year. The day aims to spread awareness and encourage the use of wind as a form of green and renewable sources of energy. The day focuses on how wind energy can be utilized more aggressively.

    History:
    The day is organized every year by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). EWEA & GWEC coordinate with various networks of partners to celebrate this day. The observation of the Global Wind Day began in Europe in the year 2007 and globally in the year 2009. Global Wind Day is observed in more than 75 countries.

    Wind energy in India:
    Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing in the energy sectors of India. The government of India has set an ambitious target of producing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030.

    India is currently working to meet the target of producing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. The states that produce and utilize most of the wind energy in India include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.

  • World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed on 15th June
    World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed globally on 15th June every year. The day aims to provide an opportunity for communities around the globe to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons.

    It also aims to create awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

    Elder Abuse:
    Abuse of the elderly consists of physical, emotional, or sexual harm that is inflicted upon an older adult. It also includes exploiting their finances, or neglecting their welfare, especially by people who are responsible for their care.

    History:
    The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was initiated by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) in 2006. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed its resolution A/RES/66/127 and designated the observation of the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

  • International Day of Family Remittances is observed on 16 June
    International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) is observed on 16 June every year. The international day aims to recognize the contribution of over 200 million migrant workers, who work hard to improve the lives of their 800 million family members back home. It also aims to create a future of hope for their children.

    The day will be observed under unprecedented conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of migrant workers have lost their jobs, and many remittance families are suddenly pushed below the poverty line due to the pandemic. This has brought to a halt effort to reach their own individual SDGs.

    History:
    The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed the resolution A/RES/72/281 and designated the day on 16 June.

    The day aims to bring greater awareness of the impact that these contributions have on millions of households, communities, countries, and the entire region and the civil society, to maximize the impact of remittances through individual, and collective actions.

  • India’s Assistance for Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal
    Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Nepal for the construction of a sanitation facility at the Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu.

    This comes amid a raging border row between the two countries.

    Key Points
    The facility will be constructed under the Nepal-Bharat Maitri: Development Partnership as a high impact community development scheme by India.

    Financial Assistance: India has pledged to extend financial assistance amounting to Rs. 2.33 crore.

    Implemented by: Kathmandu Metropolitan City.

    Norms and Completion: Norms to be laid out by the Government of Nepal and completion within 15 months.

    Earlier in 2018, Nepal-Bharat Maitri Pashupati Dharmashala was also inaugurated in Kathmandu, Nepal.

    Significance: This initiative is another milestone in strengthening cultural ties and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

  • Elections for Non-permanent Members of the UNSC
    Election for five non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is being held on 17th June, 2020.

    Key Points
    India’s Election:
    India is standing unopposed as the nominee for the Asia-Pacific seat, for the 2021-22 term and needs the vote of two-thirds of UNGA members (129 votes) to be confirmed.

    In 2019, the candidature of India was unanimously endorsed by the 55-member Asia-Pacific grouping, which also included China and Pakistan.

    This would be India's eighth term in the UNSC which will begin from January 2021.

    Contenders for Other Seats:

    Mexico is expected to be elected unopposed for the Latin American group.

    Canada, Ireland and Norway will contend for two seats of the West European and Others Group (WEOG).

    Kenya and Djibouti will contend for an African seat.

    India’s Commitment at UNSC: In its campaign brochure, India had highlighted:

    Its commitment to multilateralism.

    India’s objective will be the achievement of N.O.R.M.S: a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.

    A reformed multilateralism and multilateral system is essential to ensure that the international system is inclusive and caters to the requirements of all countries.

    Demand for transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions.

    Push for the Indian-led Comprehensive Convention for International Terrorism (CCIT). CCIT includes the following major objectives:

    To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law.

    To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps.

    To prosecute all terrorists under special laws.

    To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offense worldwide.

    Joint efforts for UN reform and the expansion of the UNSC.

    India has been at the forefront to reform the UNSC, saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the UNSC, which in its current form does not represent the geo-political realities of the 21st century.

    Benefits of India’s Membership at UNSC:
    India’s presence in the UNSC will ensure that the voice of the largest democracy in the world (with strong multilateral credentials) will be heard in an important organ of the United Nations.

    India has always had a global voice and this will give India a greater opportunity to participate actively and shape the Covid-19 and post-Covid scenario.

    Its presence in the UNSC will help bring to the world its ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’-the world is one family.

    The Global South has its development and security aspirations and India will help articulate these aspirations in the Council across different issues.

  • World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed on 17 June
    World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed on 17 June. The day is aimed to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

    Theme:
    The theme for 2020 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is "Food. Feed.Fibre. - the links between consumption and land". The theme is focuses to change public attitudes which are the leading driver of desertification and land degradation.

    History:
    During the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, challenges like desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified to achieve sustainable development.

    In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). UNGA declared 17 June as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought by passing the resolution A/RES/49/115.

    In the year 2007, the UNGA declared 2010-2020 as the UN Decade for Deserts and the fight against Desertification to mobilize global action to fight land degradation.

  • India ranked 43rd on the IMDs World Competitiveness Index
    India ranked 43rd on the Institute for Management Development's (IMD) 2020 World Competitiveness Index ranks. It stated that the continued low ranking of India is due to the traditional weaknesses such as insufficient education investment and poor infrastructure.

    Highlights:
    The Index was topped the 63rd edition of IMD rankings.

    Denmark ranked 2nd. It secured 8th rank in 2019.

    Among the BRICS Nations, China topped and India has ranked second followed by Russia at 50th rank, Brazil 56th, and South Africa 59th rank.

    Top 5 countries in the list are:
    1. Singapore
    2. Denmark
    3. Switzerland
    4. Netherland
    5. Hong Kong

  • World Crocodile Day
    World Crocodile Day is celebrated on 17th June. The day is a global awareness campaign to highlight the plight of endangered crocodiles and alligators around the world.

    Crocodilian Species in India
    Mugger or Marsh Crocodile:
    The mugger is an egg-laying and hole-nesting species.

    The mugger is also known to be dangerous.

    Habitat:
    It is mainly restricted to the Indian subcontinent where it may be found in a number of freshwater habitat types including rivers, lakes and marshes. However, it can even be found in coastal saltwater lagoons and estuaries.

    It is already extinct in Bhutan and Myanmar.

    Protection Status:
    IUCN List of Threatened Species: Vulnerable
    CITES : Appendix I
    Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 : Schedule I

    Estuarine or Saltwater Crocodile:
    It is considered as the Earth’s largest living crocodile species.

    The estuarine crocodile is infamous globally as a known maneater.

    Habitat:
    It is found in Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park, the Sundarbans in West Bengal and the Andamans and Nicobar Islands.

    It is also found across Southeast Asia and northern Australia.

    Protection Status:
    IUCN List of Threatened Species: Least Concern

    CITES : Appendix I (except the populations of Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, which are included in Appendix II).

    Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 : Schedule I

    Gharial
    Gharials, sometimes called gavials, are a type of Asian crocodilian distinguished by their long, thin snouts which resembles a pot (ghara in Hindi).

    Gharials are a type of Crocodilians that also includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, etc.

    The population of Gharials are a good indicator of clean river water.

    The gharial is known to be a relatively harmless, fish-eating species.

    Habitat:
    The gharials are mostly found in fresh waters of the himalayan rivers.

    The chambal river in the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains ( Madhya Pradesh) is known as the primary habitat of gharials.

    Other himalayan rivers like ghagra, gandak river, Girwa river, Ramganga river and the Sone river are secondary habitats for gharials.

    Protection Status:
    IUCN List of Threatened Species: Critically Endangered

    CITES : Appendix I

    Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 : Schedule I

    Human-Crocodile Conflict
    Reasons:
    An encroachment of humans on the riverbanks and marshy areas with an increased urbanisation is one of the foremost reasons for increasing human-crocodile conflict in these areas.

    Hotspots:
    Vadodara in Gujarat, Kota in Rajasthan, Bhitarkanika in Odisha and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are considered as the human-crocodile conflict hotspots in India.

    Indian Crocodile Conservation Project
    The Crocodile Conservation Project was launched in 1975 in different States.

    The Gharial and Saltwater crocodile conservation programme was first implemented in Odisha in early 1975 and subsequently the Mugger conservation programme was initiated.

    As a result of the programme, the estimated number of the saltwater crocodiles increased from 96 in 1976 to 1,640 in 2012 in India.

  • Global Trends Report: UNHCR
    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has released its annual Global Trends report before the World Refugee Day (20th June).

    Global Trends is published every year to count and track the numbers of refugees, internally displaced people, people who have returned to their countries or areas of origin, asylum-seekers, stateless people and other populations of concern to UNHCR.

    Key Points
    Displacement in 2019:
    Nearly 80 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2019 — which is nearly 1% of the global population.

    Half of those displaced were children.

    Of the 80 million people, 26 million were cross-border refugees, 45.7 million were internally displaced people, 4.2 million were asylum seekers and 3.6 million were Venezuelans displaced abroad.

    More than eight of every 10 refugees (85%) are in developing countries, generally a country neighbouring the one they fled.

    Five countries account for two-thirds of people displaced across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

    Syria has been the top country of origin for refugees since 2014.

    Reason of Displacement:
    Persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order were the main reasons behind the forced displacement.

    80% of the world’s displaced people are in countries or territories affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition – many of them facing climate and other disaster risk.

    Comparison of Displacement in Past Decade (2010-19):
    The number of refugees doubled from about 10 million in 2010 to 20.4 million at the end of 2019. Close to 53% were newly displaced.

    1 in every 97 people were affected by forced displacement in 2019, compared to 1 in every 159 people in 2010 and 1 in every 174 in 2005.

    Nearly to 40% of those displaced (or 30-34 million) forcibly between 2010-2019 include children below 18 years of age.

    Very few people who have been displaced were able to return to their homes.

    In the 1990s, on average 1.5 million refugees were able to return home each year. That number has fallen to around 3,85,000 in the past decade (2010-2019).

  • International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict is observed on 19 June
    International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict is observed on 19 June. The day aims to create awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence.

    Conflict-related sexual violence
    Conflict-related sexual violence refers to sexual slavery, forced prostitution, rape, forced pregnancy or abortion, enforced sterilization, and forced marriage. It also includes any other form of sexual violence committed against women, men, girls, or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. It includes trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.

