Current Affairs Oct 14

Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its corals since 1995

  • Scientists found all types of corals had suffered a decline across the world’s largest reef system.
  • The steepest falls came after mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.
  • Scientists assessed the health and size of coral colonies across the reef from 1995 to 2017.
  • They found populations had dropped by more than 50% in all coral sizes and species, but especially in branching and table-shaped corals.
  • These are the large, structural species which usually provide habitats for fish and other marine life.
  • Bleaching occurs when corals under stress drive out the algae – known as zooxanthellae – that give them colour.
  • Corals can recover if normal conditions return, but it can take decades.
  • A study in 2019 found that damaged coral colonies had struggled to regenerate because most of the adult corals had died.
  • Last year, the Australian government’s official agency on the reef confirmed that human-driven warming remained the biggest threat to the reef’s long-term survival.
  • Stretching over 2,300km (1,400 miles), the reef was designated a World Heritage site in 1981 for its “enormous scientific and intrinsic importance”.



Saudi Arabia fails to join UN human rights council

  • Russia and China have been elected to the UN human rights council for the next three years, but Saudi Arabia failed in its attempt to win a place on the 47-seat body.
  • The result is a severe blow to the country’s efforts to improve its image in the wake of the admitted killing of the Saudi citizen and Washington Post reporter.
  • Pakistan and Cuba were also elected in the secret ballot conducted at the UN headquarters in New York to fill 15 vacant seats, which are distributed between five regions.
  • France and the UK were elected unopposed to represent Europe.
  • All 193 UN countries can vote in each region.
  • The only contested region in the 2020 elections was the Asia-Pacific, where China and Saudi Arabia were in a five-way race with Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Nepal for four seats.
  • China attracted 139 votes, down from the last time it stood for a seat in 2016 when it gained 180.
  • Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the G20, came fifth with just 90 votes, beaten by Nepal with 150.
  • The Saudi’s defeat followed intensive last-minute lobbying from human rights organisations which warned that the body’s credibility would be at stake if Saudi Arabia, Russia and China were all elected given their recent histories.
  • The Russian state has in recent weeks been accused of using a military grade nerve agent to poison opposition leader Alexander Navalny.
  • China stands accused of sending hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims into state re-education camps in Xinjiang province.
  • Saudi Arabia has admitted that government officials dismembered Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two years ago.
  • Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.
  • Four countries won four Africa seats: Ivory Coast, Malawi, Gabon and Senegal. Russia and Ukraine won the two East European seats.
  • In the Latin American and Caribbean group, Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia won the three open seats.
  • And Britain and France won the two seats for the Western European and others group.
  • Recently, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the United States and Canada called on U.N. member states to oppose the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them unqualified.



Russian-U.S. Crew Launches on Fast Track to the Space Station

  • A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Space Station, for the first time using a fast-track maneuver to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.
  • NASA’s Kate Rubins along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.
  • For the first time, they are trying a two-orbit, three-hour approach to the orbiting space outpost.
  • Previously it took twice as long for the crews to reach the station.
  • In November, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are set to greet NASA’s SpaceX first operational Crew Dragon mission, bringing NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle. It follows a successful Demo-2 mission earlier this year.
  • The Crew Dragon mission was pushed back from Oct. 31 into November, and no new date has been set yet.
  • The delay is intended to give SpaceX more time to conduct tests and review data from an aborted Falcon 9 launch earlier this month.



 India-Mexico Bilateral High Level Group

  • India and Mexico have agreed to expand and diversify bilateral trade ties and tap the potential of the complementarities between the two countries.
  • For this purpose, the two sides have agreed to enhance cooperation in pharmaceutical, medical equipment, healthcare, agri-products, fisheries, food processing and aerospace industries.
  • This emerged at the fifth meeting of the India-Mexico Bilateral High Level Group on Trade, Investment and Cooperation (BHLG).
  • Both sides discussed a number of bilateral ongoing and outstanding issues, ranging from
  • audio visual co-production, bilateral investment treaty, market access for agricultural products,
  • cooperation framework on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) measures between the two countries,
  • co-operation in the Intellectual Property Rights, and exploring ways to promote tourism and people-to-people contact between India and Mexico.
  • Two business-to-business MoUs were signedto foster the cooperation in the respective domains.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding between the Electronics & Computer Software Export Promotion Council (ESC) of India and the Mexican Chamber of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technologies (CANIETI), was signed.
  • An MoU between the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Mexican Business Council of Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE) for promoting the development of business relations between India and Mexico was also signed.




