Prelims Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Sept Week 4
Nanocurcumin enhances BCG vaccine efficacy
- A study carried out on mice models has found that curcumin in nanoparticle form has the potential to enhance the efficacy of BCG vaccine such that it confers protection against adult pulmonary TB.
- The researchers found that injecting curcumin nanoparticles soon after vaccinating the mice with BCG produced an appreciable enhancement of immune memory cells (T central memory cells) responsible for long-term protection against TB infection.
- BCG vaccine is effective against disseminated and meningeal TB in young children. But the protection does not last for long as the host-protective immune responses that the vaccine induces diminishes over time. Thus the vaccine is not protective in adults.
- In children, the vaccine induces two types of immune cells — effector memory T cells and central memory T cells. While the effector memory T cells play a crucial role in mounting an immediate immune response against virulent TB bacteria and kill them, the central memory T cells help in long-term protection in children from childhood TB.
- After persisting for some time, the central memory cells ultimately diminish. As a result, the protection does not last beyond childhood and adults become vulnerable to TB infection despite BCG vaccination.
- One way of enhancing the efficacy of the BCG vaccine is by increasing the number of central memory cells so they last longer and confer protection for longer duration.
- In nature, dynamic balance exists between the two types of immune T cells — central memory cells and effector memory cells.
- Altering the ratio to increase the number of central memory cells will help in enhancing the efficacy of the BCG vaccine.
Increase in memory cells
- Increasing the number of central memory cells with respect to the effector memory cells was achieved through a simple process.
- The potassium ion channel (Kv1.3) is required for the differentiation of central memory cells into effector memory T cells.
- Curcumin also helps in the activation of innate immune cells known as macrophages and dendritic cells. TB bacteria reside and grow inside the macrophages.
- But once activated by curcumin nanoparticles, the macrophages and dendritic cells clear the bacteria and also enhance the level of TB-specific acquired immune cells (Th1 and Th17 cells).
The “Glory Run”
- Recently, Kargil to Kohima (K2K) Ultra-Marathon- “Glory Run” was flagged off from Kargil War Memorial.
- To commemorate 20th year of Kargil Victory and to live up to the true tradition and motto of IAF i.e. “Touch the Sky with Glory”, a unique expedition Kargil to Kohima (K2K) Ultra-Marathon- “Glory Run” was undertaken by IAF from Kargil War Memorial, Drass (J&K) to Kohima War Cemetery, Kohima (Nagaland).
- Kohima and Kargil are the two forward most outposts of India in the East and in the North where two of the fiercest battles were fought in 1944 and 1999 respectively.
- The aim of the expedition is to promote awareness for Pedestrian Safety and recently launched Fit India Movement by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and also to pay tribute to the brave hearts who have made the supreme sacrifice for our motherland.
- September is being observed as ‘Poshan Maah’ (nutrition month) across the country to ensure mobilisation at the grassroots level to achieve the targets laid down under the ‘Poshan Abhiyaan’ or the National Nutrition Mission (NNM).
- Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018, the programme aims to reduce levels of underweight, stunting, low-birth weight as well as anaemia by 2022. Member (Health & Nutrition), NITI Aayog, Vinod K. Paul talks about the journey so far.
Achievements till date:
- The Poshan Abhiyaan has surpassed our expectations in terms of awareness at the grassroots level. The Jan Andolan [people’s movement] is very vibrant, which is important because it is ultimately about behaviour change.
- Our clearest focus on the holistic interventions to ensure optimum care in the first 1,000 days has also percolated down well. Then, there is convergence among different Ministries, which is starting to happen.
- There is also the role of technology through mobile phones and tablets given to anganwadi workers, which is a multipurpose tool effective for behaviour change, education, managing care and collecting data.
- The Integrated Child Development Scheme-Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) is the biggest-ever IT-driven public health programme in the world.
- In the remaining phase, our aim is to accelerate these efforts as well as focus on care of small babies, or undernourished babies. These children account for 25%-30% of children in poor households.
Main pillars of Poshan Abhiyaan:
- There is an interplay of three broad themes of which nutrition intake is only 50% of the story.
- There is low birth weight among newborns due to poor maternal health, which accounts for 25% of the problem; illnesses among children such as diarrhoea are responsible for 25%-30% of undernutrition.
- When we look at undernutrition like this, we look at what needs to be done holistically: maternal health, childhood illnesses and optimum amount of feeding — breastfeeding, complimentary feeding and food adequacy. Only 10% of children get adequate nutrition in our country.