    Background:
    On 19 June 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution A/RES/69/293 and proclaimed 19 June as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

    The day aims to raise awareness about conflict-related sexual violence and honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world. The day also aims to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.

    National
  • Inclusion of Reservation Laws in Ninth Schedule
    Current Affairs Recently, a Union Minister emphasised the need to include all reservation-related laws in the Ninth Schedule of Constitution so that they are shielded from judicial review.

    Key Points
    The minister argued that reservation is not confined just to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and is available to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and poor sections of the upper castes as well and have been attached to Fundamental Rights.

    SC/ST Reservation:
    Both the Centre and the states are permitted to make any special provision for the advancement of SCs and STs.

    The quota in government jobs and educational institutions for SCs and STs is 15% and 7.5% respectively (total 22.5%).

    Other Backward Class (OBC) Reservation:
    Both the Centre and the states are empowered to make provision for the advancement of OBCs regarding their admission to educational institutions and government jobs.

    The quota limit for OBCs is 27%.

    However, various state governments have different quota limits for OBCs in their state like Tamil Nadu has 50% reservation for OBCs.

    In the IndraSawhney& Others vs Union of India, 1992 judgement, the Supreme Court fixed the upper limit for the combined reservation quota i.e. should not exceed 50% of seats.

    Economically Weaker Section (EWS) Reservation:
    The 103rd Constitution Amendment Act, 2019 empowers both Centre and the states to provide 10% reservation to the EWS category of society in government jobs and educational institutions.

    Background:
    This demand comes after the Supreme Court’s recent observation that the Right to Reservation is not a Fundamental Right.

    Earlier, SC ruled that reservation in the matter of promotions in public posts was not a fundamental right and that a state cannot be compelled to offer quota if it chooses not to.

    Apart from that, there have been repeated challenges to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and its amendments.

  • Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium
    The Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare highlighted the role of Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) in increasing incomes of small and marginal farmers through aggregation and development of agribusiness.

    Key Points
    Established: SFAC was established in 1994 under Societies Registration Act, 1860 as an autonomous body promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare.

    Objectives: Promoting agribusiness by encouraging institutional and private sector investments and linkages to ensure the empowerment of all farmers in the country.

    Organising small and marginal farmers as Farmer Interest Groups, Farmer Producer Organisations and Farmer Producer Company for endowing them with bargaining power and economies of scale.

    Few Important Schemes Implemented by SFAC: Equity Grant & Credit Guarantee Fund (EGCGF) Scheme , Venture Capital Assistance (VCA) Scheme, Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) Scheme, National Agriculture Market (NAM) Scheme, etc.

    Recent Initiatives/Developments: SFAC launched the KisanRath app with the help of officials of the Ministry of Agriculture which lessened the problem of transport of farm produce during lockdown.

    It signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to bring in better synergy in the agricultural activities.

  • Centre launched Aarogyapath for healthcare supply chain
    Government of India has launched Aarogyapath, a web-based solution for the healthcare supply chain that provides real-time availability of critical supplies. Aarogyapath is available on CSIR National Healthcare Supply Chain Portal. The portal Aarogyapath was developed in partnership with Sarvodaya Infotech.

    Aarogyapath:
    AarogyaPath will serve manufacturers, suppliers, and customers.

    The aim is to tackle the national health emergency that has arisen out of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the critical items may be compromised due to a variety of reasons.

    AarogyaPath aims to provide a path that leads one on a journey towards Aarogya (healthy life). it has been developed to address these challenges.

    AarogyaPath is expected to become the national healthcare information platform of choice in the years to come, filling a critical gap in last-mile delivery of patient care within India through improved availability and affordability of healthcare supplies.

  • Centre directs all 8 North Eastern States to set-up e-office
    Centre has directed all the 8 North Eastern States to set up e-office in a stipulated timeframe. The announcement was made by Union Minister of State for Personnel, PG and Pensions Dr. Jitendra Singh. The e-office project will be a cardinal pillar of Digital India.

    Highlights:
    The e-office project is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”.

    The e-office will ensure ease of administration, transparency, and citizen-centric delivery mechanism.

    So far, 55 Ministries in the Government of India have implemented the e-office.

    GoI also assured that all technical and financial support to achieve the e-office mission to be implemented right from Civil Secretariat to the District level in all the States.

    The implementation of e-Office will creation a paperless State Secretariats in a time-bound manner where officers would be empowered with virtual private networks, digital signature certificates, and promote less contact governance.

  • NHAI becomes first construction sector organisation to go Fully Digital
    The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has announced that it has gone Fully Digital as it has launched a unique cloud-based and Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered Big Data Analytics platform 'Data Lake and Project Management Software'.

    Highlight:
    NHAI's entire project management workflow is transformed from manual to the online portal based.

    Also, the complete project execution operations including 'workflow with timelines' and 'alert mechanism' have been configured.

    Project documentation, contractual decisions, and approvals are processed through the portal only.

    The Data Lake software, with advanced analytics, will forecast the delays, likely disputes, and will give advance alerts.

    The system will facilitate in taking correct and timely decisions as the system is likely to predict the financial impacts of different alternatives based on the historical data and will reduce a lot of disputes.

    Majority of the disputes can be minimized as the Data Lake software has provisions to keep track and check on all these constraints and will ensure work is carried out within the deadlines in a transparent manner.

    As all processes are going to be portal-based, decision-making will be faster and will eventually diminish the chances of litigation in the future.

  • SC to extend virtual court system amid COVID-19 fears
    A committee of Supreme Court judges has decided to continue the virtual court system and not revert to the physical hearings, given the rise in COVID-19 cases.

    Details:
    The SC has been hearing urgent cases through video-conference. The court had named this mechanism the ‘virtual court system’.

    The Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Bar Council of India have been making representations to the SC calling for resumption of physical hearings at the earliest.

    They have argued that a majority of the lawyers cannot effectively present their arguments at virtual hearings.

  • Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP)
    The Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic plants (CIMAP) has announced a photography competition on medicinal and aromatic plants to convey the message of conservation of these medicinal plants.

    The theme of the competition is ‘Know your Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs)’.

    Key Points
    Established: Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, popularly known as CIMAP, was established originally as Central Indian Medicinal Plants Organisation (CIMPO) in 1959. It was rechristened as Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in 1978.

    Objectives: It is a frontier plant research laboratory of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It focuses on high quality research in biological and chemical sciences and extending technologies and services to the farmers and entrepreneurs of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs).

    Headquarters: Lucknow, U.P.

    CIMAP, Lucknow houses the National Gene Bank of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, in addition to seed gene bank, tissue and DNA bank.

    Research Centres: Bangalore (Karnataka), Hyderabad (Telangana), Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Purara (Uttarakhand).

    CIPAM is presently accredited by International Centre for Science and High Technology- United Nations Industrial Development Organization (ICS-UNIDO) and Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA) as a focal point for research and training on Medicinal Plants among participating member countries.

  • Behaviour Change Model for Living with Covid-19
    Recently, Meghalaya has issued a new health protocol saying that it would consider everybody as an asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) carrier of Covid-19 ‘by default’ because it is the best way to prevent the threat of community transmission with migrants returning to the state from different zones.

    Key Points
    Behaviour Change Model for living with Covid-19:
    The pandemic has resulted in two kinds of fear: fear for the loss of life and fear for the loss of livelihood, that is why the state wants to build a system through which people can protect themselves and carry out their livelihood at the same time.

    People have to live with the coronavirus now and that could be achieved through what psychologists call the ‘locus of control’, or the extent to which one feels control over events in their lives.

    As soon as people think that they could be Covid-19 positive, their entire behaviour changes and they become more cautious and feel responsible for their actions and thus help to reduce the risk of community transmission.

    Implementation Method:
    To implement this, there is a four-pronged plan that suggests testing everyone who enters the state, isolating them, stressing on behavioural change and finally training them.

    Everyone in the state shall be treated as Category A patients unless they are tested on a continuous basis.

    This implies living with the assumption that every person could be an asymptomatic, mobile carrier of the Covid-19 virus, with a probability of transmitting the virus to others unknowingly.

    The Category A patients will have to follow three non-negotiable practices: compulsory mask-wearing, hand hygiene and social distancing.

    For that, the health department of the state has built a series of training modules by dividing the entire population into three categories:

    The elderly, who are above 65.

    Those who have comorbidities (It is the presence of one or more additional medical conditions often co-occurring with a primary condition and is associated with worse health outcomes, more complex clinical management and increased health care costs).

    The mobile group or the mobile workforce including students who are constantly on the move.

    The Health Department will carry out the training with the help of identified master trainers and a certificate will be provided to all those who have successfully completed training.

    The two main components of training include checklists and self-help diaries.
    Checklists: A checklist, with a set of model questions which address topics such as hand hygiene, social distancing, respiratory etiquette, will be provided for all three groups. The checklist is designed in such a way that one can rate themselves out of ten based on their performance on that day.

    Self-help Diaries: The senior population and those living with comorbidities can use these as a tool to monitor themselves. Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and Anganwadi teams will go to every house to train this section.

  • Talamaddale gone virtual
    The traditional art of ‘talamaddale’, a variant of Yakshagana theatre, has gone virtual in times of Covid-19.

    Key Points
    In the conventional ‘talamaddale,’ the artists sit across in a place without any costumes and engage in testing their oratory skills based on the episode chosen.

    It has only spoken words without any dance or costumes. Hence it is Yakshagana minus dance, costumes and stage conventions.

    Yakshagana
    Yakshagaana, traditional theatre form of Karnataka, is based on mythological stories and Puranas.

    The most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e. Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yuddh and from Ramayana i.e. Rajyabhishek, Lav-Kush yuddh, Baali-Sugreeva yuddh and Panchavati.

    Gombeyatta puppet theatre closely follows Yakshagana.

  • Centre launched Feedback Call Centres on COVID-19 Public Grievances
    Union Minister of State (MoS) for Personnel, PG and Pensions Dr. Jitendra Singh launched the Feedback Call Centres on Public Grievances on 15 June. Recently, the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) reached the milestone of redressing one lakh COVID-19 Public Grievances.