 International Port Community Systems Association

  • Indian Ports Association (IPA), an apex body of state-owned major ports under the Shipping Ministry,
  • has become a member of the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA)
  • in a clear sign of the government’s focus on digitalisation of the maritime trade processes and enhance ease of doing business.
  • The IPA brings with it experience and knowledge on how to develop a National Port Community System.
  • The inclusion of Indian Ports through PCS1x platform into IPCSA is a new milestone in IPCSA’s development and will support in the implementation of new global initiatives.
  • PCS1x has been rolled out by IPA to offer a single window for the port and maritime community for sharing data and information.
  • PCS1x has grown in scope and penetration over the last year and a half with significantly better utilisation than its predecessor.
  • Since going live in December 2018, the new PCS1x has tripled the user base and reduced the turnaround time of (Customs) batch mode of electronic data interchange (EDI) exchange from 30 minutes to less than four minutes.
  • the Indian PCS1x architecture is designed in such a way that it not only caters to the 12 major ports but also to other 200 non-major ports, of which eight are currently on-boarded.
  • PCS 1x is addressing the way in which information is passed on real-time basis by integrating with various stakeholder systems, bringing speed, transparency and efficiency leading to reduction in errors and faster processing times.
  • Currently, the 12 major ports have fully implemented the PCS1x






  • An ecologically sustainable model, aquaponics — not to be confused with hydroponics — combines hydroponics with aquaculture.
  • Hydroponics is the soil-less growing of plants, where soil is replaced with water (remember that money plant in a discarded booze bottle?).
  • Aquaculture is the raising of fish. With aquaponics, you grow both fish and plants in one integrated eco-system.
  • Aquaponics and related alternative farming techniques are highly required to improve the status of farmers.
  • This technique will help the farmer in increasing the productivity of his land and also augment his income.
  • A pilot ‘Aquaponics facility’ developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Mohali at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary University (GADVASU), Ludhiana was inaugurated.
  • The state-of-the-art facility, that is the first of its kind in region, is equipped with advanced sensors for monitoring and automated controls.
  • It has been developed with the funding support from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Govt. of India.


So how exactly does this food-fish combo work?

  • The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, which in turn naturally filter the water for the fish, creating a balanced eco-system.
  • There is a third participant: microbes or nitrifying bacteria that eventually convert the ammonia from the fish waste into nitrates which plants need to grow.
  • Since both the fish and the plants can be used for consumption and income generation, the method delivers a two-fold benefit.





75th Anniversary of FAO

  • On the occasion of 75th Anniversary of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 16th October 2020, Prime Minister will release a commemorative coin of Rs 75 denomination to mark the long-standing relation of India with FAO.
  • Prime Minister will also dedicate to the Nation 17 recently developed biofortified varieties of 8 crops.
  • The event marks the highest priority accorded by the government to agriculture and nutrition, and is a testament of the resolve to completely eliminate hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition.
  • It will be witnessed by Anganwadis, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Organic and Horticulture Missions across the country.

India and FAO

  • The journey of FAO in making the vulnerable classes and masses stronger, economically and nutritionally, has been unparalleled.
  • India has had a historic association with FAO.
  • Indian Civil Service Officer Dr. Binay Ranjan Sen was the Director General of FAO during 1956-1967.
  • The World Food Programme, which has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, was established during his time.
  • India’s proposals for the International Year of Pulses in 2016 and the International Year of Millets 2023 have also been endorsed by FAO.

