Current Affairs Nov 10

 ‘Mahabali Frog’

  • The purple frog, one of the rarest frog species endemic to the Western Ghats, would soon be declared as Kerala’s official amphibian.
  • A proposal for declaring the purple frog, also known as pignose frog, as state’s amphibian, is in the active consideration of the state government.
  • The purple frog, which remains underground most of the year, is found mostly in the Kerala part of the Western Ghats. The frog was found in one forest area of Tamil Nadu also
  • The purple frog, scientifically called Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis is listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as its “Extent of Occurrence is less than 5,000 km, all individuals are in fewer than five locations, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat in the Cardamom Hills.”
  • According to WWF, purple frog has been acknowledged by bio-geographers all over the world as one of the rarest kinds and a “once in a century find.”
  • It has a bloated body with short stout limbs and is dark purple to greyish in colour.
  • Reaching to about 7 centimetres, it has a small head in comparison to the body length, and an unusually pointed snout.
  • Its short and muscular forelimbs with hard palms help it to burrow underground.
  • Unlike other frogs, it has very short hind legs, which does not allow it to leap from one spot to another.
  • As a result, it covers any distance with long strides. It depends more on its sense of smell to hunt out soil termites underground.
  • Named it as the “Mahabali frog” as it emerges from under the ground for only one day, like Kerala’s mythological King Mahabali who was banished to the underworld and given permission to meet his subjects in Kerala during Thiruvonam day of Malayalam month of Chingam.

The Hindu

15th Finance Commission Submits Its Report To President

  • The 15th Finance Commission said it has taken the unique requirements of each of India’s 28 States on board and come up with State-specific considerations in its report submitted to President.
  • Apart from its main recommendations for the devolution of funds between the Centre and the States for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26,
  •  the Commission has addressed all its unique terms of reference such as considering a new non-lapsable fund for financing national security and defence spending, and offering performance incentives for States that deliver on reforms.
  • Apart from the main report uniquely titled “Finance Commission in Covid Times” which depicts a set of scales on its cover to denote balance between the Union and the States, the Commission has presented two more volumes as part of its submissions.
  • The first one focuses on the State of the Union government’s finances, with an in-depth scrutiny of key departments, the medium-term challenges facing the Centre and a roadmap for the future.
  • The other volume is entirely dedicated to States, with the finances of each analysed in great depth.
  • The Commission’s chairman N.K. Singh was accompanied by members Ajay Narayan Jha, Anoop Singh, Ashok Lahiri and Ramesh Chand for the report’s submission to the President.
  • The report is expected to be presented to Prime Minister soon, and will be available in the public domain once it is tabled in the Parliament by the government along with an action taken report on its recommendations.
  • The Commission was asked to give its recommendations on many unique and wide-ranging issues in its terms of reference.
  • Apart from the vertical and horizontal tax devolution, local government grants, disaster management grant, the Commission was also asked to examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up and if so how such a mechanism could be operationalised.

The recommendations made by the commission are as follows

  • The Commission has recommended that the states shall get 41% of central tax revenues. Earlier, the fourteenth Finance Commission had recommended 42%.
  • 3 lakh crores for the local governments
  • Rs 1 lakh grant to health care
  • Rs 2.9 lakh crores of revenue deficit grants to 17 states.
  • The commission have recommended the states to keep aside at least 8% of their budget for building health care capacities.
  • The Finance Commission had recommended to set up Modernisation of Defence and Internal Security Fund. The fund is to be called Rashtriya Suraksha Naivedya Kosh.
  • The fund is to add up to Rs 2.4 lakh crores by 2021-26. Of this, Rs 1.5 lakh crore is to be directly transferred to Consolidated Fund of India.
  • The fund is to be used for capital investment for defence, state police forces and paramilitary forces.
  • The Defence Ministry will have exclusive rights over the funds.


Anti Satellite (A-SAT) Missile

  • A model of Anti Satellite (A-SAT) Missile installed inside the DRDO Bhawan premises was unveiled by Raksha Mantri.
    • ‘Mission Shakti’ was country’s first ever Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Missile Test successfully conducted on 27th March 2019 from Dr AP J Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha, where a fast-moving Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) was neutralised with pinpoint accuracy.