    Highlights:
    DARPG collaborated with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to operationalize Feed Back Call Centers in Bhubaneshwar, Guwahati, Jamshedpur, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Ajmer, Guntur, Coimbatore and Guntakal with 1406 call centre operators.

    The Feedback Call Centres will get feedback from individual citizens on citizen satisfaction on 1.28 lakh COVID-19 Public Grievances that were filed on Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) for the period 30 March to 30 May 2020.

    Training on the feedback questionnaires that are necessary to call centre operators has been completed on 9-10 June 2020.

    Feedback call-centres will operate in many Indian languages including Hindi, English, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese and Rajasthani.

  • HIL India Ltd. supplies 25 MT Malathion 95 percent ULV Insecticides to Iran for Locust Control Programme
    HIL (India) Limited, a PSU under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, has supplied 25MT Malathion 95% Ultra-low volume (ULV) to Iran under Government-to-Government initiative for Locust Control Programme.

    Highlights:
    HIL (India) Limited is supplying Malathion 95% ULV to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare Locust Control Programme in India. From the year 2019 to date, the HIL company has supplied more than 600 MT of Malathion 95% ULV for this programme.

    As per the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the hopper stage population of the locust is building up in the Sistan-Baluchistan region of Iran and might migrate to India in the coming months leading to further crop devastation.

    Also, the Government of India has taken an initiative to counter the locust menace at its breeding ground itself and approached Iran for coordinated efforts.

    Background:
    Recently, India approached Pakistan and Iran for coordinated response to counter desert locust menace in the region for which Iran expressed its willingness to the proposal.

    According to that, the Ministry of External Affairs placed an order with HIL (India) Limited to manufacture and supply 25 MT of Malathion 95% ULV to Iran. The consignment is expected to reach Iran by 16th June 2020.

    Desert Locust has devastated in Horn of Africa, East Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula has entered India in March/April 2020. It has affected the field crop, horticulture crops, and other plantations in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. Also, India is experiencing the worst locust invasion, which was last observed more than 25 years back.

  • Centre distributed assistive aids and devices to divyangjan under ADIP Scheme
    Government of India has taken special measures to benefit the welfare scheme for Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) amidst the prevailing unprecedented situation faced by the society due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Highlights:
    A Virtual Assistance to Disabled Persons (ADIP) Scheme for free distribution of assistive aids and devices at Block level for Divyangjans under the ADIP scheme was organized at Talwandi Bhai Block of Firozpur district in Punjab.

    Such camp was organized by the ALIMCO under DEPwD, M/o Social Justice and Empowerment for the first time after the opening of lockdown with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) approved by the Government of India.

    Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has announced that the Virtual ADIP Camps will be organized nationwide for distribution of aids & assistive devices to Divyangjan during the pandemic.

    Under the Ministry, several schemes have been initiated to provide financial assistance and scholarships to Divyangjan students to pursue their education to become self-reliant.

    Centre also invited Divyangjan and their family members to get enrolled for Unique ID Cards for Divyangjan which are valid all over India.

    31 Lakhs Unique ID Cards have been delivered to Divyangjan so far in India.

    The following Aids and appliance were distributed in the series of Blockwise distribution camps in Firozpur district. The details are as under:
    Braille Kit - 03
    Motorised Tricycle - 200
    Tricycle - 239
    Wheel Chair - 194
    C.P Chair - 23
    Crutches - 394
    Walking Sticks - 108
    Smart Cane - 76
    Smart Phone - 51
    Daisy Player -17
    Rollator -21
    Hearing Aid - 226
    MSIED KIT - 98
    Artificial Limbs & Callipers – 17

  • Centre launched online delivery-based gas trading platform, Indian Gas Exchange
    The Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan launched the Indian Gas Exchange (IGX) in an e-ceremony on 15 June. It will be the first nationwide online delivery-based gas trading platform.

    Indian Gas Exchange (IGX):
    IGX will act as a delivery-based trading platform to deliver natural gas.

    The launch of IGX aims to help the nation move towards free-market pricing of natural gas

    It is incorporated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX), India’s energy market platform.

    IGX will enable market participants to trade in standardized gas contracts.

    The fully automated platform is a web-based interface and it provides seamless trading experience to the customers.

    IGX is expected to play a bigger role in realizing a free market for gas.

    IGX, India's vision on mega investments on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, gas pipelines, City-gas distribution (CGD) infrastructure, and permission for market-driven price mechanism will be materialized.

  • India joined GPAI to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of AI
    India has joined as a founding member and launched the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI or Gee-Pay). Under this move, India has joined along with the league of leading economies including Australia, the US, the UK, European Union (EU), Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Korea, Singapore.

    Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI):
    GPAI initiative aims to guide the responsible development and use of AI across the world.

    The first of its kind initiative aims to evolve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities around AI using the experience and diversity of participating countries.

    The main objective of the initiative is to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.

    Under this initiative experts from civil society, governments, industry, and academia will collaborate to promote the responsible evolution of AI.

    They will evolve new methodologies through which AI can be leveraged to better respond to the present global crisis around COVID-19 pandemic.

    By joining GPAI as a founding member, India will now participate in the global development of AI, leveraging upon its experience around the use of digital technologies for inclusive growth.

    GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat. It will be hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, and 2 Centers of Expertise- one in Montreal and the other in Paris.

  • Thaawarchand Gehlot to inaugurate CRC for persons with disabilities in Ranchi
    The Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Dr. Thaawarchand Gehlot is to inaugurate Composite Regional Centre (CRC) on 17 April through video conferencing amid COVID-19 pandemic. The Centre is located inside Namkum Block Office, Khijri, Ranchi.

    CRC-Ranchi:
    CRC-Ranchi will provide rehabilitation services including Physical medicine, Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy, Audiology and Speech Therapy, Psychology, Prosthetics & Orthotics, Special Education, Early intervention & treatment, etc., to persons with disabilities in Jharkhand and adjoining areas.

    CRC will implement various schemes of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities including skill development programme for PwDs.

    The Centre aims to contribute towards the vision of “Sabkaa Saath, Sabkaa Vikaas, Sabkaa Vishwaas” of GoI.

    CWC is to distribute 46 numbers of wheelchairs, 80 nos. of tricycles, 64 nos. of crutches, 40 nos. of smartphones, 2 nos. of sewing machines, 2 nos. of laptops and 2 nos. of mobile repairing kits amongst Divyangjan following social distancing norms and provide necessary rehabilitation services to needy Divyangjan.

    The centre will operate as an extended arm of Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation Training & Research, Cuttack, Odisha.

  • Sanitary Napkins available for Rs.1 per pad at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras
    Jan Aushadhi Suvidhi Sanitary Napkin is made available in more than 6300 Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushdhi Pariyojna, PMBJP Kendras across the country at a minimum price of Rs.1 per pad.

    The market price of the similar Sanitary Napkins is around Rs.3 to Rs.8 per pad. over 3.43 Crore pads have been sold till 10 June 2020 at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras. The social drive comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Background:
    From 4 June 2018 to 10 June 2020 over 4.61 crore Sanitary Napkins has been sold at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras. After the revision in the prices on 27 August 2019, over 3.43 Crore pads have been sold till 10 June 2020 at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras.

    It should be noticed that menstruation and menstrual practices still face some social, cultural, and religious restrictions which are a big barrier in the path of the menstrual hygiene management.

    In rural areas, girls and women do not have access to sanitary products or they do not opt for them as most of these items available in the market are a bit costly.

    This step has ensured ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha’ for the underprivileged Women of India. This step was taken by the Union Department of Pharmaceuticals to ensure "Affordable and Quality Healthcare for All."

  • Jal Jeevan Mission
    Recently, the Jal Shakti Ministry has announced that the labourers returning to their home states due to covid-19, will be deployed for the Jal Jeevan Mission.

    The Jal Jeevan Mission aims for providing piped drinking water to all rural households by 2024.

    The Jal Shakti Ministry is the nodal ministry for the implementation of the scheme.

    Key Points
    The Jal Shakti Ministry has directed various States that returning labour, especially those working in the construction sector (skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled), may be deployed to expedite the completion of works under the scheme.

    Significance:
    It is an arrangement that could provide employment to the currently unemployed workers.

    The mission is being used as a way to ameliorate some of the effects of the mass migration of inter-State workers back to their home States in the wake of the Covid -19 pandemic.

    Need:
    Huge Demand for Work: It has been created because of workers returning to their home states from different parts of the country.

    It is clear from the fact that allocations under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have already been hiked by ?40,000 crore over and above the ?60,000 crore already allocated.

    While the MGNREGA is an old programme, the new Jal Jeevan Mission also has funds.

    Tap Water Connections: There is a need for tap water connections in several households under the mission.

    A revalidation exercise of households and status of tap water found that out of 19.04 crore rural households in the country, 3.23 crore households had tap connections and 15.81 crore households have to be provided functional tap connections.

    Apart from the ?11,000 crore in the budget, ?12,000 crore has been allocated from extra budgetary allowances, and 50% of the ?60,750 crore allocated by the 15th Finance Commission for rural local bodies is tied to grants for water bodies and sanitation.

    Construction Sector: Skill mapping by various State governments has shown that a majority of inter-State workers returning home are from the construction sector.

    In Uttar Pradesh alone, 16 lakh out of the 18 lakh migrant labour mapped till now are from this sector.

    The State has assured funding of ?3,382 crore under the Jal Jeevan Mission which would be utilised in providing employment in rural areas to returning migrants.

  • Kerala Government started a virtual class initiative called ‘First Bell’
    Recently, the Kerala Government has started a virtual class initiative called ‘First Bell’.

    The virtual classes for state school students are being organised so that education is imparted amid Covid-19 crisis.

    Key Points
    Classes are being streamed on a free, public-run television channel available on cable networks, direct-to-home services and over the internet.

    The government is using KITE VICTERS channel.

    Further, almost all villages in Kerala have at least one common centre, be it anganwadi, a reading room or sports club, for the education department to set up a classroom.

    The Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) has brought out the timetable for conducting the classes.

    The modules for different classes have been prepared by agencies under the General Education Department such as the State Council of Educational Research and Training, KITE, Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK), and the State Institute of Educational Technology.

    Challenges: The classes were started on trial mode from 1st June, 2020. The online classes brought to focus the digital divide in the state.