Combating malnutrition

  • India has rolled out an ambitious POSHAN Abhiyaan targeting over 100 million people with the aim to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anaemia, and low birth weight.
  • Malnutrition is a global problem with two billion people suffering from micronutrient deficiency.
  • Nearly 45% of deaths among children are linked to malnutrition. Appropriately, it is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.
  • Aligning with the international priority, the development of nutritionally rich varieties of crops with elevated levels of
  • micronutrients iron, zinc, calcium, total protein,
  • quality of protein with high lysine and tryptophan, anthocyanin, provitamin A, and oleic acid, and
  • reduced level of anti-nutritional factors etc. has been accorded top priority by the government.


Transforming Indian thali into nutri-thali

  • The 17 recently developed biofortified varieties of 8 crops to be dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister will have up to 3.0-fold increase in nutritional value.
  • The rice variety CR Dhan 315 has high zinc;
  • wheat variety HI 1633 rich in protein, iron and zinc,
  • HD 3298 rich in protein and iron and DBW 303 and DDW 48 rich in protein in wheat;
  • Ladhowal Quality Protein Maize Hybrid 1, 2 and 3 rich in lysine and tryptophan;
  • CFMV1 and 2 of finger millet rich in calcium, iron and zinc;
  • CLMV1 of little Millet rich in iron and zinc;
  • Pusa Mustard 32 with low erucic acid;
  • Girnar 4 and 5 of groundnut with enhanced oleic acid and yam variety Sri Neelima and DA 340 with enhanced zinc, iron and anthocyanin content.
  • These varieties, along with other food ingredients, will transform the normal Indian thali into nutri-thali.
  • ICAR has started Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) programme


  • for promoting family farming linking agriculture to nutrition, nutri-smart villages
  • for enhancing nutritional security and location specific nutrition garden models are being developed and
  • promoted by KVKs to ensure access to locally available, healthy and diversified diet with adequate macro and micronutrients.



MACS 6478

  • This wheat variety called MACS 6478 and developed by Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) has doubled the crop yield for farmers in Karanjkhop, a village in Maharashtra.
  • The farmers of the village in Koregaon tehsil of Satara district in Maharashtra are now getting a yield of 45-60 quintal per hectare with the new variety as against earlier average yield ranging 25-30 quintal per hectare when they cultivated Lok 1, HD 2189 and other old varieties.
  • Maharashtra State seed agency for seed multiplication, ‘Mahabeej’ is carrying out certified seed production of MACS 6478 for use by farmers.


Indias economy to contract by 10.3% – IMF

  • With the country and world reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian economy is expected to grow at -10.3 % ( i.e., a contraction) in 2020 as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Global growth is projected to be -4.4% ( i.e., a contraction in output of 4.4%) for this year , the IMF said with the release of its World Economic Outlook October 2020 report titled, “A Long and Difficult Ascent”.
  • The 2020 projection for India is a downgrade of -5.8 percentage points from the IMF’s June projection for the country.
  • India is expected to rebound in 2021 with 8.8 percent growth – an upgrade of 2.8 percentage points relative to the June update.
  • Consumer prices in India are expected to grow at 4.9% this year and 3.7% in 2021.
  • The current account balance is projected to grow by 0.3% this year and -0.9% (i.e., a contraction) next year.
  • For the world as a whole, the 2020 growth projection has been revised upwards by 0.8 percentage points relative to June.
  • The recovery in 2021 is projected to be at 5.2% – lower than the June 2020 projections.
  • After 2021, global growth is expected to ease off at 3.5% in the medium term.
  • Except for China, where output this year is expected to exceed 2019 levels, advanced, developing and emerging market economies are expected to see lower output even next year.
  • The U.S. economy is expected to grow by -4.3 % this year (i.e., contract) and grow by 3.1% next year.
  • The corresponding numbers for the Euro Area are -8.3% and 5.2%. For China they are 1.9% and 8.2% respectively.
  • The IMF projects that close to 90 million people could fall below the $ 1.90/day extreme poverty threshold (the World Bank last week projected that there could be up to 150 million additional extreme poor in 2020, 2021).
  • There is still much that needs to be done to ensure a sustained recovery.
  • First, is a need for greater international collaboration on tests, treatments and vaccines. If these are made available faster than accounted for in the IMF mode’s baseline scenario, it could mean an increase in global cumulative income by $ 9 trillion by the end of 2025.
  • Second, policies should “aggressively” seek to limit persistent economic damage. Governments should support incomes, by well targeted cash transfers, wage subsidies and unemployment insurance. For firms that are viable but vulnerable, Ms Gopinath recommended support such as tax deferrals, debt servicing moratoria, equity-like injections.
  • Third, policies should aid workers’ transition to growing sectors (e.g. e-commerce) and away from sectors like travel which are likely to shrink. Other measures include support to governments via institutional grants, concession financing and debt relief “in some cases” so these governments can prioritize critical spending for health and transfers to the poor.