  • The successful conduct of Mission Shakti made India the fourth nation in the world with the capability to defend its assets in outer space.
  • DRDO’s Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES), Delhi has developed the technology, which can detect the fire in passenger compartment in less than 30 sec and then suppresses it in 60 sec thereby reducing the risk to life and property to a significant extent.


‘Cyber Law, Crime Investigation & Digital Forensics’

    • National e-Governance Division (NeGD) in partnership with National Law Institute University, Bhopal, launched an Online PG Diploma programme on ‘Cyber Law, Crime Investigation & Digital Forensics’.
    • This initiative will offer a nine-month Online PG Diploma Course in Cyber Law, Crime Investigation & Digital Forensics to about 1000 officials through NeGD’s Digital Learning Management System (LMS) in collaboration with NLIU Bhopal under the “Digital India Programme”.
    • The goal of this Programme is to enable Police Officers, State Cyber Cells, Law Enforcement Agencies, Prosecutors and Judicial Officers to acquire the requisite skills to deal with Cyber Forensics cases efficiently & effectively as per the Indian Cyber Law while adopting global best practices, standards and guidelines.
    • A Cyber Forensics Lab is being established in the premises of National Law University (NLU) Delhi for facilitating this course.
    • Other law schools/ universities like National Law School of India University (Bangalore), Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (Patiala) etc., will also be involved in the Programme in future.
    • In the times of the pandemic, there had been an increase of nearly 60% in Cyber cases between 2018 and 2019.
    • NeGD has developed a Learning Management System (LMS) under its Capacity Building Scheme, which caters to the needs and requirements of learning and development of government departments envisaged in the National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (‘NPCSCB’) – “Mission Karmayogi.”



Commission For Air Quality Reviews

  • The members of Commission for Air Quality Management(CAQM)in National Capital Region and adjoining Areas met and reviewed the air quality scenario in the region, actions taken by various agencies so far and further steps to be taken for improving the air quality.
  • The Commission noted that future action will necessitate consultation with various stakeholders.
  • At this stage the Commission stressed the need to strictly enforce existing laws, rules, guidelines, directions and standard operating procedures to minimize air pollution on an emergency basis.

The Commission also felt that active public involvement is critical in the abatement of air pollution and identified the following major immediate measures:

  1. Minimize use of personalized transport to the extent possible
  1. Restrict travel unless absolutely essential
  1. Encourage work from home
  1. Strict enforcement of laws and rules regarding dust control measures including at construction sites
  1. Strict enforcement to prevent burning of municipal solid waste and biomass
  1. Intensify water sprinkling particularly in dust prone areas
  1. Use of anti-smog guns at pollution hotspots specially at construction sites
  1. Strict implementation of extant rules, Courts and Tribunal orders regarding stubble burning and use of fire crackers
  1. Seek co-operation from civil society and public spirited citizens to report air pollution incidents on the Sameer App
  1. Encourage coal using industries in NCR to minimize the use of coal in the coming months.


BRICS Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting


  • The agenda of the meeting included discussions on the outcomes of G20 Saudi Presidency in 2020, a digital platform to encourage infrastructure investments and expansion of the membership of the New Development Bank.
  • The Finance Minister observed that the G20, of which all BRICS countries are members, has delivered some very significant initiatives this year including the G20 Action Plan in response to COVID-19 which has provided broad guidance to navigate a collective global response to the crisis.
  • Additionally, the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative ensured immediate support to address the liquidity needs of low-income countries.
  • On the ongoing international efforts to find a solution to the issue of taxation of digital economy, Smt. Sitharaman said that a consensus solution will play an important role in ensuring fairness, equity and sustainability of tax systems.
  • Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman backed expansion of the membership of the New Development Bank.
  • The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – created the New Development Bank in 2014 as a multilateral development bank which will provide financial support to public and private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments.
  • At present the Shanghai-headquartered bank has the five countries as its members with equal shareholding and voting rights.
  • All members of the United Nations can become members of the bank.
  • Sitharaman supported the expansion of the membership of NDB and emphasised the importance of regional balance.