    Kerala has around 45 lakh students following state board syllabus. However, a survey revealed that 2.61 lakh students don’t have access to TV or smartphone, making them out of the network of online classes. Such students were in most destitute families mainly in remote villages and tribal areas.

    Interventions: With the government and civil society interventions, the 2.61 lakh number has reduced to 1.20 lakh.

    Local businessman provided TV sets as part of a ‘TV challenge’ launched by the State’s Industries department.

    MLAs were allowed to use their local development fund to buy TVs and laptops for students.

  • Sustainable Gastronomy Day is observed on 18 June
    Sustainable Gastronomy Day is observed on 18 June. The day focuses on the world's attention on the role that sustainable gastronomy can play. The day also aims to reaffirm that all cultures and civilizations are contributors and crucial enablers of sustainable development.

    Sustainable Gastronomy:
    Gastronomy is sometimes referred to as the art of food. It refers to a style of cooking from a particular region or local food and cuisine.

    Sustainability is the idea that something like agriculture, fishing, or even preparation of food is done in a way that is not wasteful of our natural resources and can be continued into the future without being detrimental to our environment or health.

    Sustainable gastronomy means cuisine that considers where the ingredients are from, how the food is grown and how it gets to markets every day, and how it lands on the plates.

    History:
    On 21 December 2016, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted its resolution A/RES/71/246 and designated 18 June as an international observance, Sustainable Gastronomy Day.

    The aim is to acknowledge gastronomy as a cultural expression related to natural and cultural diversity. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, sustainable gastronomy aims to celebrate seasonal ingredients and producers, preserving wildlife, and the culinary traditions are more relevant than ever.

  • Axone: Ethnic Cuisine of Northeast India
    Recently, Axone or fermented soya bean has become popular, which is eaten by many tribal communities in different parts of Northeast India especially in Nagaland.

    Key Points
    Axone — also called as akhuni — is a fermented soya bean of Nagaland, known for its distinctive flavour and smell.

    It is a condiment (a spice, sauce, or preparation that is added to food) used to make pickles, chutney or curries.

    It is prepared and eaten across Nagaland mainly by the Sumi (also Sema) tribe.

    It belongs to the broader phenomena of fermentation necessary for food preservation in certain ecological contexts.

    Fermentation gives it a distinct smell and taste.

    Fermented soya bean is known by different names in different parts of Northeast India, including Meghalaya and Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur as well in other South, Southeast and East Asian countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Japan, Korea, China, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia.

    It is the one food that connects the Eastern Himalayas as a culturally cross-cutting cuisine.

  • KVIC taps with Indian Palm Industry to boost employment opportunities
    The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched a unique project at Dahanu in Palghar district of Maharashtra, a state with more than 50 lakh palm trees. Under the project, Neera and Palmgur will be produced in India. Neera and Palmgur have huge potential to create employment in the country.

    Aim:
    The project aims to promote Neera as a substitute to soft drinks. It is aimed to generate self-employment to Adivasis and traditional trappers.

    Highlights:
    KVIC has distributed tool kits for extraction of Neera and making palmgur to 200 local artisans who were given 7 days of training by KVIC.

    A tool kit of cost Rs.15,000 that comprises perforated moulds, canteen burners, food-grade stainless steel Kadhai, and other equipment like knives, rope, and axes for extraction of Neera will be provided.

    The project aims to provide direct employment to 400 local traditional trappers.

    India has abundant palm fields in many states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

  • Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan
    The Government of India has decided to launch a rural public works scheme ‘Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan’ through video-conferencing from village Telihar in Khagaria district of Bihar on 20th June 2020.

    Key Points
    Beneficiaries: The scheme will empower and provide livelihood opportunities to the returnee migrant workers and rural citizens who have returned to their home states due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

    Duration and Outlay: This campaign will work in mission mode for 125 days with an outlay of Rs. 50,000 crore.

    Coverage: A total of 116 districts across six states, namely Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha (where maximum migrant workers have returned) have been chosen for the campaign.

    These districts are estimated to cover about 2/3 of such migrant workers.

    The chosen districts include 27 Aspirational Districts.

    Aspirational Districts are those districts in India which are affected by poor socio-economic indicators. These are aspirational in the context, that improvement in these districts can lead to the overall improvement in human development in India. It is a NITI Aayog’s Programme.

    Implementation: It will involve intensified and focused implementation of 25 different types of works to provide employment to the migrant workers on one hand and create infrastructure in the rural regions of the country on the other hand.

    The workers will help build gram panchayat bhawans and anganwadi centres, national highway works, railway works and water conservation projects, among others across six states.

    Participants: 12 different Ministries/Departments, namely, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Road Transport and Highways, Mines, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Environment, Railways, etc. will be coordinating for the implementation of the scheme.

    Connectivity: The villages will join this programme through the Common Service Centres (CSCs) and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) maintaining the norms of social distancing in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Kodumanal Excavation
    Recently, the State Department of Archaeology, Chennai has identified 250 cairn-circles from the Kodumanal excavation site in Erode district of Tamil Nadu.

    Cairn-circles are the prehistoric stone row which is a linear arrangement of parallel megalithic standing stones.

    A megalith is a large prehistoric stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones.

    Key Points
    This is for the first time that 10 pots and bowls were discovered from the site, instead of the usual three or four pots, placed outside three-chambered burial cists and inside the cairn-circle.

    More numbers and bigger size of boulders suggests that the grave could be of a village head or the head of the community.

    It also suggests burial rituals and the concept of afterlife in megalithic culture. Believing that the deceased person will get a new life after death, pots and bowls filled with grains were placed outside the chambers.

    The rectangular chambered cists (a small stone-built coffin-like box) are made of stone slabs, and the entire grave is surrounded by boulders that form a circle.

    Findings from the site also include an animal skull, beads, copper smelting units, the mud walls of a workshop, potteries, and Tamil Brahmi script.

    Previous Excavations:
    The earlier excavations of Kodumanal revealed that multi-ethnic groups lived in the village.

    It also revealed that the site served as a trade-cum-industrial centre from 5th century Before Common Era (BCE) to 1st century BCE.

    Economy
  • GST Council Meeting
    Current Affairs Recently, the 40th Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting was held.

    Key Points
    GST Collections:
    In the first two months of the current financial year, 2020-21, the cumulative GST revenues of states and the Centre has been only 45% of the monthly target.

    In 2020-21, the combined monthly GST revenue target is estimated at Rs. 1.21 lakh crore taking into account the budget estimate and states’ protected revenue.

    Market Borrowing:
    As revenue has fallen for both the Centre and states, the GST Council has decided to hold a single-point agenda meeting in July, 2020 which will discuss market borrowing by the Council itself as one of the ways to raise money and compensate states for GST revenue losses.

    The GST Act, 2017 extends a guarantee to states that any loss in revenues in the first five years (2017-2022) of GST implementation will be compensated through a cess that accrues to the Compensation Fund.

    The shortfall is calculated assuming a 14% annual growth in GST collections by states over the base year of 2015-16.

    In the 8th GST Council meeting it was discussed that in case the amount in the GST Compensation Fund fell short of the compensation payable, the Council shall decide the mode of raising additional resources including borrowing from the market.

    The borrowing could be repaid by collection of cess in the sixth year or further subsequent years.

    Issues Involved:
    There is a question about the legality of the GST Council to borrow; for instance, can it be accorded sovereign status like Centre and states.

    The burden and the impact of market borrowing on the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM Act), 2003 is not clear.

    Tax Rationalization:
    The Council discussed correction of inverted duty structure for footwear, fertilisers and textiles.

    Inverted duty structure is a situation where the rate of tax on inputs used is higher than the rate of tax on the finished good.

    Take an imaginary situation of the tyre industry, the tax rate on natural rubber (input) purchased is 10% whereas the tax rate on rubber tyre is 5%. Here since the tax rate on input is higher than that on the finished good, there is an inverted tax structure.

    However, the decision was deferred because it would have resulted in increase in the prices of fertiliser, footwear and ready-made garments, which would have affected the process of economic revival.

    Compliance-related Relief:
    The GST Council also provided compliance-related relief to small taxpayers with turnover up to Rs. 5 crore.

    It reduced the interest by half on delayed filing of GST returns for February, March and April, 2020 to 9%, provided the returns are filed by September 2020.

    For May-July, 2020 the deadline for filing GST returns has been extended till 30 September, 2020 without any penalty.

  • Indian Digital Payment System Outside India
    The is exploring the possibility of expanding its payment system Reserve Bank of India (RBI) abroad, following the requests from several countries.

    Key Points
    Requests for Payment System:
    The RBI has received requests from abroad for implementing its payment systems like Cheque Truncation System (CTS), National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT), Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and messaging solutions.

    Reason:
    The availability of low cost innovative digital payment products in India has led to many countries expressing their interest in Indian payment system.

    Availability of Payment System Outside India:
    Currently, there are no RBI authorised payment system operators providing payment services outside India.

    However, there is cross-country cooperation with Bhutan with respect to CTS, National Automated Clearing House (NACH) and NEFT. NEFT is also available for one-way transfers from India to Nepal.

    Scope of Payment System Outside India:
    According to RBI there is scope for enhancing global outreach of its payment systems, including remittances, through active participation and co-operation in international and regional fora by collaborating and contributing to standard setting.

    Efforts have been made to increase and widen the scope, coverage and usage of RuPay card scheme and UPI to enhance their brand value internationally.

    Issues Involved:
    Overdependence on the foreign funds (through digital payments) may lead to possible liquidity risk issues in India.

    Different time zones may pose a risk in digital payments.

    Digital Payments and India:
    India’s growing use of retail digital payments indicates a shift in the relationship with cash.

    According to the RBI, the digital payments in the country have witnessed a growth of 61% and 19% in terms of volume and value, respectively.

    The value of digital payments to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has also increased from 660% in 2014-15 to 862% in 2018-19.

    The Point of sale (PoS) terminals grew at a high pace of 35%, contrastingly the deployment of ATMs has grown at a low pace (4%).

  • Indian Gas Exchange: IGX
    Recently, India launched its first gas exchange which has been named as the Indian Gas Exchange (IGX).