World Bank approves $12B to finance virus vaccines, care

  • The World Bank has approved $12 billion in financing to help developing countries buy and distribute coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments, aiming to support the vaccination of up to one billion people.
  • The $12 billion envelop is part of a wider World Bank Group package of up to $160 billion to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Access to safe and effective vaccines and strengthened delivery systems is key to alter the course of the pandemic and help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts move toward a resilient recovery.
  • The International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank is investing in vaccine manufacturers through a $4 billion Global Health Platform.
  • The funding is meant to also help countries access tests and treatments and to support management of supply chains and other logistics for vaccinations in developing countries.




Collation Of Indias Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Research Status Launched

  • A compilation of ongoing research activities in the country related to hydrogen being carried out by several scientists, industry, utilities, and other stakeholders
  • from R&D laboratories and academia was launched by Secretary, Department of Science and Technology Professor Ashutosh Sharma recently.
  • The compilation titled India Country Status Report on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells was an outcome of a brainstorming discussions and presentations
  • on various issues for developing programmes and strategies to accelerate the ushering in of hydrogen economy
  • as part of India’s commitment as a participating country in Mission Innovation Renewable and Clean Hydrogen Challenge.
  • Greater utilization of renewable in our energy mix is our policy objective to achieve decarbonization.
  • While there are several pathways for decarbonisation varying in time frames, Hydrogen produced from renewables is considered as the cleanest energy source.
  • Hydrogen has high energy content per unit mass, which is three times higher than gasoline.
  • Hydrogen is being used for energy applications with suitable fuel cells.
  • However, in order to make renewable hydrogen a viable option, several key challenges related to materials, including new material development, electrolytes, storage, safety, and standards, need to be addressed.
  • Since hydrogen technologies can help to reduce global warming, further acceleration of efforts is critical to ensuring a significant share of hydrogen in the energy system in the coming decades.
  • Two key developments have contributed to the growth of hydrogen in recent years–
  • the cost of hydrogen supply from renewables has come down and continues to fall,
  • while the urgency of greenhouse gas emission mitigation has increased, and many countries have begun to take action to decarbonise their economies.



Operation Green

  • Operation Green is being implemented as part of Atmanirbhar Abhiyan under the ageis of Union Ministry of Food Processing.
  • Under this scheme, 50 per cent subsidy is given to the farmers for transporting the surplus produce of agricultural commodities like oranges and vegetables to the markets by rail.
  • 50 per cent subsidy is also given for cold chain storage of agricultural commodities.
  • However, in order to get this subsidy, farmers have to attach self-certified documents online on ‘Sampada’ portal of the Ministry of Food Processing.
  • This step will enable farmers to register for railway transport at subsidized rates for agricultural produce.
  • Due to this step, more farmers could avail this facility; it would provide better ticket fares to the railways and increase its profits.
  • Meanwhile, the decision to transport oranges from Nagpur to Bangladesh by rail has already been taken by Central Railway.