- There are also socio-cultural determinants which form an outer circle, including maternal literacy, women empowerment, and prevention of child marriage, etc.
Rising sea temperatures pose a threat to coral reefs
- Three mass bleaching events occurred in 1998, 2010 and 2016, impacting five major Indian coral reef regions — in Andaman, Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch
- The Indian coastline is home to an ancient and diverse coral reef system that provides natural habitat for diverse marine underwater ecosystem. Also, they hold importance in fisheries, tourism and as a repository of medicinal, agronomical and industrial products.
- A team of Indian researchers has warned that rising sea temperatures due to climate change could put these wondrous underwater systems under peril.
- Their study, which analysed data of sea surface temperatures since 1982, has found that three mass bleaching events occurred in 1998, 2010 and 2016, impacting five major Indian coral reef regions — in Andaman, Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch.
- Oceans act as massive sinks for the greenhouse gases emitted by anthropogenic activities. However, as they absorb them, the oceans warm up and there are changes in the seawater chemistry.
- Corals are sensitive to temperature changes, which affect photosynthesis and calcification of their structures, making them prone to diseases and even death.
- Sea algae and corals share a symbiotic existence in the ocean. When the sea waters turn warm in summers and remain so for more than 28 days, the corals experience thermal stress. Due to this, the corals expel the algae residing in their tissues, and turn colourless or bleach.
- The different regions experienced hottest summers at different times, with Andaman, Nicobar and Gulf of Kutch being severely affected in 2010, while Lakshadweep and Gulf of Mannar experienced a similar fate in 2016.
- A coral bleaching alert report protocol developed by SAC recorded that the years 1998, 2010 and 2016 witnessed mass bleaching in the five coral reefs. They observed that Andaman, Nicobar and Gulf of Kutch regions recorded an ‘alert level-2’ warning status in 2010, while the Gulf of Mannar recorded a level-1 alert in 2016.
- Although coral reefs are known to recover from bleaching ina decade or two, the severity of the bleaching event could overwhelm them and hamper their ability to recover.
Coal gasification & reduction in energy import
- The coal gasification process holds good potential in the future, with coal being the most abundantly available fossil fuel across the world, and that even low-grade coal can be used in the process.
- Recently, Odisha’s Talcher fertiliser plant was awarded a contract for starting a coal gasification unit for the production of urea and Ammonia. It was part of the government’s initiative to revive closed fertiliser plants belonging to the Fertiliser Corporation of India Limited (FCIL) and the Hindustan Fertilisers Corporation Ltd (HFCL).
- According to a press release by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, the decision is geared towards reducing India’s reliance on imports and helping the country meet its CoP-21 Paris Agreement commitments.
Coal gasification & the project at Talcher
- Coal gasification is the process of converting coal into synthesis gas (also called syngas), which is a mixture of hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The syngas can be used in a variety of applications such as in the production of electricity and making chemical products, such as fertilisers.
- According to the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Systems Analysis Programme (ETSAP), the coal gasification process holds good potential in the future, with coal being the most abundantly available fossil fuel across the world, and that even low-grade coal can be used in the process.
- Fertiliser Corporation of India Ltd (FCIL) first began producing urea and ammonia at the Odisha plant in 1980. However, frequent power restrictions, technology mismatch, and precarious steam balance forced the plant to eventually cease operations.
- Then in 2007, the government decided to revive the FCIL’s defunct plants, and the Talcher Fertilisers Limited (TFL) was started in 2014 as a consortium of state-run companies GAIL, CIL, RCF and FCIL under the same effort.
Reducing energy imports, boosting Make in India, environment-friendly
- According to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, urea is currently produced using pooled natural gas, which comprises of both domestic natural gas and imported LNG. The usage of locally available coal for making fertilisers would help reduce the import of LNG.
- The Ministry also said that India currently imports 50 to 70 lakh tonnes of urea every year, and that the revival of the units would help increase the availability of domestically produced fertilisers.
- The press release added that the project’s environment-friendliness would help India in meeting its commitments under the CoP-21 Paris Agreement.
A multipurpose national ID card
- Speaking on the occasion of laying the foundation for a new office building for the Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner in New Delhi, Home Minister Amit Shah spoke about the potential of using the upcoming 2021 Census data for future planning, development initiatives and welfare schemes.
- The Home Minister’s suggestion resembles the so-called Multipurpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) that was first suggested by a 2001 report on “Reforming the National Security System” by an empowered Group of Ministers during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
- The eGOM report itself was a response to the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee, which was instituted in the wake of the Kargil conflict of 1999.