    Key Points
    IGX:
    The IGX is a digital trading platform that will allow buyers and sellers of natural gas to trade both in the spot market and in the forward market for imported natural gas across three hubs —Dahej and Hazira in Gujarat, and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.

    The spot market is a public financial market in which financial instruments or commodities are traded for immediate delivery.

    A forward market is an over-the-counter marketplace that sets the price of a financial instrument or asset for future delivery.

    However, domestically produced natural gas will not be sold on the exchange.

    The price of domestically produced natural gas is decided by the government.

    Benefits:
    IGX is expected to facilitate transparent price discovery in natural gas and facilitate the growth of the share of natural gas in India’s energy basket.

    It removes the requirement for buyers and sellers to find each other to ensure a fair price deal.

    Shorter and longer contracts period will allow buyers and sellers greater flexibility.

    The exchange allows much shorter contracts. i.e. for delivery on the next day, and up to a month. Ordinarily contracts for natural gas supply are as long as six months up to a year.

    India’s Import Dependence:
    The natural gas imports are set to become a larger proportion of domestic gas consumption as India moves to increase the proportion of natural gas in the energy basket from 6.2% in 2018 to 15% by 2030.

    Also, India’s domestic production of gas has been falling over the past two fiscals as current sources of natural gas have become less productive.

    Domestically produced natural gas currently accounts for less than half of India’s natural gas consumption. While imported natural gas accounts for the other half.

    Regulations:
    Currently, the pipeline infrastructure necessary for the transportation of natural gas is controlled by the companies that own the network.

    State-owned Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) owns and operates India’s largest gas pipeline network, spanning over 12,000 km.

    Government Initiatives:
    The Indian gas market has multiple price bands for assets including pre-NELP, NELP, High Temperature and High pressure (HTHP) and Deepwater and Ultra Deep Water blocks.

    India has long-term gas contracts with many countries like Qatar, Australia, Russia and the US, and has made investments abroad in strategic assets in Mozambique, Russia and other countries.

    India has taken various ongoing projects to strengthen the gas infrastructure in the country like Urja Ganga, Eastern India grid, Indradhanush project in the North-east, Dhamra-Dahej pipeline, coal gasification and CBM policy.

  • Rise in Net Financial Assets
    According to the Reserve Bank of India's recent Quarterly Estimates of Households’ Financial Assets and Liabilities, net financial assets of Indian households rose to 7.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Financial Year (FY) 2019-20.

    Key Points
    Net Financial Assets:
    Net Financial Assets are the difference between Gross Financial Assets (GFA) (deposits and investments) and Financial Liabilities (borrowings).

    The net financial assets jumped from Rs. 13.73 lakh crore in FY 2018-19 (7.2 % of GDP) to Rs. 15.62 lakh crore (7.7% of the GDP) in FY 2019-20.

    The GFA rose marginally from Rs. 21.23 lakh crore in FY 2018-19 to Rs. 21.63 lakh crore in FY 2019-20.

    The financial liabilities witnessed a sharp decline from Rs. 7.5 lakh crore to Rs. 6.01 lakh crore in the same period, thereby contributing to the rise in net financial assets.

    In the first quarter of FY 2020-21, RBI also expects a spike in net financial assets of households on account of a sharp drop in lockdown induced consumption.

    Studies show households tend to save more during a slowdown and income uncertainty.

    Savings:
    In value terms GFA has increased marginally from Rs. 21.23 lakh crore in FY 2018-19 to Rs 21.63 lakh crore FY 2019-20.

    The overall savings have not grown in proportion. However, the household savings in bank deposits as a percent of GDP declined to 3.4% in FY 2019-20 compared to FY 2018-19 where it stood at 3.8%.

    The decline in household savings is because banks reduced their interest rates following sharp cut in repo rate by the RBI over the last 18-months.

    A repo rate is the rate at which RBI lends to commercial banks.

    Between January 2019 and March 2020, RBI cut the repo rate by 210 basis points from 6.5% to 4.4%. In May, 2020 RBI reduced it further to 4%.

    Small saving instruments that continued to offer higher rates than bank deposits witnessed a higher deployment of household savings as their share as percent of GDP increased from 1.1% to 1.3% in the same period.

    Savings into life insurance funds and mutual funds as a percent of GDP also declined from 2.2% in FY 2018-19 to 1.9% in FY 2019-20.

  • World Investment Report: UNCTAD
    Recently, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the World Investment Report 2020.

    The World Investment Report focuses on trends in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worldwide, at the regional and country levels and emerging measures to improve its contribution to development.

    Key Points
    Global Scenario:
    According to the report, global FDI flows are forecast to decrease by up to 40% in 2020, from their 2019 value of $1.54 trillion.

    This would bring global FDI below $1 trillion for the first time since 2005. The FDI is projected to decrease by a further 5% to 10% in 2021.

    Developing economies are expected to see the biggest fall in FDI because they rely more on investment in Global Value Chain (GVC) based industries, which have been severely hit due to Covid-19 pandemic.

    They have also not been able to put in place the same economic support measures as developed economies.

    However, the investment flows are expected to slowly recover by the start of 2022.

    Global FDI flows rose modestly in 2019, following the sizable declines registered in 2017 and 2018.

    The rise in FDI was due to the waning of impact of the 2017 tax reforms in the United States.

    India’s Investment Scenario:
    India jumped from 12th position in 2018 to 9th position in 2019 among the world’s largest FDI recipients.

    In 2019, the FDI inflows into India jumped over 20% to $51 billion.

    The report also observed that FDI into India may decline sharply in 2020 because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown measures, supply chain disruptions and economic slowdown.

    In India the number of greenfield investment announcements declined by 4% in the first quarter of financial year 2020-21. The Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) also contracted by 58%.

    A greenfield investment is a type of FDI in which a parent company creates a subsidiary in a different country, building its operations from the ground up.

    However, the report mentioned that India’s large market will continue to attract market-seeking investments to the country.

    India’s professional services and the digital economy could see a faster rebound as global venture capital firms and technology companies continue to show interest in India’s market through acquisitions.

    Investors concluded deals worth over $650 million in the first quarter of 2020, mostly in the digital sector.

  • 4% Contraction in Growth: ADB
    According to the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Indian economy is expected to contract by 4% during the current financial year (2020-21).

    Earlier, in April 2020, ADB had projected India’s economy to grow at 4% in 2020-21.

    The ADO analyzes economic and development issues in developing countries in Asia. This includes forecasting the inflation and growth rates of countries throughout the region, including China and India.

    Key Points
    Reasons for Contraction:
    Global health emergency created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

    After the introduction of lockdowns in late March 2020, economic activity in South Asia came to standstill.

    The lockdown also disrupted the supply chain.

    The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slowed to 3.1% in the last quarter (Jan-March) of the financial year 2019-20. It is the slowest since early 2003.

    The overall economic growth slowed to 4.2% in 2019-20 as both exports and investment started to contract.

    The Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to all-time lows in April 2020.

    Migrant workers have gone home to their villages after losing their jobs in the cities and will be slow to return to cities to work again.

    Growth Projections for Developing Asia:
    Developing Asia refers to a group of over 40 countries, including India, that are members of the ADB. Growth of 0.1% is expected.

    This is down from the 2.2% forecast in April 2020 and would be the slowest growth for the region since 1961.

    However, China is expected to record a positive growth of 1.8% in 2020-21.

    No V-shaped Recovery:
    Even as lockdowns are slowly eased and select economic activities restart, economies in Asia and the Pacific will continue to feel the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

    Despite a higher growth outlook for the region in 2020-21, there will not be a V-shaped recovery.

    Issues Involved:
    The Covid-19 pandemic may see multiple waves of outbreaks in the coming period. This may lead to an increase in sovereign debt and worse to a financial crisis.

    There is also the risk of renewed escalation in trade tensions between the United States and China.

    Bilateral
  • India-Tanzania Relations
    Current Affairs Recently, Prime Minister of India thanked Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, President of the United Republic of Tanzania for his assistance provided for the evacuation of Indian citizens from Tanzania in the wake of Covid-19.

    Both leaders reviewed the overall bilateral relationship and expressed satisfaction at the growing development partnership, educational linkages, trade and investment flows and discussed possibilities of further accelerating these trends.

    Key Points
    Tanzania is one of the fastest-growing African countries of this decade and plays an important role in India-Africa relations.

    Tanzania and India have enjoyed traditionally close, friendly and cooperative relations.

    The High Commission of India in Dar es Salaam has been operating since November 1961 and the Consulate General of India in Zanzibar was set up in October 1974.

    In October 2019, as part of the Indian Navy's Overseas Deployment, four indigenously built ships of the Indian Navy visited the ports at Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar located in Tanzania.

    Bilateral Treaties & Agreements:
    • Agreement on the establishment of a Joint Trade Committee (2000).
    • MOU for Co-operation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sectors (2002).
    • MoU on Exchange of Programme on Co-operation in the field of Education (2003).
    • MOU on Defence Cooperation (2003).
    • MOU for Cooperation in the field of Hydrography between Tanzania and India and Protocol on exchange of Hydrographic Data (2015).
    • MOU on Cooperation in the field of water resource management and development (2016).
    • Loan Agreement between Exim Bank and Government of Tanzania on line of credit for USD 500 million for water supply projects in 17 towns across Tanzania (May 2018).

    Commercial and Economic Relations:

    India is the largest trading partner of Tanzania comprising 16% of Tanzania’s foreign trade.

    India is also among the top five investment sources in Tanzania.

    India’s major exports to Tanzania: Petroleum products, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, motor vehicles, electrical goods, articles of iron and steel, sugar, machinery, etc.

    Tanzania’s major exports to India: Gold ore, cashew nuts, pulses, timber, spices (mainly cloves), ores and metal scrap, gemstones, etc.

    Development Partnership:
    Tanzania is a major beneficiary of training courses allocated under India’s Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme/Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme (ITEC/SCAAP) and under India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) capacity building cooperation.

    India has executed a number of projects under government grants and soft loans in Tanzania.

    India provided essential medicines and vaccines as grant support to Tanzania in September 2018 and set up a radiation therapy machine ‘Bhabhatron-II’ for cancer patients.

    India has also extended a Credit Line to Tanzania for various water supply projects in Dar-es-Salaam, coastal Chalinze region, Tabora, Igunga, Nzega, etc.