 Mars Is The Brightest This Month

  • Due to an event referred to as “opposition”, which takes place every two years and two months,
  • Mars will outshine Jupiter, becoming the third brightest object (moon and Venus are first and second, respectively) in the night sky during the month of October.
  • Mars’s next close approach will happen on December 8, 2022.

So what is opposition?

  • Opposition is the event when the sun, Earth and an outer planet (Mars in this case) are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.
  • The time of opposition is the point when the outer planet is typically also at its closest distance to the Earth for a given year, and because it is close, the planet appears brighter in the sky.
  • An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth.

When does opposition happen?

  • Earth and Mars orbit the sun at different distances (Mars is farther apart from the sun than Earth and therefore takes longer to complete one lap around the sun).
  • In fact, opposition can happen only for planets that are farther away from the sun than the Earth.
  • In case of Mars, roughly every two years, the Earth passes between sun and Mars, this is when the three are arranged in a straight line.
  • Further, as the Earth and Mars orbit the sun, there comes a point when they are on the opposite sides of it, and hence very far apart.
  • In case of opposition, however, Mars and sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth.
  • In other words, the Earth, sun and Mars all lie in a straight line, with the Earth in the middle.
  • Significantly, the closest distance is relative and hence can vary.
  • As per NASA, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 2003 in nearly 60,000 years and it won’t be that close to the planet until 2287.
  • This is because the orbits of Earth and Mars are not perfectly circular and their shapes can change slightly because of gravitational tugging by other planets.
  • For instance, Jupiter influences the orbit of Mars

But why is it called opposition?

  • As per NASA, from an individual’s perspective on the Earth, Mars rises in the east and after staying up all night, it sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • Because from the perspective on Earth, the sun and Mars appear to be on the opposite sides of the sky, Mars is said to be in “opposition”. Essentially, opposition is a reference to “opposing the sun” in the sky.



Advanced high-resolution Air Quality Early Warning System

  • Ministry of Earth Sciences is constantly striving to improve Air Quality Early Warning System by incorporating various changes in Air Quality Forecast Models such as
  • improved emission inventories, Land Use and Land Cover and improved assimilation of various observational data.
  • The Air Quality forecast model System for Integrated modelling of Atmospheric composition (SILAM) for India has been further improved by
  • implementing global emission inventories CAMS-GLOB v2.1 supplemented with EDGAR v4.3.2 for coarse and mineral-fine anthropogenic particulate matter at 10km resolution.
  • A very high resolution city scale model ENFUSER (ENvironmental information FUsion SERvice) for Delhi also has been operationalized to identify the air pollution hotspots and pollution upto street level.
  • SILAM and ENFUSER have been developed in technical collaboration with Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).
  • The speciality of the ENFUSER is the high utilization of measurement data such as
  • air quality observations, a detailed description of the road network, buildings, land-use information, high resolution satellite images, ground elevation and population data.


  • The ENFUSER natively taps into the operative IMD’s regional SILAM access point.
  • The ENFUSER results are being evaluated with the satellite measurements and observations, model is found to capture the hotspots over Delhi very well.
  • The SILAM models have been extensively validated against observations over Indian region.
  • Air Quality forecast model WRF-Chem has also been updated with high-resolution land use land cover information to improve the air quality forecast.
  • Now AQ early warning system also provides air quality forecast for Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi at 2 km resolution.
  • The AQ forecast is also available for some other cities at 10km resolution.






  • Swedish-British drug giant AstraZeneca recently said it was moving an antibody combination developed for Covid-19 treatment into late-stage human trials.
  • The firm has also received around $486 million from the US government for the development and supply of this combination.

What is this therapy?

  • AZD7442, a similar class of the drug cocktail used to treat US President Donald Trump recently, is a combination of two long-acting monoclonal antibodies (LAAB).