Energy Conservation (EC) Act , 2001

  • The Ministry of Power, Government of India issued notification S.O. 3445 (E) dated 28th September, 2020 to cover all the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOMs) under the preview of the EC Act.
  • As per the notification, which was formulated in consultation with Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) “All entities having issued distribution license by State/Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission under the Electricity Act, 2003 (36 of 2003)” are notified as Designated Consumers (DCs).
  • After this notification, all the DISCOMs will be governed under the various provisions of EC Act,
  • such as Appointment of Energy Manager, Energy Accounting & Auditing, identification of Energy Losses Category wise, Implementation of energy conservation & efficiency measures etc. for each DISCOMs.
  • Earlier, the DISCOMs whose annual energy losses were equal to or above 1000 MU were only covered as DCs.
  • Now with this notification, the number of DISCOMs covered under the EC Act will increase from 44 to 102.
  • This decision will facilitate Energy Accounting & Auditing as mandatory activity for all the DISCOMs, leading to the actions towards reducing losses and increase profitability of DISCOMs.
  • The amendment is expected to improve the financial state of the DISCOMs.
  • The quarterly data of these DISCOMs will be collected and monitored by the government to suggest measures for increasing the efficiency and reduce the energy loss.
  • This move is expected to gradually become more effective if extended upto the level of end consumers.

             About Bureau of Energy Efficiency

  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power.
  • It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
  • BEE coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organization to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the EC Act.


Saffron bowl of India extends to the North East

  • The saffron bowl, which was so far confined to Kashmir, may soon expand to the North East of India.
  • Plants from seeds transported from Kashmir to Sikkim and acclimatized there are now flowering in Yangyang in the Southern part of the North-East state.
  • Saffron production has long been restricted to a limited geographical area in the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Pampore region, in India, commonly known as Saffron bowl of Kashmir, is the main contributor to saffron production, followed by Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtiwar districts.
  • Apart from the members Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, four Observer States — Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia — will also participate in the summit.
  • The summit is expected to adopt the Moscow Declaration under the Chairmanship of the Russian Federation.
  • There will also be statements on issues like the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the World War II, digital economy, COVID-19, countering the spread of terrorism including on the Internet and countering the drug threat.
  • Also be decisions on major projects and initiatives in trade and economic sphere.
  • The escalating violence in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the peace negotiations is also scheduled to feature among the discussions.
  • The summit is crucial as it provides the Chinese and the Indian leaderships an opportunity to exchange thoughts on regional and global issues even as the border tension in Eastern Ladakh continues.


India Mobile Congress 2020

  • Ministry of Communications announced the fourth edition of the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020.
  • The IMC 2020 is scheduled for 8th -10th December, and will be held virtually this year given the ongoing pandemic.
  • This prestigious event, jointly organized by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAT), will see 50+ participating countries, 110 + Global Speakers , Start-ups, 30 plus hrs of content, with over 15000 expected visitors over the three day programme.
  • This year IMC’s theme is going to be – “Inclusive Innovation – Smart I Secure I Sustainable”.
  • Considered the largest Digital Technology Forum in Asia, IMC has established itself as a leading platform for bringing together the industry, Government, academia, and other ecosystem players
  • to discuss, deliberate and display the latest industry technology trends around major themes
  • such as SG, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Internet of things (loT), Data Analytics, Cloud and Edge Computing, Open source tech, data privacy and cyber security, Smart Cities and automation.


         About COAI:

  • COAI was constituted in 1995 as a registered, non-governmental society.
  • COAI’s vision is to establish India as the global leader of mobile communications infrastructure, products and services and achieving a national tele density of 100 per cent, including broadband.
  • The association is also dedicated to the advancement of modern communication and towards delivering the benefits of innovative and affordable mobile communication services to the people of India.


World Science Day for Peace and Development, 10 November

  • Celebrated every 10 November, World Science Day for Peace and Development highlights the significant role of science in society and the need to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues.
  • It also underlines the importance and relevance of science in our daily lives.

