Sardar Vallabhai Patel Zoological Park
- The Prime Minister inaugurated Sardar Patel Zoological Park and Geodesic Aviary Dome in Kevadia.
- Dedicated to the nation 17 projects under Integrated Development of Kevadia and laid the foundation Stone for 4 new Projects.
- The projects include Navigation Channel, New Gora Bridge, Garudeshwar Weir, Government Quarters, Bus Bay Terminus, Ekta Nursery, Khalwani Eco Tourism, Tribal Home Stay.
- Flaged-off of the Ekta Cruise Service to the Statue of Unity.
- Also inaugurated various projects under Integrated Development of Kevadia in Gujarat.
- Inaugurated Arogya Van and Arogya Kutir and the Ekta Mall, and Children Nutrition Park.
Ekta Cruise Service
- Through the Ekta Cruise Service one can experience the viewing of Statue of Unity through the Ferry Boat Service from Shrestha Bharat Bhavan to Statue of Unity by covering a distance of 6 km.
- The 40 min ride can be covered by a boat which can ferry 200 passengers at a time. New Gora Bridge is built especially for the operation of the ferry service.
Arogya Van & Arogya Kutir
- Arogya Van has 5 lakh plants of 380 different species spread over an area of 17 acre.
- Arogya Kutir has a traditional treatment facility named Santhigiri wellness centre which will provide healthcare based on Ayurveda, Siddha, Yoga and Panchakarma.
- The Mall displays a diverse range of handicrafts and traditional items from all over India symbolizing unity in diversity.
- The mall consists of 20 Emporia each representing a specific state in India and is built in just 110 days.
Children Nutrition Park & Mirror Maze
- It is the world’s first ever technology driven nutrition park for children and is spread over an area of 35000 sq ft.
- A Nutri Train runs across the park to various exciting theme based stations namely ‘Phalshaka Griham’, ‘Payonagari’, ‘Annapoorna’, ‘Poshan Puran’, and ‘Swastha Bharatam’.
- It will raise nutritional awareness through various edutainment activities like Mirror Maze, 5D Virtual reality theatre and Augmented reality games.
New Wage Code
- Those indulging in sexual harassment of any form could run the risk of losing out on bonus dues from their employers.
What’s New in this
- The Code on Wages lays down norms for annual bonus dues that accrue to employees, replacing the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.
- The new Code, expected to become operational once the government notifies the rules, includes ‘conviction for sexual harassment’ as a ground for denying bonus payouts to employees.
- As per the extant law, bonus dues are barred only in case of employees dismissed for fraud, violent conduct and theft or sabotage.
Why this Change
- The prospect of losing one’s benefits may make employees more careful of their conduct and they should be made aware of this provision.
About Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Law, 2013
- As per the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) law of 2013, firms are required to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to inquire into complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace.
- The Committee is required to make recommendations to employers on the action required pursuant to its inquiry in such complaints.
- If the ICC upholds a complaint, it could be construed as a conviction.
- ICC has the powers to decide if someone is guilty and report it further to the police, though not all sexual harassment cases translate into a police case.
- Under the POSH Act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) — physical contact and advances; a demand or request for sexual favours; making sexually coloured remarks; showing pornography; or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
- The rules under the Code on Wages should clarify whether the conviction would cover cases of outcomes of the investigation by the Internal Complaints Committee arriving at a conclusion to pay compensation to the victim or not.
- While the other disqualification triggers for withholding bonus dues, like theft and violent conduct are explicitly restricted to actions on an employer’s premises of the employer,
- the trigger referring to conviction under sexual harassment doesn’t include such a condition about the location of the incident.
- “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Code, an employee shall be disqualified from receiving bonus under this Code, if he is dismissed from service for –– fraud; or riotous or violent behaviour while on the premises of the establishment; or theft, misappropriation or sabotage of any property of the establishment; or conviction for sexual harassment,” section 29 of the Code on Wages states.
- Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
- The minimum bonus payable under the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 is 8.33% of the salary or wage earned by the employee during the accounting year subject to a maximum of 20% of such salary or wage and is applicable to all employees earning a salary of upto Rs 21,000 a month.
- The salary and bonus payment limits are yet to be notified under the Code on Wages.
- The Supreme Court has applied the principle of “mirror order” in a child custody case where one of the estranged parents is living abroad in Kenya.