  • AstraZeneca developed it using its proprietary technology with the aim of preventing Covid-19 infection for a long duration.
  • LAABs mimic natural antibodies, and a combination of LAABs could be “complementary” to vaccines as a prophylactic agent, according to AstraZeneca.
  • This means it could either be used on people for whom a vaccine may not be appropriate or it could be given as added protection for those at high-risk.

Is it similar to other experimental therapies?

  • This LAAB combination is similar to the experimental therapy developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals–a cocktail that Trump has been treated with after contracting Covid-19.
  • Eli Lilly is another company that has worked on an antibody treatment. Regeneron and Lilly have both reportedly also sought emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for these therapies.

How is this relevant for India?

  • India accounts for the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world.
  • While a Covid-19 vaccine is still in the works and the country continues to figure out how it will supply the shots to its priority groups, AstraZeneca has said it will be ready to supply up to 100,000 doses of this antibody cocktail by the end of 2020.


  • Considering the potential for India’s biopharmaceutical industry to reproduce such therapies with agreements and tech transfers from the company, such a therapy could add to the country’s basket of drugs to curb the spread of this virus and effectively treat those infected.
  • That is, provided that the ongoing trials and any localised trials in India show that the cocktail is worth it.



Gujarats Disturbed Areas Act

  • President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to a Bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly last year,
  • which made some important amendments to The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act,
  • a controversial law that is popularly known as the ‘Disturbed Areas Act’.


What is the Disturbed Areas Act?

  • Under the Disturbed Areas Act, a district Collector can notify a particular area of a city or town as a “disturbed area”.
  • This notification is generally done based on the history of communal riots in the area.
  • Following this notification, the transfer of immovable property in the disturbed area can take place only after the Collector expressly signs off on an application made by the buyer and the seller of the property.
  • In the application, the seller has to attach an affidavit stating that she/he has sold the property of her/his free volition, and that she/he has got a fair market price.
  • Violation of the Act’s provisions, that is, if property in a notified disturbed area is transferred without the Collector’s permission, invites imprisonment and a fine.
  • The state government claims it is aiming to check communal polarisation of various parts of the state through the Act.

What are the penal provisions for violation in the amended Act?

  • The punishment for the violation of the Act was earlier imprisonment for six months and fine up to Rs 10,000.
  • The amendment has increased the punishment to imprisonment between three and five years.
  • The fine has also been increased to Rs 1 lakh, or 10% of the jantri rate (ready reckoner of property prices in different parts of the state) of the property, whichever is higher.

Which are the areas where the DA Act is currently applicable in Gujarat?

  • The DA Act is applicable in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Himmatnagar, Godhra, Kapadvanj and Bharuch.





Campaign Against Encrypted Social Media Messages

  • India is among seven countries to back a UK-led campaign against end-to-end encryption of messages by social media giants such as Facebook, which they say hinder law enforcement by blocking all access to them.
  • The UK and India are joined by the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan in a joint international statement addressed to all tech companies to ensure they do not blind themselves to illegal activity on their platforms, including child abuse images.
  • It marks an expansion of the so-called “Five Eyes” group of nations, a global alliance on intelligence issues, to include India and Japan.
  • Populations of the seven signatory countries represent a fifth of Facebook’s users across the world and claimed that end-to-end encryption policies such as those employed by the social media giant erode the public’s safety online.
  • The statement calls on tech companies to ensure there is no reduction in user safety when designing their encrypted services; to enable law enforcement access to content where it is necessary and proportionate; and work with governments to facilitate this.