The purpose of the Day is to:

  1. Strengthen public awareness of the role of science for peaceful and sustainable societies;
  2. Promote national and international solidarity for shared science between countries;
  3. Renew national and international commitment for the use of science for the benefit of societies;
  4. Draw attention to the challenges faced by science in raising support for the scientific endeavour.
  • This year, at a time when the world is struggling with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of World Science Day is on “Science for and with Society in dealing with the global pandemic.”
  • The first World Science Day for Peace and Development was celebrated worldwide on 10 November 2002 under UNESCO auspices.
  • Since its proclamation by UNESCO in 2001, World Science Day for Peace and Development has generated many concrete projects, programs, and funding for science around the world.
  • The event is the positive outcome of the 1999 World Conference on Science in Budapest.


Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine

  • US drug-maker Pfizer has released preliminary data from late-stage human trials of the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with German biotech firm BioNTech.
  • The vaccine has been found more than 90% effective.

What type of vaccine have Pfizer and BioNTech developed?

  • This is a vaccine that was developed using mRNA technology — it makes use of the messenger RNA molecules that tell cells what proteins to build.
  • The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein of the novel coronavirus.
  • Once the mRNA is injected into the body, the cells will use its instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which is in return expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.
  • Unlike several other vaccine candidates, mRNA vaccines are synthetically developed — they don’t need the virus to be cultivated and replicated, just the code for the most crucial part that the body’s immune system is to target.
  • Another advantage is that they can be manufactured at a large scale in large vats called bioreactors.

What do the early results say?

  • The company’s first interim efficacy analysis signals that the vaccine is able to demonstrate an effectiveness against Covid-19.
  • According to the findings, the vaccine was “more than” 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among participants who had received a second dose as opposed to those participants who had only received a placebo.
  • The phase 3 trials of this vaccine candidate — BNT162b2 — began on July 27 and has so far enrolled 43,538 participants, 38,955 of whom had received a second dose as of November 8.

What major roadblocks could prevent a quick scale up of this vaccine?

  • The vaccine may run into logistical issues on account of cold storage — the candidate reportedly needs to be stored at temperatures below -90°F.
  • This would require an ultra-cold storage system, as storing it at refrigerated temperatures reportedly for more than two days may render it ineffective.
  • This means major constraints in storage and distribution in countries like India, which is still mapping and scaling up its cold storage footprint to store even vaccines at refrigerated temperatures.
  • Even countries with more robust cold chain systems may have to invest more to adhere to these stricter conditions.


Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain & Value Addition

  • Government has approved 21 projects, leveraging investment worth 443 crore rupees supported with a grant of 189 crore rupees under the Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition.
  • The approval in this regard was given during the inter-Ministerial Approval Committee meeting chaired by Minister for Food Processing Industries.
  • These projects will benefit farmers and consumers and urged the officers to expedite the implementation of approved projects.
  • 21 projects are likely to generate employment for nearly 12 thousand 600 people and benefit over two lakh farmers.
  • These projects are spread across Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Nagaland, Punjab, Telangana, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain and Value addition infrastructure aims at arresting post-harvest losses of horticulture and non-horticulture produce & providing remunerative price to farmers.
  • Besides, 8 projects leveraging investment worth 62 crore rupees with grants of 15 crore rupees under the Backward and Forward Linkages (BFL) Scheme were also approved in another meeting.
  • These projects are likely to generate employment for nearly 2500 people.
  • The objective of the scheme is to provide effective and seamless backward and forward integration for the processed food industry by plugging the gaps in the supply chain in terms of availability of raw material and linkages with the market.


Removal Of Sudan From State Sponsors Of Terrorism List

  • India welcomed the removal of Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism as well as the normalisation of relations between the African nation and Israel.
  • Also welcomed signing of the Juba peace agreement, hoping that it will usher in democratic changes and contribute to enhancing Sudan’s development, peace and security.
  • Last month, Sudan’s transitional government inked the peace agreement with several militant groups with an aim to end years of civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people in the country.
  • In a related move, U.S. President Donald Trump had announced that Washington would remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
  • Sudan became the third country in recent weeks to announce normalising relations with Israel under a deal brokered by the U.S.