- It is difficult to surmise if MPNIC exactly is being reprised. For one, Home Minister Amit Shah has clarified that there is no specific scheme that is in the offing.
- But the government would want to link various databases if it intends to create a card that works as a single point of access to various accounts held by an individual.
- Moreover, technology has taken a giant leap since the MPNIC was first proposed in 2001. A good example of that is the existence of the Aadhaar database, which now has almost all residents of India on it.
- Lastly, according to media reports, the government is expected to launch the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) by the start of 2020.
- The Natgrid would reportedly be used by 10 agencies such as Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and Enforcement Directorate (ED) among others, to scour data real-time from 21 databases such as airline travel, credit card transactions etc with the aim to track and prevent terror and illegal immigration activities.
- The existence of the Natgrid would obviate the original need of MPNIC – that of tracking terror suspects and illegal immigrants.
India & RCEP
- While India has not yet signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, it has accepted suggestions of other countries regarding rules on investments.
- India and the other RCEP countries are currently in the final phase of negotiations in Vietnam.
- India has so far agreed to several provisions that bring it in line with the investment rules applicable in most comparable countries, including banning host countries from mandating that the investing companies transfer technology and training to their domestic partners, and removing the cap on the quantum of royalties domestic companies can pay their foreign partners.
- If the RCEP agreement is signed, these rules are expected to attract greater investment in India from the other 15 RCEP countries (the 10 ASEAN countries, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand).
- Indian laws currently have the provision wherein companies investing in the country can be made to transfer technology or know-hows to their domestic counterparts.
- The government and Reserve Bank of India also currently impose a cap on the royalties a domestic company can pay to its foreign parent or partner, for certain kinds of investments.
- These restrictions have been seen as major hindrances to investing in India, and other RCEP countries have argued strongly for their removal.
- While there is apprehension in industry that removing the cap on royalty payments would lead to increased outflow in foreign exchange and deplete the ability of domestic firms to pay dividends to shareholders, there is also the view that removal of these restrictions will result in increased investments in India.
Higher Education Bill
- A Bill that aims to create a single regulator for higher education, replacing the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), is likely to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament.
- It proposes to bring almost all areas of higher education — including technical, architectural and legal courses — under the ambit of a single umbrella body.
- Medical education, however, will not come under the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), according to the draft Bill.
- The new version of the legislation has also removed a controversial proposal to move grant disbursal authority from autonomous bodies and bring it directly under the control of the Human Resource Development Minister.
- Instead, a new autonomous body will be created to supervise the doling out of funds to higher education institutions, according to a senior Ministry official.
- UGC and AICTE are autonomous bodies which oversee the accreditation, regulation and maintenance of teaching, examination and research standards for universities and technical education institutions across the country.
- These academic functions will now be moved to the new HECI, as proposed in the draft Bill.
- However, AICTE and UGC are also responsible for disbursing public funds to Universities and colleges.
Delhi tenants to get free electricity up to 200 units
- Tenants in the Capital will now get free electricity up to 200 units under a new Delhi government scheme which will allow them to install prepaid meters, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced recently.
- Tenants, who constitute over half of the city’s population of over 2 crore according to government estimates, will also be entitled to get prepaid power meters installed at rented properties which will supply electricity at subsidised rates under the “Mukhyamantri Kirayedar Power Meter Yojana”.
- Under the scheme, tenants will be able to avail the benefits of free electricity up to 200 units as well as the subsidy for consumers using 200-400 units per month. The meters will be installed only on domestic consumer properties, the Delhi government said.
- Tenants, so far, were not able to get a separate power meter because they were required to take a no-objection certificate [NoC] from the homeowner to get an independent connection. Tenants will now get a meter using just two documents: rent agreement/receipt or any identity card.
- These meters will also have stickers bearing the name of the scheme.
- While those incurring bills for consumption up to 200 units are exempted from paying the bill, if the consumption is between 201 to 400 units, half the subsidy is being given.
- The cost of these meters, Mr. Kejriwal said, will be the same as incurred by property owners applying for domestic power connections in Delhi.
- There are two kinds of tenants in Delhi: those who live in flats or properties which already have power connections and those who do not have such connections.
- The intent of the scheme is to provide benefits to this other category of multiple tenants living in separate dwelling units at the same property, such as those belonging to the lower middle class, especially at unauthorised colonies in Delhi.
- There is only one power meter for properties with many tenants, which results in high power unit consumption which further leads to “huge electricity bills”.