- When a competent court in India passes a series of the conditions for the transfer of custody of a child to a parent living abroad, an identical or mirror order is passed by an equally competent court to ensure that the conditions of custody are met.
- This mechanism ensures that contradictory judicial orders are not passed and is considered a remedy against transnational parental abduction of children in inter-country marriages.
- The object of a mirror order is to safeguard the interest of the minor child in transit from one jurisdiction to another, and to ensure that both parents are equally bound in each State.
- The judgment was based on a petition regarding the custody of a child whose father is based in Kenya and the mother is in India.
- A ‘mirror order’ is ancillary or auxiliary in character. It supports the original order passed by the court which has exercised primary jurisdiction over the custody of a child.
Public Affairs Index-2020
- Kerala was adjudged the best governed State in the large States category, while Uttar Pradesh ended at the bottom, in the Public Affairs Index-2020 released by the Public Affairs Centre (PAC).
- The city-based not-for-profit organisation, headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan.
- The States were ranked on governance performance based on a composite index in the context of sustainable development.
- Four southern States — Kerala (1.388 PAI Index point), Tamil Nadu (0.912), Andhra Pradesh (0.531) and Karnataka (0.468) stood in the first four ranks in the large State category in terms of governance.
- Uttar Pradesh(-1.461), Odisha (-1.201) and Bihar (-1.158 ) were at the bottom of the ranking.
- In the small State category, Goa ranked first with 1.745 points, followed by Meghalaya (0.797) and Himachal Pradesh (0.725).
- The worst performers with negative points were Manipur (-0.363), Delhi (-0.289) and Uttarakhand (-0.277), says the report.
- Chandigarh emerged at the top in the category of Union Territories with 1.05 PAI points, followed by Puducherry (0.52) and Lakshadweep (0.003). Dadar and Nagar Haveli (-0.69), Andaman, Jammu and Kashmir (-0.50) and Nicobar (-0.30) were the worst performers.
- According to the PAC, the governance performance is analysed in the context of sustainable development defined by the three pillars of equity, growth and sustainability.
Crimes Against Journalists On The Rise
- The International Press Institute (IPI) said the impunity with which crimes against journalists are committed continued to rise as governments had failed to probe the cases.
- Ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2,
- the Vienna-based IPI said in a statement that 52 journalists, including two in India, had died due to their work since October 2019,
- of which 24 were murdered in targeted attacks, according to the IPI’s “Death Watch”.
- The IPI, which is an international network of editors, journalists and media executives, said its analysis of the cases had found the governments’ response “alarmingly insufficient”.
- The IPI statement said the Americas had the highest number of killings, like in the previous year, with 21 such cases, including eight in Mexico, five in Honduras, two each in Colombia and Venezuela, and one each in Brazil, Guatemala, Haiti and Paraguay.
- Of the 11 journalists murdered in Asia, three were in the Philippines, two each were in India, Indonesia and Pakistan, and one each were in Cambodia and Bangladesh.
- Two journalists were murdered in Nigeria and one each in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia in Africa.
- In terms of action in the cases, arrests were made in one of the eight killings in Mexico and the perpetrators were still at large in Brazil, Colombia and Honduras.
- There had been no reported progress in the investigations into the killings in Bangladesh and Cambodia and no arrests in the seven cases in the Middle East and Africa.
World Thrift Day : October 31st
- All over the world, October 31 is observed as ‘World Thrift Day.’
- As its alternate name ‘International Day of Savings’ suggest, this is an important day to remember for each and every one of us.
- It is dedicated to the promotion of savings and how imperative it is to know more about the same.
- In India, this day is celebrated on October 30.
- The word ‘Thrift’ itself means to use our resources in a wise and careful manner, in order to not finish it all up at one go.
- In 1924, the first International Thrift Congress was held in Milan, Italy.
- There, it was decided that ‘World Thrift Day’ will be celebrated all across the globe to promote the idea of saving money all over the world.
- The day was celebrated for the first time in 1925.
- Before the idea was relevant internationally, this day was celebrated on a national level in countries like Spain and the USA in 1921.
- The day became even more popular after the Second World War.
Industrial Relations Code, 2020
- The Union Labour and Employment Ministry published the draft rules framed under the Industrial Relations Code, 2020,
- that would require firms with 300 or more workers to seek government approval for lay-offs 15 days prior to the intended action.