  • India- Laos Relations
    Recently, the Prime Minister of India had a telephonic conversation with the Prime Minister of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).

    Key Points
    Both the leaders exchanged views on the health and economic challenges posed by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

    They agreed on the need for international cooperation, and for sharing of best-practices and experiences, in order to prepare for the post-Covid world.

    India’s Prime Minister highlighted India’s historic and cultural links with Laos and expressed satisfaction at being involved in the restoration of the Vat Phouhindu temple complex (world heritage site).

    He also reiterated India’s commitment to continue its development partnership with Lao PDR, a valued partner in India’s extended neighbourhood.

    Lao Prime Minister thanked India's support for Lao’s development programmes, in capacity building and for scholarships.

  • Victory Day Parade
    India has decided to send a contingent of 75 personnel from its three armed forces to participate in Russia's 75th World War II Victory Day Parade on 24 June, 2020.

    Key Points
    The Russian parade is held every year on Victory Day (May 9), which marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.

    This year it was delayed because of the Covid-19.

    The victory day parade honours the heroism and sacrifices made by the Russian and other friendly people.

    India’s participation in the parade will be a mark of tribute and solidarity with the people of Russia.

    Earlier in January 2020, Russia had invited India to take part in the victory day parade.

  • India-Russia Defence Cooperation
    Defence remains the most significant aspect of India's relations with Russia with both sides looking to encourage joint manufacturing of equipment under India's Make-in-India programme and through transfer of technology.

    After the Vladivostok summit in 2019, both the countries had recognized the requirement of an institutional arrangement for reciprocal provision of logistic support and services for the armed forces.

    They had also agreed to prepare a framework for cooperation on it.

    During the 5th India Russia military industry conference held during the Defexpo 2020 in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), companies from both the countries signed various Memorandum of Understanding( MoUs) to develop a range of defence equipment.

    In 2019, despite the threat of U.S. sanctions, India went ahead with the decision to purchase the S-400 missile defence system, worth over $5 billion.

    Both the countries continue to encourage military to military cooperation through military political dialogue and joint military exercises.

    In 2019, India and Russia carried out a second joint tri-service exercise INDRA.

    In 2019, India also took part in Exercise TSENTR 2019 of the Russian Armed Force.

    Despite Russia's deep military and political ties with China, and its own relations with the U.S., India continues to look at Russia as a key partner.

  • AIIB Loan for India
    Recently, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved a $750 million loan to India to strengthen the country’s battle against the adverse impact of Covid-19 pandemic on poor and vulnerable households.

    Earlier, it had approved $500 million for ‘Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project’ initiated by India.

    Key Points
    $750 million loan: It is co-financed by the AIIB and the Asian Development Bank.

    Aim:
    It aims to ensure economic resilience to prevent long-term damage to productive capacity, including human capital.

    The support will go towards bolstering economic aid for businesses, including for the informal sector, expanding social safety nets for the needy, and strengthening the country’s health care systems.

    Loan by AIIB to India:
    AIIB’s sovereign loans to India amounts to $3.06 billion.

    The current loan will be the second for India under AIIB’s Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Facility.

    The Crisis Recovery Facility has been formed in response to urgent economic, financial and public health pressures and to support a quick recovery after the current crisis (Covid-19).

    It will offer $5-10 billion of financing to public and private entities over 18 months i.e. from April 2020 to October 2021.

    The funding is done either with the World Bank or ADB.

    Loan by ADB to India:

    It has assured Indian government of $2.2 billion support to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Earlier, it had provided a $1.5 billion loan to India.

  • Russia-India-China Grouping: RIC
    Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs has announced that it will participate in the virtual meeting of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping scheduled to be held on 23rd June, 2020.

    It can be noted that the RIC was also a platform for the first meeting between India and China in New Delhi after the end of Doklam standoff.

    Key Points
    Special Session: This special session of the RIC has been called by the current Chair- Russia to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory in the second world war over Nazism and creation of the United Nations (24th October, 2020).

    It will also discuss the current situation of the global pandemic and the challenges of global security, financial stability and RIC cooperation in that context.

    India’s Stand: The Indian decision to go ahead with the ministerial level exchange has created an opening for de-escalation of tension along the Line of Actual Control.

    China’s Stand: While confirming the participation in the meeting, China has also agreed to control the situation in the border areas.

    Russia’s Stand: Russia indicated that it would support “constructive dialogue” over the tension in eastern Ladakh as Russia is trusted by both India and China

    Regional Connectivity:
    Regional connectivity projects such as the International North South Transport Corridor involving India, Russia and Iran are expected to figure in the agenda.

    International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), is multi-modal transportation established in 2000 in St. Petersburg, by Iran, Russia and India for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation among the Member States.

    This corridor connects India Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via the Islamic Republic of Iran and then is connected to St. Petersburg and North Europe via the Russian Federation.

    No Bilateral Issues: However, the focus of the meeting will be on global coronavirus pandemic and no bilateral issues will be discussed.

    RIC
    RIC is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov, a Russian politician as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”

    The group was founded on the basis of ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.

    Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19% of the global landmass and contribute to over 33% of global GDP.

    Environment
  • NGT gives Kerala 1 month to report on forest fire prevention steps
    Current Affairs Directions are given by the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal.

    Background:
    Forest is part of the concurrent list of the seventh schedule of the Indian constitution.

    Area covering 93,273 hectares was affected by forest fires in 2019.

    National Action Plan on Forest Fire:
    Launched in 2018, the plan intends to reduce the vulnerability of forests against fire hazards.

    It aims to minimize forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivizing them to work with the state forest departments.

    It aims to enhance the capabilities of forest personnel and institutions in fighting fires and swift recovery subsequent to fire incidents.

    Details:
    The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal has given one month to the Kerala Forest Department for submitting its report on the steps taken to prevent forest fires and implement the National Action Plan on Forest Fire in the State.

  • Malabar Gliding Frog
    Recently, a rare amphibian i.e. Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) was spotted in Pullad, Kerala.

    The amphibian is endemic to the rainforest of western ghats.

    Endemic species are those plants and animals that exist only in one geographical region.

    Key Points
    Characteristics:
    It is a green frog with slender body, webbed feet, unusual body positions and very well camouflaged.

    Camouflage, also called cryptic coloration, is a defense mechanism or tactic that organisms use to disguise their appearance, usually to blend in with their surroundings.

    The fingers and toes are like sticks to attach and walk through tree branches.

    It has a high gliding ability, with the long skin between the fingers which helps to cover 10 to 12 feet in one leap.

    It has a body length of 10 cm, making it one of the largest mossy frogs.

    Mossy Frogs: These frogs have the skin which is green in colour and resembles moss growing on the rock.

    The breeding period is during the monsoon and usually, the females choose to spawn on the lush green leaves overhanging a waterbody.

    As their body is so soft, they can live only in moist forests with streams.

    Foam Nests:
    They built foam nests above small pools of water, into which the tadpoles drop after hatching.

    Behaviour like cannibalism has been found among tadpoles.

    Protection Status:
    In the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it is placed in the Least Concern category.

    Concern: The Malabar gliding frog population is declining due to deforestation, climate change, developmental activities, and toxic chemicals.

  • Olms in Postojna Cave of Slovenia
    Recently, three Olms have been put on display in Slovenia’s Postojna Cave, where they hatched in 2016 in a rare successful breeding.

    Key Points
    Description:
    The Olms are eyeless (skin covered eyes) pink salamanders also known as the "baby dragon" and "human fish" for its pale skin-like colour.

    They feed on detritus and endemic cave vertebrates and hide in crevices or bottom sediment when disturbed. They can survive without food for up to 10 years.

    A long-lived species that only matures to a sexual stage after the age of 12-15 years and reproduces very slowly.

    It can live a century and breeds only once a decade usually in laboratories throughout Europe or deep in caves away from people.

    They have a powerful sensory system of smell, taste, hearing and electro sensitivity.

    Threats:
    The olm requires clean water and is therefore vulnerable to water pollution.

    Consequently, the major threats to the olm are pollution and habitat disturbance from land use changes occurring above the cave systems.

    Habitat:
    They are found in large subterranean aquatic karst systems formed in limestone and dolomite rocks and may be found in cave entrances.

    They are an entirely aquatic species and prefer waters ranging from 5-15°C.

    Found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and France.

  • Largest Decline in Arctic Sea Ice
    The National Centre of Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) has observed the largest decline in the Arctic Sea ice in the last 41 years.

    The decline in the Arctic Sea ice is due to global warming — leading to localised increase in evaporation, air humidity, cloud cover and rainfall.

    Key Points
    Increased Rate of Sea Ice Decline:
    In the last 40 years (1979-2018), the sea ice has been declining at 4.7% per decade, while the current declining rate was found to be 13% in July 2019.

    Thus, it has been noted that the volume of ice formation during winters is unable to keep pace with the volume of ice loss during summers.

    Additionally, it has been predicted that if this trend continues, there would be no ice left in the Arctic Sea by 2050.

    Impacts:
    The decrease of the Arctic Sea ice area and the increase in the duration of summer and autumn seasons affected the local weather and climate over the Arctic Ocean and its marginal seas.

    Being a sensitive indicator of climate change, the loss of ice cover in the Arctic Sea may affect other components of the climate system such as reduction of heat, water vapour, and other material exchange between the atmosphere and the sea.

    The northern hemisphere experienced record high-temperature rise, especially during the spring and summer months.

  • Researchers discovered new fish species discovered in Arunachal Pradesh
    A new species of fish has been discovered in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. It was discovered by Dr Keshav Kumar Jha, Associate Professor & Head, Department of Zoology, Jawaharlal Nehru College, Pasighat.

    Schizothorax sikusirumensis:
    The new species of the fish is named as Schizothorax sikusirumensis. It is from the genus Schizothorax. The name of the new fish species "Schizothorax sikusirumensis" was derived from the name of the rivers where it was found.

    The fish species were collected from the junction of River Siku and Sirum. The new fish species inhabit the waterlogged area of torrential river drainage.

  • Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region: MoES
    Recently, the first Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region has been published by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

    It is India’s first-ever national forecast on the impact of global warming on the subcontinent in the coming century.