Beneficial to landlords
- The landlord charges tenants ₹8-₹10 per unit. With separate connections, many tenants will now get free electricity. On the other hand, the landlord is also likely to get the benefit of subsidy on unit consumption for up to 400 units.
- The scheme is beneficial to the tenant as well as to the landlord.
- Outgoing tenants, who pay ₹3,000 as security for such connections will be able to reclaim the security amount when vacating the property they had rented.
- New tenants will have the option to renew these prepaid power connections as and when they take the same property up on rent, he said.
New IPCC report warns of dire threat to oceans
- With representatives from nearly 200 countries at the United Nations Climate Summit underway in the United States, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the apex referee for scientific evidence on the impact of global warming — made public a special report recently that underlined the dire changes taking place in oceans, glaciers and ice-deposits on land and sea.
- Over the 21st century, the ocean is projected to transition to unprecedented conditions with increased temperatures, further ocean acidification, marine heatwaves and more frequent extreme El Niño and La Niña events, according to a summary of the report made available to policymakers.
- The report updates scientific literature available since 2015 — when the IPCC released its comprehensive 5th Assessment Report — and summarises the disastrous impacts of warming based on current projections of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system (high confidence). Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled.
- Marine heatwaves have very likely doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity.
- The Southern Ocean accounted for 35%–43% of the total heat gain in the upper 2,000 m of global ocean between 1970 and 2017, and its share increased to 45%–62% between 2005 and 2017.
- The ‘Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’ was prepared following an IPCC Panel decision in 2016 to prepare three Special Reports and follows the Special Reports on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5), and on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL).
- The 1.5°C report was a key input used in negotiations at Katowice, Poland last year for countries to commit themselves to capping global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century.
- A major impact is in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Regions. Floods will become more frequent and severe in the mountainous and downstream areas of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins, because of an increase in extreme precipitation events.
- The severity of flood events is expected to more than double towards the end of the century.
Gandhi Solar Park and Peace Garden
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with UN chief Antonio Guterres and other world leaders, inaugurated the Gandhi Solar Park and Gandhi Peace Garden at the headquarters of the global body, underlining that his principles act as a moral compass as the world grapples with challenges of climate change, terrorism and corruption.
- Modi was joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in remotely inaugurating the 50-kW Gandhi Solar Park and the Gandhi Peace Garden at the UN Headquarters recently.
- The special commemorative event “Leadership matters: relevance of Gandhi in the contemporary world” was hosted by Mr. Modi to mark Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary.
- A special UN Postage stamp on Gandhiji’s 150 birth anniversary was released.
The Gandhi Solar Park and Peace Garden
- The Gandhi Solar Park is a first of its kind symbolic Indian effort at the U.N. that highlights India’s willingness to go beyond the talk on climate change and climate action.
- At a contribution of about $1 million, India has gifted solar panels that have been installed on the roof of the U.N. Headquarters here, one panel each for every 193 U.N. member states.
- The ‘Gandhi Peace Garden’ is an innovative initiative under which the Consulate-General of India in New York, Long Island-based NGO Shanti Fund and the State University of New York-Old Westbury have entered into an agreement to plant 150 trees.
- It is a crowd-sourced project, with people adopting trees in the memory of their loved ones. The garden is in an open site within the 600-acre campus of the university.
- The solar panels are powered up to reach the maximum 50 kW of generation power.
- Energy generated in the park is equivalent to energy that would have been created through the use of 30,000 kg of coal. It also has a carbon sequestration of 1,000 seedlings which will grow into trees over 10 years.
PM’s Economic Advisory Council
- The revived PMEAC had economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, and Ashima Goyal as members, and former finance secretary Ratan Watal as Secretary.
- The government has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC or EAC-PM), dropping Rathin Roy and Shamika Ravi as part-time members. Bibek Debroy, who was appointed Chairman of the Council in 2017, continues in his post.
- According to its (now archived) website, the Council was set up “with a view to provide a sounding board for inculcating awareness in government on the different point of view on key economic issues”.
- Its functions included “analysing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the Prime Minister and advising him thereon”; “addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister”, either on its own or upon reference; and presenting to the PM from time to time reports on “macroeconomic developments and issues with implications for economic policy”.
Evolution of PMEAC
- The PMEAC came into existence over three and a half decades ago, against the backdrop of a difficult economic situation. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had returned to power in 1980, faced formidable economic challenges.
- The global oil shock and drought had led to a decline in the national income, and soaring prices. In this situation, Finance Minister R Venkataraman stressed to the PM the need to arrest the slide and set the economy on the path to stability and growth.