- For retrenchment and closure, the establishments would have to apply for permission 60 days and 90 days ahead of the actions respectively.
- The draft rules enable employers to seek permissions and workers to submit notice for strike electronically.
- The Industrial Relations Code, 2020, which was among the three labour Codes passed by Parliament in September, subsumed three laws regarding industrial disputes, trade unions and standing orders, which lists details of service conditions of employees.
- The rules, for which the Ministry sought comments from the public for 30 days, would supersede the Industrial Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1949, the Industrial Tribunal (Central Procedure) Rules, 1954, the Industrial Disputes (Central) Rules, 1957 and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central Rules,1946.
- As per Draft, the notice of strike would have to be signed by the secretary and five elected representatives of the registered trade union and given to the employer, with a copy sent to the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) electronically or otherwise.
- The rules also proposed establishing a re-skilling fund for retrenched workers.
- Employers would have to electronically transfer an amount equal to 15 days of the last drawn wages of the retrenched workers or worker into an account maintained by the government within 10 days of the retrenchment.
- “The fund so received shall be transferred by the Central Government to each worker or workers‘ account electronically within 45 days of receipt of funds from the employer and the worker shall utilize such amount for his re-skilling,” the draft said.
Malabar Naval Exercise
- The first phase of the Malabar Naval exercise including Australia along with Japan and the U.S., is scheduled to be held next week off the Visakhapatnam coast.
- This is the first time Australia will be joining the exercise after 2007 and it will bring all four countries of the Quadrilateral grouping together for military games.
- Over three years after Canberra’s request to join the exercise, last week India announced that Australian Navy would participate in Malabar 2020.
- Phase 1 of the Exercise Malabar 2020 involving participation by Indian Navy, United States Navy, Japan Maritime Self Defence Force, and Royal Australian Navy is set to commence off Vishakhapatnam in Bay of Bengal from November 3 to 6.
- The second phase is scheduled to be held from November 17 to 20 in the Arabian Sea.
- Malabar began as a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and became trilateral in 2015 with the addition of Japan.
- Phase-1 of Malabar will see participation of U.S. guided missile destroyer USS John S McCain, Australian long range frigate HMAS Ballarat with integral MH-60 helicopter, and Japanese destroyer JS Onami with integral SH-60 helicopter
- The Indian side for Phase-I will see participation of destroyer INS Ranvijay, stealth frigate INS Shivalik, off-shore patrol vessel INS Sukanya, fleet support ship INS Shakti and submarine INS Sindhuraj.
- Advanced Jet Trainer Hawk, long-range maritime patrol aircraft P-8I, Dornier maritime patrol aircraft, and helicopters will also be participating in the exercise.
15th Finance Commission
- The 15th Finance Commission has completed its deliberations and finalised its report for fund devolution between Centre and States for the years 2021-22 to 2025-26.
- The Commission will submit its report to the President on November 9 and it will be subsequently tabled by the Finance Minister in Parliament along with an action taken report.
- Commission’s chairman NK Singh.
- The 15th Finance Commission was constituted on November 27, 2017 against the backdrop of the abolition of Planning Commission and the distinction between Plan and non-Plan expenditure, and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
- Although its original remit was to recommend the fund-sharing formula between Centre and States from 2020-21 to 2024-25, its term was extended by 11 months and it was requested by the government last year to submit an initial report just for the year 2020-21.
- The first report had marginally reduced the States’ share of the divisible tax pool from 42% as recommended by the 14th Finance Commission, to 41%, citing the creation of the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh after the abolition of Article 370.
- It includes the viability of creating a separate defence and national security fund as suggested by the Centre.
- The Finance Commission is a Constitutionally mandated body that is at the centre of fiscal federalism.
- Set up under Article 280 of the Constitution, its core responsibility is to evaluate the state of finances of the Union and State Governments, recommend the sharing of taxes between them, lay down the principles determining the distribution of these taxes among States.
- Its working is characterised by extensive and intensive consultations with all levels of governments, thus strengthening the principle of cooperative federalism.
- Its recommendations are also geared towards improving the quality of public spending and promoting fiscal stability.
- The first Finance Commission was set up in 1951 and there have been fifteen so far.