Exercise Suraksha Kavach

  • Agnibaaz Division organized a joint exercise for both Indian Army and Maharashtra Police at Lullanagar Pune recently.
  • The aim of the exercise was to harmonize the drills and procedures of both Army and Police for activating anti-terrorist Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) to counter any terrorist actions in Pune.
  • The exercise involved participation of Quick Reaction Teams, Dog Squads and Bomb Disposal Teams of Army as well as Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Quick Reaction Team of Maharashtra Police.
  • A simulated exercise scenario was built up regarding the presence of terrorist in family accommodations at Lullanagar, based on which Quick Reaction Teams of Army initially established the outer cordon.
  • Joint action was thereafter carried out by Army’s Counter Terrorism Task Force (CTTF) and Quick Reaction Team of Maharashtra Police to neutralize terrorists,
  • it involved room intervention drill, search of room for any unidentified items/explosives by Dog squads and their neutralization/ diffusion by Bomb Disposal Units.
  • An equipment display was also organized, showcasing important equipment required for the conduct of this exercise.
  • The exercise provided an opportunity for both Army and Police to cooperate, coordinate, coopt and streamline their drills and procedures.



Applied AI Research Centre

  • Intel India has collaborated with the Government of Telangana, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) to launch INAI, an applied artificial intelligence research centre in Hyderabad.
  • INAI is an initiative that applies AI to population-scale problems in the Indian context, with a focus on identifying and solving challenges in the healthcare and smart mobility segments through strong ecosystem collaboration.


  • INAI will act as a catalyst to accelerate India’s leadership in AI by driving innovation and entrepreneurship, creating national assets such as curated datasets, computing infrastructure, tools and frameworks with
  • the aim to attract global talent for high impact research towards social sector development. PHFI is the founding healthcare partner in this initiative.
  • INAI will leverage the broader computing strengths and academic expertise of different stake holders
  • to drive targeted outcomes in technology innovation, entrepreneurship development, job creation and international collaboration.
  • In the smart mobility domain, INAI will advance research in the area of road safety to use AI to reduce road accidents and fatalities in the country.
  • In the area of public health, the centre will work to enable solutions to extend health coverage to every individual and advance research for better prediction of non-communicable diseases.





Development of EV charging infrastructure

  • The government has invited proposals for installation of charging stations from entities that intend to build and operate charging infrastructure on major highways and expressways in the country.
  • The Department of Heavy Industries has floated an Expression of Interest for inviting proposals from government organisations, PSUs (State/Central), state-owned DISCOM, Oil PSUs and similar other public and private entities to build and operate Public EV charging
  • Proposals have been invited from interested entities to build and operate EV charging infrastructure on the Mumbai – Pune, Ahmedabad-Vadodara, Delhi-Agra Yamuna, Bengaluru-Mysore, Bengaluru-Chennai, Surat – Mumbai, Agra – Lucknow, Eastern Peripheral and Hyderabad-ORR Expressways.
  • Similarly, proposals have also been invited from entities for highways including Delhi – Srinagar, Delhi-Kolkata, Agra-Nagpur, Meerut to Gangotri Dham, Mumbai – Delhi, Mumbai-Panaji, Mumbai-Nagpur, Mumbai-Bengaluru and Kolkata to Bhubaneswar.
  • Under Phase-II of the FAME India Scheme, Government of India (GoI) intends to support the development of EV charging infrastructure by extending capital grant to organisations for promoting the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs).
  • The Centre has approved Phase-II of FAME India Scheme [Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India], for 3 years commencing from 1st April 2019.
  • Its main focus is the electrification of public and shared transportation.




Pluto’s snow-capped mountains

  • Pluto’s snow-capped mountains look like they belong on Earth, but researchers have discovered that the snowy tops of these features are actually made of methane frost.
  • These mountains gather snow in a way entirely unlike anywhere else in the solar system.
  • The NASA New Horizon probe flew by Pluto in 2015, providing our closest and most detailed view of the dwarf planet to date.
  • The probe revealed features that resembled those stunning snow-capped chains of mountains on Earth.