- Indira decided to rope in Prof Sukhamoy Chakravarty, a man who had taught alongside Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh at the Delhi School of Economics, and who had, in the mid-1970s, headed the Policy Perspective Division in the Planning Commission.
PMEAC’s early years
- In the initial years of its existence, the members of the Council included the famed economist K N Raj, besides C Rangarajan, who would later become the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and Vijay Kelkar, who was the first Secretary of the PMEAC during 1982-83.
- Chakravarty, who briefed the Prime Minister occasionally on the state of the economy, continued in the post after Rajiv Gandhi succeeded Indira in 1984.
- Around 1986-87 — when the government had opened up the economy a little and allowed liberal foreign borrowings while spending to boost growth — the Council made a presentation to the PM, flagging emerging faultlines, and warning of an emerging fiscal imbalance.
- According to oldtimers, Rajiv acknowledged the input, and his Finance Minister, V P Singh, announced that the government had decided to accept the report of a committee appointed in 1985 by then RBI Governor Manmohan Singh to review the working of the monetary system, and to change the definition of the Budget deficit.
PMEAC in the 1990s
- Manmohan Singh himself headed the Council briefly when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, before moving on to become Advisor to the Prime Minister in the months leading to the balance of payments crisis of 1991.
- Bimal Jalan, who was finance secretary in the V P Singh government and, for a while in the Chandra Shekhar government as well, was moved to head the Council.
- When P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, and Manmohan Singh his Finance Minister, the Council held only a few meetings. The PM was briefed once in a while, but its minutes were not recorded.
The Vajpayee years
- Things changed after Atal Bihari Vajpayee became PM for the second time in 1998. The economy was again in trouble after the Asian crisis, and the Economic Advisory Council was expanded with the Prime Minister himself at its head.
- A 12-member Council for Trade and Industry was also appointed. Vajpayee’s PMEAC had heavyweights such as I G Patel, the former RBI Governor; P N Dhar, a former Secretary in Indira’s PMO; and noted economists Arjun Sengupta, Amaresh Bagchi, Ashok Desai, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Kirit Parekh, and G V Ramakrishna.
- Also in the Council were Vajpayee’s Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra, and Secretary in the PMO N K Singh. At a meeting of the Council in July 2002, Vajpayee unveiled an economic agenda for 8% growth — featuring plans to provide 10 million job opportunities annually, re-target subsidies and spending, push economic reforms, and better implement policies and improve execution.
- Through this period, the Finance Ministry remained dominant in economic policymaking.
The Manmohan years
- After he became PM in 2004, Manmohan Singh, conscious that he could no longer afford to focus on multiple economic issues, got his former RBI colleague Rangarajan to head the PMEAC, which was now more compact, with fewer than a half-dozen members.
- Rangarajan was given the status of Cabinet Minister — and with a powerful Finance Ministry under P Chidambaram and later Pranab Mukherjee, and a Planning Commission headed by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Council was seen as the advisory group best equipped to provide independent advice to the PM.
- During the 2004-14 decade, the Council often brought out its own review of the economy, besides reports on a range of issues. On the PMEAC in the Manmohan Singh years were economists such as Suresh Tendulkar — who also headed the Council for a year in 2008-09 — Saumitra Chaudhuri, Suman Bery, Dilip Nachane, Pulin Nayak, G K Chadha and Satish Jha. Manmohan Singh’s Council was the most influential in the over three-decade history of the institution. It drew its strength, most importantly, from the confidence and trust that the economist PM had in the head of the Council.
Revival in 2017
- One of the early decisions that the new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi took was to dismantle the Planning Commission, which had for decades played an influential role in the allocation of resources to states, and to replace it with the NITI Aayog. Also, the PMEAC was not restructured under the new government.
- The Council was finally reconstituted 40 months into the tenure of the first Modi government, with Debroy, then a member of the NITI Aayog, as chairman. The revived PMEAC had economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, and Ashima Goyal as members, and former finance secretary Ratan Watal as Secretary.
National Population Register
- The National Population Register (NPR) updation exercise, to be undertaken alongside Census 2021, will for the first time collect several particulars such as Aadhaar, PAN, mobile number, driving licence and voter ID details and Indian passport numbers from all usual residents of India.
- A usual resident is defined, for the purposes of NPR, as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more or someone who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.
- The NPR, with the stated objective to create a comprehensive identity database of such residents, was first prepared in 2011 followed by an updation in 2015 when Aadhaar, mobile numbers and ration card details were collected.