- Each of them has faced its own unique set of challenges.
Reason for Declining Body temperature
- For several years now, doctors and researchers have known that 98.6°F is not really the gold-standard “normal” body temperature it was once considered to be.
- Studies in the US and Europe have found average body temperatures declining over time.
What is the case for and against taking 98.6°F as “normal” body temperature?
- The German doctor Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich, who in 1851 pioneered the use of the clinical thermometer, took over a million measurements of 25,000 patients, and published his findings in a book in 1868, in which he concluded that the average human body temperature is 98.6°
- In recent years, however, different studies have found the human body temperature averaging out differently, including at 97.7°, 97.9° and 98.2°
- One of the largest such studies, published last year, found that body temperatures among Americans have been declining over the last two centuries.
So, what does the new study add?
- In previous studies, the reasons for declining body temperatures were not clear, nor was it known whether a temperature below 98.6°F is “normal” outside of high-income countries.
- The new study made 18,000 observations of body temperature in 5,500 individuals among the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon.
- Greater exposure to infection can lead to higher inflammation, which is turn can lead to a higher body temperature.
- Tsimane experience higher inflammation due to this high infectious burden.
- So the body temperatures would be higher among Tsimane than they are in the US, UK and Germany.
- Instead, the study found, average body temperatures among the Tsimane have fallen by 0.09°F per year; they average roughly 97.7°F today.
- This decline in less than two decades, was about the same as that observed in the US over two centuries.
What could be the reasons for this?
- BETTER HEALTHCARE: One hypothesis is that improved hygiene and healthcare in high-income population groups have led to fewer infections over time and, in turn, to lower body temperature. While the Tsimane live a rural lifestyle with a relatively low access to healthcare, they do have better access than they did two decades ago.
- LOWER INFLAMMATION: People use anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen more frequently than earlier. Again, even after accounting for biomarkers of inflammation, body temperature declines over time remained among the Tsimane.
- BRIEFER ILLNESS: Since people have greater access to treatment, has it reduced the duration of infection? The findings among the Tsimane, indeed, were consistent with this argument. If a study participant had a respiratory infection in the early stages of the 2002-18 study, it led to having a higher body temperature than the temperature if they had the same infection more recently.
- BODIES WORKING LESS: Another hypothesis is that people are healthier, so their bodies might be working less to fight infection. Also, our bodies may not have to work as hard as before in order to regulate internal temperature, because of air-conditioning and winter heating. The Tsimane do not use such advanced technology, but do have more access to clothes and blankets.
3D Atomic Map Of Novel Coronavirus Replication Mechanism
- In the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is an enzyme called the main protease, which drives its replication once it infects the human cell. For the first time, scientists have completed a 3D map that reveals the location of every atom in the molecule of this enzyme.
- It will allow scientists to better understand how the coronavirus behaves, and how it can be stopped.
- The mapping was done by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under the US Department of Energy.
- SARS-CoV-2 expresses long chains of proteins.
- When these chains are broken down and cut into smaller strands, it enables the virus to reproduce. This task is performed by the main protease.
- Its structure: two identical protein molecules held together by hydrogen bonds.
- If a drug can be developed that inhibits or blocks the protease activity, it will prevent the virus from replicating and spreading to other cells in the body.
- Researchers used a technique called neutron crystallography.
- The site containing the amino acids where the protein chains are cut, these experiments revealed, is in an electrically charged reactive state — not in a resting or neutral state, contrary to previously held beliefs.
- Second, researchers mapped the location of each hydrogen atom in the places where drug inhibitors could bind to the protease enzyme, as well as the electrical charges of the associated amino acids.
- It is the first time anyone has obtained a neutron structure of a coronavirus protein.
- It is also the first time anyone has looked at this class of protease enzymes using neutrons.
Corals Off Mumbai’s Coast
- The Mumbai civic body received the green signal from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Nagpur, for translocating the corals off the coast of Mumbai for the Rs 12,700-crore Mumbai Coastal Road Project.
- The BMC aims to complete the translocation of 18 coral colonies over two days next month.
What are corals?
- Corals exhibit characteristics of plants, but are marine animals that are related to jellyfish and anemones.
- Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.
- Reefs begin when a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the seafloor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones.
- The polyp calicles connect to one another, creating a colony that acts as a single organism.