South Africa’s Plastic Problem

  • Multiple stakeholders across the ‘plastics value chain’, with a strong focus on prevention rather than mitigation, were what South Africa needed to solve its plastic problem, a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature has said.
  • More than half — 52 per cent — of the plastic raw material produced in and imported into South Africa is used for packaging applications.
  • It is responsible for the largest volumes of leakage into nature.
  • Packaged products such as sanitary towels, disposable nappies, cigarette butts and certain types of fishing gear are responsible for plastic leakage into nature, the report added.
  • Packaging is also used to pack food items.
  • However, almost half the plastic goods consumed in South Africa are designed for a short lifespan for intended use of less than 1-3 year. They are often disposed of after a single use.
  • There has been a more than 50 per cent increase in processed and packaged food available and consumed in South Africa since 1994.
  • In 2017 alone, the South African crisps market increased by 10.4 per cent.
  • Some 1,600 tonnes of plastic packaging waste is generated annually in South Africa due to a billion units of crisps, biscuits and chocolates being sold through formal retail markets in the country.
  • The report said recycling was not a solution although South Africa had a vibrant recycling industry.
  • Instead, interventions were needed across the plastic value chain rather than just the waste management sector.


Link Between Air Pollution, Covid-19

  • Public health in India, already in a bad state due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, may worsen as winter takes hold of the northern part of the country, if global studies on the subject are to be believed.
  • Vehicular and industrial pollution, burning of crop residue, a festive season usually dominated by fireworks, would all worsen an already bad situation over the region as winter — November to February — progresses.
  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi averaged 406 November 6 and 7, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • An AQI of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’, and 401-500 ‘severe’. Above 500 is the ‘severe-plus or emergency’ category.
  • Delhi has reported more than 6,000 COVID-19 cases daily in the past few days. Thirteen per cent of this increase has been estimated to be due to air pollution, the Indian Medical Association.
  • According to the National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi is likely to report around 15,000 COVID-19 cases daily in winter because the prevalence of respiratory illnesses during this season worsen the symptoms of the disease.

         COVID-19 and air pollution

  • There have been studies between April and November this year in both, developing and developed countries that have tried to gauge the relationship between COVID-19 and air pollution.
  • One study, Air pollution aggravating COVID-19 lethality? Exploration in Asian cities using statistical models conducted across nine Asian cities — Delhi, Nagpur, Kanpur, Islamabad, Lahore, Jakarta, Tianjin, Guilin and Hebei — correlated particulate matter (PM) and its ability to transport the coronavirus aerosols (in air) into the respiratory tract of the humans and transmitting infections.
  • The study concluded that air pollution was acting as a hidden element in intensifying the impact of COVID-19.
  • Similarly, a study conducted in Italy, Role of the chronic air pollution levels in the Covid-19 outbreak risk in Italy, found that air pollutants were very much likely to increase COVID-19 transmission in highly polluted places.
  • It found traces of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, the genetic material of the coronavirus on air pollutants.
  • Studies have also concluded that COVID-19 deaths could increase due to long-term exposure to PM.
  • Two studies in the United States prove that air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM 2.5 were likely to enhance populations’ susceptibility to severe COVID-19 death outcomes.
  • Air pollution is also an ally for COVID-19 in another way. Long-term exposure to air pollution has an effect on the respiratory system including lungs.
  • People with comorbidities are the most vulnerable, with risks to their lungs and heart because of air pollution. If COVID also causes inflammation, this leads to much more severe illness in these individuals.
  • When both, long-term exposure to air pollution and infection with the novel coronavirus occur together, there is an additive adverse effect on health, particularly with respect to the heart and blood vessels.
  • This leads to greater vulnerability and less resilience to COVID-19.

What can help?

  • Besides maintaining hygiene, washing hands and maintaining social distancing, wearing masks is essential to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
  • The use of masks can also cut down exposure to SARS-CoV-2, because the virus-carrying aerosols are in the range of 1–5 micrometre. Mask usage is critical in highly polluted cities to reduce the impact of air pollution, thereby reducing the risk associated with COVID-19.
  • There is also a need to enforce legislation to reduce levels of air pollution.
  • Stopping burning of fossil fuels and reducing and controlling emissions from vehicles are other important measures that need to be taken.



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