    These projections, based on a climate forecasting model developed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, will be part of the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), expected to be ready in 2022.

    This is a significant step for climate science and policy in India because existing projections are put in the context of historical trends in land and ocean temperatures, monsoon rainfall, floods, droughts and Himalayan warming and glacier loss.

    Key Points
    Temperature:
    In a worst-case scenario, average surface air temperatures over India could rise by up to 4.4°C by the end of the century as compared to the period between 1976 and 2005.

    The worst-case scenario is defined by the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 that calculates a radiative forcing of 8.5 watt per square metre due to the rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere.

    Radiative forcing or climate forcing is the difference between sunlight energy absorbed by the Earth (including its atmosphere) and the energy that it radiates back into space.

    Under an intermediate scenario of RCP 4.5, the country’s average temperature could rise by up to 2.4°C.

    The rise in temperatures will be even more pronounced in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region where the average could reach 5.2°C.

    The region is already highly vulnerable to climate-related variability in temperatures, rainfall and snowfall.

    By 2100, the frequency of warm days and warm nights might also increase by 55% and 70% respectively, as compared to the period 1976-2005 under the RCP 8.5 scenario.

    The incidences of heat waves over the country could also increase by three to four times. Their duration of occurrence might also increase which was already witnessed by the country in 2019.

    Between 1900 and 2018, the average temperatures of India rose by 0.7°C.

    This rise in temperatures has been largely attributed to global warming due to GHG emissions and land use and land cover changes.

    However, it has also been slightly reduced by the rising aerosol emissions in the atmosphere that have an overall cooling characteristic.

    The latest global climate change assessments indicate a rise in worldwide average surface air temperatures by 5°C by the end of the century if human activities keep emitting GHGs at the current rate.

    The global average temperature in the last century has gone up by 1.1°C, according to the latest estimates by the IPCC.

    Even if the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) declared by countries under the Paris Agreement 2015 are met, the global average temperature could rise by around 3°C, which could be disastrous.

  • Land Use Changes
    According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the land use change, which prepares the ground for zoonoses like Covid-19, should be reversed.

    Land use change promotes zoonoses like Covid-19 as the interaction and physical distance between animals and humans get closer.

    Key Points
    Land Use Change:
    Land use change is a process which transforms the natural landscape by direct human-induced land use such as settlements, commercial and economic uses and forestry activities.

    It impacts the overall environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission, land degradation and climate change.

    Data Analysis:
    Land use change can be a factor in CO2 (carbon dioxide) atmospheric concentration and is thus a contributor to global climate change.

    It represents almost 25% of total global emissions.

    According to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), over 70% of all natural, ice-free land in the world is affected by human use.

    This could further rise to 90% by 2050.

    The land degradation affects 3.2 billion people worldwide.

    Ecosystem services e.g. forest, agriculture, grassland tourism etc. worth $10.6 trillion are lost due to land degradation annually.

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, by 2050, over 500 million hectare area of new agricultural land will be needed to meet the global food demand.

    Possible Reasons:
    Population Growth: Fast population growth and the consequent high pressure on resources have an adverse effect on the existing natural resources of the land area.

    Encroachment of Land: Substantial increase in demand for food has resulted in an expansion of croplands by encroaching on uncultivated areas including forest, shrub and wetlands.

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change and land, agricultural land for food, animal feed and fibre is behind the land use change.

    Use of Forest Resource: Continuous and exhaustive thinning of forestry resources for diverse uses, particularly for construction, firewood and agricultural tools led to the degradation of forest cultivated land.

    Grazing at Cultivated Land: Farmers often abandon and leave the cultivated land for grazing purposes due to the declining of its soil fertility status.

    Destruction of Wetlands: The conversion of the wetland to the cultivated and settlement land leads to the destruction of wetlands.

  • Forest Fires
    Recently, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Kerala Forest Department to submit its report in one month, on the steps taken to prevent forest fires and implement the National Action Plan on Forest Fire in the State.

    Key Points
    Forest Fires:
    Fire can play a vital role in keeping the forests healthy, recycling nutrients, helping tree species regenerate, removing invasive weeds and pathogens, and maintaining habitat for some wildlife.

    As populations and demands on forest resources have grown, the cycle of fire has spun out of balance.

    Forest fires have become an issue of global concern. In many countries, wildfires are burning larger areas, and fire seasons are growing longer due to global warming.

    Globally, forest fires release billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, while hundreds of thousands of people are believed to die due to illnesses caused by exposure to smoke from forest fires and other landscape fires.

    Reasons for Forest Fires:
    Thunderstorms are the most likely natural cause for forest fires.

    The dry deciduous forests in central and southern India face 5 to 6 months of dry period and are vulnerable to fires.

    The reasons are mainly manmade, particularly in cases where people visit forests and leave burning bidis, cigarette stubs or other inflammable materials.

    A major reason for forest fires in north-east India is slash-and-burn cultivation, commonly called jhum cultivation.

    The north-east has tropical evergreen forests which are not likely to catch fire easily on their own like the dry deciduous forests of central and southern India.

    India’s Initiative to Tackle Forest Fire:
    National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF):
    It was launched in 2018 to minimise forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivising them to work with the State Forest Departments.

    The plan also intends to substantially reduce the vulnerability of forests across diverse forest ecosystems in the country against fire hazards.

    It also aims to enhance capabilities of forest personnel and institutions in fighting fires and swift recovery subsequent to fire incidents.

    Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme:
    The Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM) is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assist the states in dealing with forest fires.

    The FPM replaced the Intensification of Forest Management Scheme (IFMS) in 2017.

    Funds allocated under the FPM are according to a center-state cost-sharing formula, with a 90:10 ratio of central to state funding in the Northeast and Western Himalayan regions and a 60:40 ratio for all other states.

    It also provides the states to have the flexibility to direct a portion of the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) and Mission for Green India (GIM) funding toward forest fire work.

    India has set ambitious policy goals for improving the sustainability of its forests.

    As part of the National Mission for Green India under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, the government has committed to increase forest and tree cover.

    Under its Nationally Determined Contribution, India has committed to bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover and to create additional sinks of 2.5 billion to 3 billion tons worth of CO2 stored in its forests by 2030.

    Science & Technology
  • Persistent global transmission of chikungunya from India
    Current Affairs The study conducted by the ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune on the geographic distribution and evolution of the chikungunya virus over the period from 2005-2018

    Background:
    Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The virus is transmitted from by the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Most commonly, the mosquitoes involved are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two species which can also transmit other mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue.

    It causes fever and severe joint pain. There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

    The disease mostly occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

    Details:
    The study notes India as an endemic reservoir for the chikungunya virus with persistent global transmissions from the country.

    Observations from the phylogeography study based on the genome sequences of the strains found in different countries over the period from 2005 to 2018, showed persistent global transmissions from India.

    The study claims the dispersal of the strains from India to neighbouring as well as distant countries.

  • New Drug for Amoebiasis
    Recently, researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have developed new drug molecules against the protozoa ‘Entamoeba histolytica’ that causes amoebiasis.

    Key Points
    The Protozoa and High Oxygen Level:
    The protozoa is anaerobic or microaerophilic in nature such that it cannot survive high concentrations of oxygen.

    Anaerobic organisms are those who exist in the absence of free oxygen.

    A microaerophilic atmosphere is ideal for a microorganism that can grow under reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels.

    However, during infection, it faces a high surge of oxygen inside the human body. The organism synthesizes large amounts of cysteine to counter oxidative stress.

    Synthesis of Cysteine:
    This pathogen deploys cysteine as one of the essential molecules in its defence mechanism against high oxygen levels. It expresses two crucial enzymes for synthesizing cysteine.

    Cysteines are enzymes that degrade proteins in the body.

    Cysteine biosynthesis is crucial for the survival of E. histolytica and for similar protozoan parasites.

    JNU Research:
    Researchers have characterized and determined the molecular structures of both the crucial enzymes.

    They have also successfully screened for potent inhibitors for one of the enzymes, O-acetyl L-serine sulfhydrylase (OASS).

    Some of these inhibitors can check the growth of this organism with high efficacy by targeting their pathways.

    The identified molecules can lead to the development of drug molecules.

  • Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence
    India has joined the 'Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)' as a founding member to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

    Key Points
    Objective: GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, based on human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.

    Functions:
    Bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.

    An example would be looking at how AI could help societies respond to and recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

    Bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to conduct research and pilot projects on AI.

    It will initially comprise four working groups focused on responsible AI, data governance, the future of work, and innovation and commercialisation.

    Founding Members: Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Organization:
    GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat, to be hosted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centers of Expertise- one each in Montreal (Canada) and Paris (France).

    GPAI will be able to take advantage of the OECD’s expertise on AI policy and its leadership in setting out the first international standard for trustworthy AI – the OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence.

    The OECD will also be a Permanent Observer to the GPAI’s governing bodies.

    Background: Born out of the Canadian and French G7 Presidencies in 2018 and 2019, GPAI was officially proposed by France and Canada at the Biarritz Summit in August 2019.

  • Recent Initiatives by India in the Field of AI
    India has recently launched National AI Strategy and National AI Portal and have also started leveraging AI across various sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications, etc.

    The National AI strategy was released in 2018 by NITI Aayog. It is termed ‘AIForAll’ as it is focused on leveraging AI for inclusive growth in line with the Government policy of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.

    Role of the Government has been clearly delineated to develop the research ecosystem, promote adoption and address skilling challenges.

    The strategy also flags important issues like ethics, bias and privacy issues relating to AI and envisions Government promoting research in technology to address these concerns.

    The focus is on sectors like agriculture, health and education where public investment and lead would be necessary.

    National AI Portal:
    It has been developed jointly by the National e-Governance Division of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom). The portal is meant to work as a “one stop digital platform" for all AI related developments in India.

    Responsible AI for Youth Programme: It is aimed at imparting education and skills in AI to students in government schools.

  • Gateway Lunar Orbiting Outpost
    Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has finalised the contract to design the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) for its Gateway Lunar Orbiting Outpost.

    The Habitation and Logistics (HALO) support for the Gateway, is a part of NASA’s Artemis program that aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024.

    Key Points
    Habitation and Logistics (HALO)

    It refers to the pressurised living quarters where astronauts will spend their time while visiting the Gateway.