- As colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years, they join with other colonies, and become reefs.
- There are soft corals as well, which are non-reef-building, and resemble bushes, grasses, trees.
How are corals translocated?
- The colonies at Haji Ali will be translocated to Marine Lines, and those at Worli to some distance away from the construction site.
- The translocation of corals is at a nascent stage along the Indian coastline.
- Pilot projects at the Lakshadweep islands, and off the coast of Kutch and Tamil Nadu have been undertaken to study the survival rate, method and site of translocation, and creation of high heat-resistant coral colonies, etc.
- In a three-year-long project in Sindhudurg, corals were cultivated — fragments of corals were taken and attached to concrete frames with the help of nylon threads — and then left on ocean beds at a depth suitable for their growth.
How fast do corals grow?
- According to the American Scientific agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the rate at which corals grow depends on the species.
- Some of the branching species can increase in height or length by as much as 10 cm a year (about the same rate at which human hair grows).
- Other corals, like the dome and plate species, are bulkier, and may only grow only 0.3 cm to 2 cm per year.
- A soft coral colony has the potential to grow at the rate of 2 cm to 4 cm per year.
What is the survival rate of translocated corals?
- Some experts are of the view that for a high survival rate, it is important to translocate corals in a place with similar environmental characteristics such as depth, current flow, amount of light, and pressure.
Why are coral reefs important?
- Coral reefs are like underwater cities that support marine life.
- According to the UN Environment programme, they provide at least half a billion people around the world with food security and livelihoods.
- Coral reefs also act as ‘wave breaks’ between the sea and the coastline and minimise the impact of sea erosion. In India, they are protected in the same way as the tiger or elephant, under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.
What poses a threat to coral reefs?
- Climate change remains one of the biggest threats to corals.
- Around the world, this threat has been visible in the “bleaching” of corals — is a process during which corals, under stress from warm weather, expel the algae that give corals their brilliant colours and live in their tissues and produce their food.
- The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to one of the largest collections of coral reefs on the planet, has suffered six mass bleaching events due to warmer than normal ocean temperatures: in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2016, 2017, and now 2020.
India, Mexico to expand ‘Privileged Partnership’
- The eighth India-Mexico Joint Commission meeting was held recently.
- Taking stock of the bilateral relations, both sides appreciated the progress made in the bilateral trade and commercial relations between India and Mexico in recent years.
- The two sides agreed that given their respective economic strengths, growing regional and global profile, India and Mexico will further work on strengthening their ‘Privileged Partnership’.
- The two sides discussed a number of issues and agreed to add new momentum to the relations in the fields of Trade and Commerce, Agriculture, Health, Space, Science and
- They also underscored the importance of the Joint Commission mechanism in deepening political dialogue, reviewing bilateral and multilateral co-operation.
Doing Business in India Report 2020 – UKIBC
- Nearly two-thirds of the UK businesses surveyed in India believe it is getting easier to do business in the country, owing to progressive reforms and improvements in the availability of support and service providers, skilled labour, and supply chain.
- Findings from the UK India Business Council’s Doing Business in India Report 2020 reveal that regulatory uncertainty remains a significant challenge.
- Foreign exchange regulations, GST process issues, high import tariffs, lack of alignment with international standards remain the top four regulatory irritants,” the UK-India Business Council (UKIBC) said.
- Improving bureaucratic processes with greater accountability, increasing regulatory certainty, simplification of the GST processes, improving the quality of infrastructure and making single-window clearance effective were the most sought-after reforms by UK businesses, in that order.
- India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission is seen by the UK firms as an opportunity to do more business in the country, leveraging UK’s innovation for manufacturing in India.
- The report is UKIBC’s sixth of an annual series dating back to 2015. This year’s report is based on an in-depth survey of 106 UK organisations operating in India spanning manufacturing, services, and higher education sectors.
- For the third year running, Maharashtra emerged as the state with the maximum incremental improvement, followed by Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu, in that order.
- Next in the sequence were Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh and Haryana to complete the top ten.
Quality Control Norms For Leather Footwear
- In a move to contain cheap leather footwear imports, the government said that no leather products can be produced, sold, traded, imported or even stocked, unless they bear the BIS mark.
- According to a latest notification from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), all leather shoes would have to conform to the specified standards and bear the standard mark under a licence from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
- The order has come into force from October 27 this year.