- But for the first time now, NPR database will additionally have PAN, driving licence, voter ID and passport information.
- While a passport can be issued at any age, the minimum age for issuance of Aadhaar number, which records biometric details, is 5 years. All other documents whose details are to be collected for NPR are issued to those aged 18 years or above.Sharing of Aadhaar number will be voluntary in view of the Supreme Court’s ruling in this regard.
- Other details being sought such as PAN, driving licence, voter ID and passport number are all part of various government-held databases and sharing with the census authorities will not involve privacy concerns, official sources said.
- According to an official, the population register data will not be put in public domain but will remain a secure database accessible to the relevant user through password -protected protocols. It will be used by the government to enhance targeting of beneficiary-oriented schemes and will have implications on improving internal security.
- The identification of particulars such as Aadhaar number, mobile number, PAN, driving licence, voter ID and passport can be uploaded on the Census Management & Monitoring Portal by residents themselves, using the mobile number furnished by them as part of the house-listing process.
Residents may be allotted unique file no.
- The mobile number will be good to enter details for members of the entire household.
- The options being discussed include allowing residents to self-upload details, say a month before the NPR process begins, for which they will be allotted a unique file number.
- This number can be quoted to the enumerator, who will refrain from collecting specified identification particulars.
- Passport details of only Indian-passport holders will be collected. While Citizenship Act and rules relating to NPR provide for exercise to be followed by preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens, sources said no decision has been taken by government.
- But, should an NRIC exercise be undertaken, people who furnished details of Indian passports during NPR process will be counted as citizens. Among details to be collected are name, sex, father’s name, mother’s name, spouse’s name (if married), date of birth, occupation, qualifications, present and permanent address.
- Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh recently said, launched the INS ‘Nilgiri’, the first of the Navy’s seven new stealth frigates, at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai.
- 70% of India’s trade by value and 95% by volume is taking place through the sea route and even a slight disruption of seaborne trade due to piracy, terrorism or conflict, could have serious repercussions on the economic growth and well-being of the nation.
- India is growing and its commercial interests are spreading far and beyond, yet there are challenges, including a hostile neighbourhood. “State-sponsored terrorism remains a challenge and the strong-willed Government will not hesitate to take tough decisions in the larger interest of the country.
- Directorate of Naval Design has designed over 19 classes of ships to which more than 90 ships have been built since then. He said, today India belongs to an elite group of nations which is building its own Aircraft Carrier and Strategic Submarines.
- The Defence Minister expressed confidence that Nilgiri and the other six ships of the Project will proudly fly the Indian Flag across the oceans, showcasing India’s shipbuilding prowess and would spread India’s message of peace and strength across the globe.
- INS Nilgiri is the first ship of Project 17A. Project 17A frigates is a design derivative of the Shivalik class stealth frigates with much more advanced stealth features and indigenous weapons and sensors.
- These frigates are being built using integrated construction methodology. The P17A frigates incorporate new design concepts for improved survivability, sea keeping, stealth and ship manoeuvrability.
Indegenous Submarine – INS Khanderi
- Describing INS Khanderi as a ‘potent combatant’, Shri Rajnath Singh congratulated the Navy and the Western Naval Command on its induction and for achieving very high levels of operational preparedness prior its commissioning.
- The name Khanderi is inspired by the dreaded ‘Sword Tooth Fish’ a deadly fish known to hunt whilst swimming close to the bottom of the ocean. Khanderi is also name of an island fort built by great Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He was man of great valour, courage and determination. He was one of the first Indian ruler in medieval era to recognise importance of strong Navy. Commissioning of INS Khanderi will bring same valour and sharpness back on sea.
- INS Khanderi is the second of Kalvari Class diesel electric attack submarines of the Indian Navy.
- It has been built in India to the French Scorpene design and is the second submarine of the Project-75. Built indigenously by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, INS Khanderi is a lethal addition to Navy’s conventional submarine arsenal and is designed for silent and stealthy sub-surface operations.
- INS Khanderi is the follow-on to INS Kalvari, which was the first of the French origin Scorpene class submarines being indigenously constructed in India and commissioned by the Prime Minister in 2017.
- First put out to sea in 2017, INS Khanderi has undergone comprehensive sea trials, torpedo and missile firings to validate her fighting capability.
- She was handed over to the Indian Navy on completion of trials recently. At 67.5 meters long and 12.3 meters high, Khanderi embodies cutting edge technologies that ensure stealthy, silent operations underwater and is equipped with an array of torpedoes, missiles and sensors that enable her to detect, identify and destroy enemy targets.