  • It’s yet another discovery made using New Horizons data that changes the way scientists understand Pluto.
  • The dwarf planet exists on the edge of our solar system in a place called the Kuiper Belt, where icy, old remnants of the solar system’s formation orbit the sun at such a great distance that they remain like frozen time capsules.
  • Pluto is 3.6 billion miles from the sun — 40 times the distance from Earth to the sun — and a single year takes 248 Earth years.
  • This makes Pluto a cold place covered with ice, and its surface is between negative 378 to negative 396 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Its thin atmosphere includes nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide, and although the skies are blue on Pluto, the snow is red because of its chemical composition.
  • But in Pluto’s equatorial region, also called the Cthulhu region, bright white frosts collect on top of the red features in a striking way.
  • Cthulhu is a region that stretches nearly halfway around Pluto’s equator, starting from the west of the great nitrogen ice plains known as Sputnik Planum.
  • It’s a bit larger than Alaska and showcases snow-capped red mountains that are actually covered in bright methane frost.
  • Pluto is covered in methane deposits, but those observed in the Cthulhu region look a lot like snow gathered on crater rims, walls and mountain tops.
  • But scientists weren’t sure about the composition of these deposits — either rich in methane or a combination of methane and nitrogen — as well as how they formed.
  • On Earth, atmospheric temperatures decrease with altitude. The same occurs with surface temperatures as the altitude increases because the cold, dense atmosphere cools the surface.
  • So when moist wind approaches a mountain, it rises up the slope, cools and the water condenses to create snow-capped peaks.
  • On Pluto, it’s the opposite.
  • While Pluto’s surface temperature remains incredibly cold, its atmosphere is actually warmed by the sun. Those temperatures rise as the altitude increases.


Nilgiris Elephant Corridor

  • The Supreme Court (SC) upheld a 2011 order of the Madras High Court (HC) on the Nilgiris elephant corridor, affirming the right of passage of the animals and the closure of resorts in the area.
  • The Madras HC had, in July 2011, declared that the Tamil Nadu government was fully empowered under the ‘Project Elephant’ of the Union government as well as Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution to notify the elephant corridor in the state’s Nilgiris district.
  • The elephant corridor is situated in the Masinagudi area near the Mudumalai National Park in the Nilgiris district.
  • The court also allowed the formation of a committee led by a retired HC judge and two other persons to hear the individual objections of resort owners and private landowners within the corridor space.
  • Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde had stated “the area was a fragile ecosystem, where the will of men must give way to elephants,” during the last hearings in the case in January 2020.
  • The Supreme Court, in August 2018, had directed the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close 11 hotels and resorts constructed on the elephant corridor in the Nilgiri Hills in violation of the law, within the next 48 hours.
  • The collector would verify the documents and if s / he arrived at the conclusion that a resort or hotel had been constructed without prior approval, the same was to be closed down within 48 hours.




Wildfires Consequences

  • Wildfires are one of the most devastating manifestations of human-induced climate change.
  • These wildfires can sequentially increase mortality, morbidity and mental health concerns, according to a new report that analysed global wildfires over 20 years.
  • Between 1997 and 2016, the global mean carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from wildfires were approximately 22 per cent of the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
  • It warned that forest loss in tropical areas due to wildfires damaged the Earth’s ability to absorb CO2 and to cool the climate.
  • If high greenhouse gas emissions continue, wildfire exposure could substantially increase to over 74 per cent of the global land mass by the end of the 21st century.
  • It added that reaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius target would require reducing global net CO2 emissions by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero around 2050.
  • The 1.5°C target would remain achievable if CO2 emissions declined by 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030.
  • Wildfires could lead to traumatic experiences, property loss and displacement, residents in affected areas would be at an increased risk for mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and insomnia.
  • The psychological consequences of wildfire events can persist for years, with children and adolescents being the most vulnerable.
  • The report quoted the 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ wildfires in Australia that killed 173 people. In the first 72 hours, 146 patients with burns and 64 with physical trauma presented to local emergency departments.
  • Heat-related illnesses ranging from dehydration-induced heat cramps to life-threatening heat stroke were also highly likely
  • In areas surrounding a wildfire, heavy smoke can cause eye irritation and corneal abrasions and can substantially reduce visibility, increasing the risk of traffic accidents.
  • As far as 1,000 kilometre away, wildfire smoke can increase ambient air pollution, along with associated risks of illness and death.