- Products included in the order are leather safety boots and shoes, canvas shoes, rubber sole, sports footwear and derby shoes.
- The footwear made from leather and other materials (Quality Control) Order, 2020 — shall not apply to goods or articles meant for export purpose.
- DPIIT has also released the quality control order for footwear made from all-rubber and polymeric material and its components.
- These goods include industrial and protective rubber knee and ankle boots; PVC sandal; rubber hawai chappal; rubber microcellular sheets, among others.
- Philippine officials have ordered evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main Luzon island as a category-5 storm that is the world’s strongest this year approaches.
- Typhoon Goni, with 215km/h (133 mph) sustained winds and gusts of up to 265km/h (164 mph), will make landfall on Sunday as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in 2013.
- Typhoon Molave last week killed 22 people, mostly through drowning in provinces south of the capital, Manila, which is also in the projected path of Goni, the 18th tropical storm in the country.
- Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines. Around 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.
2020 Likely To Be One Of Warmest Years On Record Despite La Niña
- La Niña climate event is under way, heralding a colder and stormier winter than usual across the northern hemisphere, but 2020 remains likely to be one of the warmest years on record.
How La Niña will bring changes to the world’s weather patterns
- La Niña is a phenomenon developing in the Pacific Ocean.
- La Niña is an ocean-atmospheric coupled phenomenon occurring every few years where sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are below normal.
- Stronger than normal trade winds across the central Pacific advect warmer sea surface temperatures into the far west Pacific towards Indonesia.
- This encourages strong upwelling of the typically colder waters along the west coast of South America, later extending into the central Pacific.
- These changes in sea surface temperatures couple with the atmospheric circulation, bringing changes to weather patterns around the globe.
- La Niña often brings increased rainfall and tropical storms across Australia and a stronger than normal monsoon in south-east Asia.
- Additionally, it brings colder and snowier winters to Canada and drought to the southern states of the US.
- The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, the most active on record, can also be attributed to the La Niña conditions in the Pacific.
Warmest years on record
- The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has declared La Niña event – a cooling of surface ocean water along the Pacific coast of the South American tropics – to help governments and humanitarian agencies plan for extreme weather events around the world.
- La Niña (the little girl in Spanish) is the “cold” phase of El Niño southern oscillation, a series of oceanic and climatic events in the Pacific which exert a global influence on temperature, storms and rainfall.
- Possible impacts in 2020 include drier than usual conditions in east Africa, adding to food security challenges in the region, wetter conditions across large parts of south-east Asia and Australia, and increasingly intense Atlantic hurricanes.
- In the Caribbean, the 2020 season has been one of the most active on record.
- While El Niño, the warm phase of the climatic phenomenon, can trigger drought in Australia and India, and increase cyclones in the tropical Pacific, La Niña can cause eastern Pacific sea temperatures to fall by up to 3-5C, which has a cooling effect on global temperatures.
- This year’s La Niña is expected to endure into the first quarter of next year and is rated by the WMO as “moderate to strong”.
- The last time there was a strong event was in 2010-11, which contributed to the 2010 Pakistan floods and the 2010-11 Queensland floods.
- La Niña events are defined by sea surface temperatures falling by more than 0.5C for at least five successive three-month periods.
Stone idol of Sun God discovered
- A stone idol of Sun God (Surya), dated back to 10th century, was found in the farmland of Harijan Vannurappa at Kalagodu village in Gummagatta mandal of Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh.
- Two-foot granite stone idol with two lotus flowers in both hands.
- The historian, based on the sculpting style of the idol, confirmed that it belonged to the period of the Nolamba kings, who ruled the region (large parts of Karnataka and some areas in Andhra Pradesh now) for over 300 years.
- Situated on the banks of the Vedavathi river, the iconography is similar to some other sculptures found in this region.
Martian meteorite discovered in the Sahara Desert
- Analysis of a meteorite found in the Sahara Desert reveals the existence of water on Mars 4.4 billion years ago, scientists report.
- The mineral composition of Martian meteorite NWA 7533, found in 2012, reveals chemical signatures of oxidation – which would have occurred as water formed.
- The 84 gram meteorite, named partly after its landing spot of North West Africa, was part of a celestial rock that broke up on entering Earth’s atmosphere.