- The first submarine was commissioned into the Indian Navy on December 6, 1968 and was decommissioned on October 18, 1989 after 20 years of service to the nation.
Russia formally accepts 2015 Paris climate accord
- Russia said it would implement the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight climate change after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently approved a government resolution signifying ’s final acceptance of the deal.
- The same resolution said Russia would not technically ratify the accord however due to a legal nuance. Mr. Medvedev said Moscow would adapt the accord to existing legal norms. It was unclear what, if any, the legal implications of failing to technically ratify the pact were.
- Russia is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the biggest emitter not to have ratified the landmark global climate deal.
- In the government resolution, Russia said it did not need to ratify the agreement because Moscow had already undertaken to honour its commitments when it signed the deal in April 2016.
- Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev said it was important for Russia to be part of the Paris accord so that it had a voice when it came to deciding any new measures to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Clean Air Coalition
- WHO said that it was launching a “Clean Air Coalition” led by the Governments of Spain and Peru, while a group of philanthropic organizations and foundations were poised to launch a new “Clean Air Fund” at recent Climate Summit to spur investment in reducing sources of air pollution, which also contribute to climate change.
- Some 29 countries and over 50 subnational entities have pledged to join the coalition committed to achieving healthy air quality by 2030, as part of their Climate Summit pledges.
- The Clean Air Coalition is also being supported by the UN Secretary General’s Office and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition of UN Environment.
- As for the new Clean Air Fund being formally launched, Executive Director Jane Burston, said that the fund brings together “a group of like-minded philanthropic foundations” which have recognized that tackling air pollution will have “huge benefits for health as well as for climate.”
- Burston said that a report being published by the new fund tomorrow surveyed the funding landscape and found that philanthropic investment in air quality initiatives is disproportionately low in comparison to the burden disease caused by air pollution – which is estimated to kill some 7 million people around the world every year.
- Additionally, the report found that most money is spent only in a few countries – even though WHO estimates that over 90% of people around the world breathe unhealthy air.
- It is said that the new Clean Air Fund aims to support projects that “democratize” air quality data, making knowledge about air quality more widely accessible to large numbers of people in cities, through projects such as the Breathe London project. Breathe London has created a network of mobile sensors that allow children to decide how best to walk to school and parents to identify pollution hot spots.
Impeachment of President of U.S.A.
Recently, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, over his alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 elections.
What is Impeachment?
- Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States.
- Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the “the sole power of impeachment” while the Senate (Upper House) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”.
- The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has the duty of presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate.
Grounds for impeachment
- The President can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.
- What constitutes these “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” (misdemeanors), however, is not clearly spelt out.
- The New York Times explained that the expression “high crimes and misdemeanors” came out of the British common law tradition.
- “Essentially, it means an abuse of power by a high-level public official. This does not necessarily have to be a violation of an ordinary criminal statute,” The NYT said.
- Historically, in the US, it has encompassed corruption and other abuses, including trying to obstruct judicial proceedings.
- No US President has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment.
- The House did impeach two Presidents — Andrew Johnson (1968) and Bill Clinton (1998) — but the Senate did not convict them. In between, President Richard Nixon (1974) resigned before he could be removed.
- HOUSE VOTE: It begins with an investigation by a House committee. In the Nixon and Clinton cases, the House Judiciary Committee held that investigation and recommended articles of impeachment to the full House. In Trump’s case, six committees are investigating him on impeachable offences. If they find that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will refer the matter to the full House (see flow chart).
- HOUSE VOTE: When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached. Next, the proceedings move to the Senate.
- SENATE TRIAL & VOTE: The Senate holds a trial, overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, play the role of prosecutors, The NYT explained. The President has defence lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury. If at least two-thirds of the Senators present find the President guilty, he is removed and the Vice President takes over as President.
- The House has 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one independent. The Democrats could, therefore, impeach Trump with no Republican support.
- The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats. Conviction of the President would require 67 votes, which cannot happen unless some Republicans vote against him.
- United States (US) pharma major, Sandoz Inc issued a ‘voluntary recall’ of popular drug ranitidine recently, after confirmation that it had a carcinogenic substance in it.
- Sandoz has withdrawn 14 batches of the drug which it manufactured in 2017 and 2018 and which were set to expire in 2020 and 2021.
- According to the FDA, NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen (a substance that could cause cancer) based on results from laboratory tests.
- NDMA is a known environmental contaminant and found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables.