    These quarters will be about the size of a small apartment and will provide augmented life support together with Orion spacecraft.

    The Gateway:
    NASA has targeted the completion of the Gateway for 2026, while work on the spaceship is already underway.

    The Gateway can be used at least once per year and astronauts cannot stay around the year like they do on the International Space Station (ISS).

    Once docked to the Gateway, astronauts will be able to stay there for three months at a time.

    Compared to the ISS, the Gateway is much smaller.

    Significance:
    It will act as an airport, where spacecraft bound for the lunar surface of Mars can refuel or replace parts and resupply things like food and oxygen, allowing astronauts to take multiple trips to the Lunar surface and exploration of new locations across the Moon.

    By studying the geology of the Earth, the Moon, and Mars – the three planetary bodies and the ways in which they are similar and different from each other, it would give a sight about how planets and planetary systems form.

    Significantly, Gateway would work as a science platform to look back at the Earth, observe the Sun, and get unobstructed views of the vast universe.

  • Dexamethasone Drug
    Recently, scientists administering the World Health Organisation’s RECOVERY trial have reported that dexamethasone reduced Covid-19 deaths in severe patients.

    Dexamethasone is a cheap and widely available steroid drug.

    Key Points
    Highlights of the Research:
    The drug was given either orally or through an IV (intravenous).

    After 28 days, it had reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen.

    The drug is not helpful for less ill patients and for those who do not need respiratory support.

    According to the estimates, this drug can prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on breathing machines and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.

    Drug Mechanism:
    Multi-system Inflammatory State is a Covid-19 related illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels leading to low blood pressure, affecting the entire body as it causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs and other organs.

    The inflammation can be fatal so steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce it.

    Dexamethasone is not an anti-viral but works to modulate the immune response of the body when confronted by a viral infection such as Covid-19.

    Benefits:
    The survival benefit is clear and large in severe patients.

    It is highly affordable, easy to make, can be scaled up quickly and only needs a small dosage.

    It is a cheaper option than tocilizumab, an injectable, which is also being tested.

  • Antiviral Drug Umifenovir
    The Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, a constituent lab of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has received permission for carrying out Phase III trials for the use of Umifenovir against Covid-19.

    These trials will be randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled that will test the efficacy, safety and tolerability of the drug.

    Key Points
    Safe: Umifenovir has already been used for the treatment of influenza in China and Russia and therefore is safe. It recently came into prominence due to its potential use for Covid-19 patients. The clinical trial is to evaluate its efficacy in Indian patients.

    Strengthens Immune System: It acts by preventing entry of the virus into human cells and also by priming the immune system.

    Indigenously Developed: All the raw materials for the drug are indigenously available and if the clinical trial is successful, Umifenovir can be a safe, efficacious, affordable drug against Covid-19.

    Potential Prophylactic Use: It has the potential for prophylactic use. A prophylactic is a medication or a treatment designed and used to prevent a disease from occurring.

    CSIR’s Efforts Against Covid-19:
    The CSIR is evaluating Mycobacterium W (Mw) for faster recovery of hospitalised Covid-19 infected patients.

    The clinical trial of the Favipiravir drug has also been allowed by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).

  • I-Lab: Mobile Testing Facility
    Recently, the government has launched the country’s first mobile I-Lab (Infectious disease diagnostic Lab) for last mile Covid-19 testing access.

    It has been created by a team from the Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone Limited (AMTZ) under the National Biopharma Mission.

    Key Points
    The Department of Biotechnology (DBT - Ministry of Science & Technology) under the Covid-Command strategy has supported building of mobile testing labs (I-Labs) through AMTZ.

    The Lab belongs to the BioSafety Level (BSL-II) category.

    BSLs are ranked from one to four and are categorised on the basis of the organisms that the researchers are dealing with. The organisms include viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc.

    BSL-I is considered to be the least hazardous, while BSL-IV poses the maximum safety risk. Each level builds on the previous category, adding more layers of constraints and barriers.

    It will be deployed in interior, iaccessible parts of the country and has the capability to perform 25 RT-PCR tests a day, 300 ELISA tests a day and additional tests for TB, HIV as per CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) rates.

    RT-PCR and ELISA tests have been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Covid-19.

    CGHS provides comprehensive medical care to central government employees and pensioners enrolled under the scheme. Rates of different procedures are decided under the Scheme.

  • Micius: A Quantum-Enabled Satellite
    Recently, satellite Micius has sent light particles to Earth to establish the world’s most secure communication link.

    Key Points
    Micius:
    It is the world’s first quantum communications satellite, launched by China in 2016.

    The satellite serves as the source of pairs of entangled photons.

    Entangled photons are twinned light particles whose properties remain intertwined no matter how far apart they are.

    If one of the photons is manipulated, the other will be similarly affected at the very same moment.

    It is this property that lies in the heart of the most secure forms of quantum cryptography (the study of concepts like encryption and decryption).

    If one of the entangled particles is used to create a key for encoding messages, only the person with the other particle can decode them.

    Recent Developments:
    Micius has successfully brought entanglement-based quantum cryptography to its original ground stations 1,200 km apart by sending simultaneous streams of entangled photons to the ground stations to establish a direct link between the two of them.

    The satellite provided entangled photons as a convenient resource for the quantum cryptography and the two ground stations then used them according to their agreed protocol.

    None of the communication went through Micius (i.e behaved like a blind transmitter) providing the ground stations a robust and unbreakable cryptographic protection without the need to trust the satellite.

    Until now, this had never been done via satellite or at such great distances.

    It has not been specified how the messages were transmitted in this instance but in theory it could be done by optical fibre, another communications satellite, radio or any other agreed method.

    Scientists have started using quantum encryption for securing long-range communication and Micius has been at the forefront of quantum encryption for several years.

    Quantum Race:
    The disclosure of internet surveillance by western governments prompted China to boost quantum cryptography research in order to create more secure means of communication.

    The launch of Micius and quantum communication systems with its help have been compared to the effect Sputnik had on the space race in the 20th century.

    Sputnik was the first artificial Earth satellite launched by the Soviet Union into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4th October 1957.

    Any country could theoretically trust Micius to provide entangled photons to secure its communications but the satellite is a strategic resource that other countries would want to replicate giving further boost to the quantum race which has political and military implications that are hard to ignore.

    Sports
  • India remains 108th in the FIFA Rankings
    Current Affairs India retained in the 108th spot in the latest FIFA world rankings which was revealed for the month of June. India has 1187 points.

    Highlights:
    Belgium has topped (remains) the FIFA Rankings.

    Not many changes were noted in the FIFA ranking as international matches have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The men's national teams in association football are ranked based on their game results with the most successful teams being ranked highest.

    The next world FIFA ranking is expected to be released on 16 July.

    The top 5 countries of the ranking are:
    1. Belgium - 1765 points
    2. France - 1733 points
    3. Brazil - 1712 points
    4. England - 1661 points
    5. Uruguay - 1645 points
  • Sports Ministry to establish Khelo India State Centres of Excellence
    The Ministry of Sports is to establish Khelo India State Centres of Excellence (KISCE) under the Khelo India Scheme. The aim is to enhance India's Olympic performance.

    Highlights:
    Under the move, one KISCE is to be identified in every state and Union Territory (UT), with an effort to create a robust sporting ecosystem in India.

    In the first phase, the Ministry of Sports has identified state-owned sports facilities in eight states of India.

    The 8 states are:
    1. Karnataka
    2. Odisha
    3. Kerala
    4. Telangana
    5. Arunachal Pradesh
    6. Manipur
    7. Mizoram
    8. Nagaland

    The 8 centres will be given a grant based on the actual amount finalized as per the requirement indicated after a comprehensive gap analysis study.

    The sporting facilities that are to be upgraded to KISCE:

    Sangey Lhaden Sports Academy, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh

    Jaiprakash Narayan National Youth Center, Bangalore, Karnataka

    GV Raja Sr. Secondary Sports School, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

    Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, Imphal, Manipur

    Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl, Mizoram

    State Sports Academy, IG Stadium, Kohima, Nagaland

    Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

    Regional Sports School, Hakimpet, Telangana

  • AIFF recommends IM Vijayan for Padma Shri
    The All India Football Federation (AIFF) recommended former Indian football team captain IM Vijayan for Padma Shri, which is India's fourth-highest civilian award.

    IM Vijayan:
    IM Vijayan scored 40 goals in 79 matches for India since making his debut in the early 90s. IM Vijayan has won the Arjuna award in 2003. He was also awarded the Indian 'Player of the Year' in the year 1993, 1997 and 1999. The 51-year-old former striker had scored 4 goals to emerge as the top scorer in the Afro-Asian Games which was held in India in 2003. It was his last appearance for the country.

    Previous awardees:
    Six Indian footballers namely Sailen Manna in 1971, Chuni Goswami in 1983, PK Banerjee in 1990, Bhaichung Bhutia in 2008, Sunil Chhetri in 2019, and Bembem Devi in 2020, have won the Padma Shri.

    Persons in News
  • Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta assumes charge as Chief of Staff of ENC
    Current Affairs Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, AVSM, YSM, VSM assumed the charge as Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Visakhapatnam on 12 June 2020. Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta replaced Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, the outgoing Chief of Staff, has proceeded on transfer as Controller Personnel Services at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy), New Delhi.

    Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta:
    Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy. In 1985, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy. He is a specialist in Navigation and Direction. He has commanded 4 frontline ships including INS Nishank, INS Karmuk, INS Tabar, and INS Viraat.

    He has held other appointments such as Commander Work Up at Headquarters at Indian Naval Workup Team, Kochi; Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington; Officer-in-Charge of the Navy's Navigation and Direction School, Naval Assistant to the Chief of the Naval Staff and Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet.

    He was promoted to Flag Rank and was appointed as Chief Staff Officer (Operations) at Headquarters, Western Naval Command at Mumbai. During 2017-18, he held command of the prestigious Eastern Fleet at Visakhapatnam and was appointed as Additional Director General at NCC Headquarters, New Delhi. He also served as the Controller Personnel Services at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) at New Delhi. Dasgupta is a recipient of the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service. He was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal for coordinating evacuation operations from Yemen in 2015 under Operation Raahat.
Published on 6/26/2020 12:30:00 PM