- It’s already well known to planetary scientists that there has been water on the Red Planet for at least 3.7 billion years.
- But taking into account the previously established age of NWA 7533 and its newly-discovered mineral composition, researchers have now deduced there was water present another 700,000 years prior to this estimate.
- If there was water on Mars earlier than thought, that suggests water is possibly a natural byproduct of some process early on in planet formation.
- Some of these meteorites contain trapped gas which matches with the Martian atmosphere analysed by the Mars exploration mission.
- NWA 7533 and the more famous NWA 7034, better known as ‘Black Beauty’, are all part of the same group of at least 10 fragments, all with different numbers.
- These Martian meteorites have distinct, but identical oxygen isotope ratios from other extraterrestrial materials, so we know that they came from the same parent body.
- In 2013, NWA 7034 was dated at 2.1 billion years old – the second oldest Martian meteorite after NWA 7533.
PLANKTON SURVIVED THE DINOSAUR-KILLING ASTEROID IMPACT
- To survive the impact that eradicated the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, plankton changed their diets from absorbing sunlight to eating bacteria, a study found.
- Researchers from the UK and the US studied how fossils of the microscopic algae changed in the rock record from before and after the asteroid collision.
- Before the asteroid hit, such microorganisms acquired their energy via photosynthesis — but the dust cloud from the impact blocked out the sunlight.
- The plankton that survived also had the ability to hunt and consume bacterial prey — a capacity evidenced by holes in their shells for the ‘tails’ that let them swim.
- In this way, these species survived the mass extinction event that killed off not only the dinosaurs but also around three-quarters of all plant and animal species.
- Covid-19 researchers have found a new symptom called Covid toes, in which coronavirus positive patients may get their toes red, swollen, and eventually purple.
- The research was carried by the International League of Dermatological Societies and the American Academy of Dermatology.
- It found that this new symptom can develop chilblain-like inflammation ― painful inflammation of small blood vessels ― on the fingers and toes. This symptom can persist for months and takes a week or four to develop in patients with Covid-19.
- The study also added that the symptom is mild in nature and disappears in weeks.
- However, due to this symptom, one in six people may require hospitalisation. Also, the symptom can last for months for Covid-19 long haulers.
- Around 50 per cent of the patients have reported the symptom.
- About 16 per cent of these patients had to be hospitalised due to the condition.
Rural Development Fund
- The Union government’s decision to withhold rural development fee from Punjab, and letters asking the Punjab Government to explain its utilisation of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) that it gets largely from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has enraged the state government.
- Punjab Minister for Food Supplies claims the Centre is hitting back at the state for its opposition to the new farm laws.
What is Rural Development Fund or RDF?
- RDF is the 3 per cent cess levied on the purchase or sale of agricultural produce under the Rural Development Fund Act, 1987 which is executed by Punjab Rural Development Board (PRDB) with the Chief Minister as its chairman.
What is Rural Development Board (RDB)?
- The RDB was incorporated in April 1987 under Rural Development Act, 1987 and is mandated with the promotion of better agriculture, and granting relief for the loss and damage to agricultural produce.
- It also provides the facility of streets lights, dharamshalas, panchayat ghars, canals and drains, government health infrastructure, drinking water, sanitation, and government educational institutions in rural areas.
From where does Punjab get this fund and what is it used for?
- It comes mainly from central government’s purchase agency, Food Corporation of India, which buys around 13 million tonnes of wheat and 16 million tonnes of paddy every year.
- Usually Punjab gets Rs 1,750 crore every year — Rs 1,000 crore as 3 per cent RDF for procuring paddy and the rest for wheat.
- This fund is supposed to be used for the creation and maintenance of rural infrastructure in and outside mandis.
- But there have been charges in the past that it was diverted by the state for other purposes.
Why has the central government suspended this fund?
- The central government, in a letter from the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has observed that the fund is being diverted, and has asked the state government to explain how it is utilising this money.
- It has also not made any provision for this fund in the cost sheet that it has sent to the state.
Why is the Punjab government fuming?
- The Punjab government was to give the earnings from RDF to pay interest on a loan of Rs 4,500 crore it has taken from various banks to pay for debt waiver to farmers.
- If this fund is not received by the state, it will have to dip into its depleting coffers to pay for this interest.