- Ranitidine is a prescription drug but is also sold over the counter (OTC). As an OTC drug, it is used to decrease the volume of acid produced in the stomach. It is also used to prevent and relieve heartburn associated with acid ingestion and sour stomach.
- As a prescription drug, it has multiple uses, including treatment and prevention of ulcers of the stomach and intestines and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
- On September 13, the US FDA had first said it was looking into possible contamination of ranitidine with NDMA. On September 23, the federal agency issued another alert, stating it was testing ranitidine products from multiple manufacturers.
- It said although NDMA might cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA was finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests, barely exceeded amounts one might expect to find in common foods.
- It also clarified that it was not calling for individuals to stop taking ranitidine at this time; however, patients taking prescription ranitidine who wish to discontinue use should talk to their health care professional about other treatment options.
- Besides the FDA, the European Medicine Agency has also launched a similar enquiry, the results of which are awaited.
- The Singapore drug regulator banned the supply of the drug in the country early this month. In its notification it said, “Eight brands of ranitidine medicines have been found to contain trace amounts of a nitrosamine impurity, NDMA, which are above the internationally acceptable level. As a precautionary measure, the Health Sciences Authority is stopping the sale and supply of the affected ranitidine medicines at clinics, hospitals and pharmacies
- Meanwhile, in India, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has also asked state drug controllers to ensure that the drug is safe.
PERSON IN NEWS
- The SASTRA Ramanujan prize for 2019 will be awarded to mathematician Adam Harper, Assistant Professor with the University of Warwick, England.
- The prize carries a citation and an award of $10,000 and is conferred annually on mathematicians from across the world who are less than 32 years of age, working in an area influenced by the genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.
- The citation said Mr. Harper was awarded the prize “for several outstanding contributions to analytic and probabilistic number theory.”
- “The prize recognizes his marvellous 2012 PhD thesis at Cambridge University, and his paper of 2013 in Crelle’s Journal …Harper’s recent brilliant proof of a conjecture of Helson…and a related paper… to appear in Algebra and Number Theory. The prize also recognizes Harper’s seminal work using the Riemann Hypothesis to determine the correct order upper bound for the higher moments of the Riemann zeta function on the critical line…”
- The age limit is 32 years to commemorate the fact that Srinivasa Ramanujan accomplished a phenomenal body of work in this short span.
- Every year, this prize is awarded by SASTRA University on its campus near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, on Ramanujan’s birth anniversary, December 22.
- The country’s highest film honour, the Dadasaheb Phalke award, conferred for “outstanding contribution for the growth and development of Indian cinema” will be presented this year to Amitabh Bachchan.
- The first intimation of it came via a tweet by Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar in which he stated that “The legend Amitabh Bachchan who entertained and inspired for two generations has been selected unanimously for #DadaSahabPhalke award.
- The award, very appropriately comes in the year that marks Mr. Bachchan’s golden jubilee in cinema.
- He made his debut in 1969 with Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’ Saat Hindustani about seven Indians attempting to liberate Goa from Portuguese colonial rule.
- The same year he also did the voiceover for Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome, one of the earliest films of Indian parallel cinema.
- Interestingly, the Dadasaheb Phalke award itself was first presented in the year of Mr. Bachchan’s debut. It was introduced by the government in 1969 to commemorate the “father of Indian cinema” who directed Raja Harishchandra (1913), India’s first feature film, and it was awarded for the first time to Devika Rani, “the first lady of Indian cinema.”
- The award comprises a Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus), a shawl and a cash prize of ₹1,000,000.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi, honoured with the “Global Goalkeeper” award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, has said the cleanliness campaign played a critical role in helping achieve UN goals and targets.
- Modi said the success of Swachh Bharat was above and beyond any statistics.
- He dedicated the award to those Indians who transformed the campaign into a “people’s movement” and accorded topmost priority to cleanliness in their lives.
Thunberg, three others, win ‘Alternative Nobel’
- Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, was among four people named recently as the winners of a Right Livelihood Award, also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel’.
- Thunberg is being recognised “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts,” the prize foundation said. It added that Ms. Thunberg “personifies the notion that everyone has the power to create change”.
- The foundation also gave its 2019 award to Davi Kopenawa and the Hutukara Yanomami Association, representing Brazil’s indigenous tribe, for protecting the Amazon forest and its people; Moroccan activist Aminatou Haidar “for her steadfast nonviolent action” for Western Sahara and Chinese lawyer Guo Jianmei for her work for women’s rights in China.
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