India, Vietnam Hold Bilateral Talks
Why in News?
- Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Vietnamese counterpart General Ngo Xuan Lich discussed collaboration in defence industry capability building, training and cooperation in United Nations peacekeeping operations during bilateral talks.
- Both sides signed an implementing arrangement for cooperation in the field of Hydrography between National Hydrographic Office, India and Vietnam Hydrographic Office.
- The arrangement will enable sharing of hydrographic data and assist in production of navigational charts by both sides.
India Climate Change Knowledge Portal
Why in News?
- Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched the “India Climate Change Knowledge Portal”.
- It will be a “single point Information resource” which provides information on the different climate initiatives taken by various Line Ministries enabling users to access updated status on these initiatives.
- The portal captures sector-wise adaptation and mitigation actions that are being taken by the various line Ministries in one place including updated information on their implementation.
- It will help in disseminating knowledge among citizens about all the major steps Government is taking at both national and international levels to address climate change issues.
The eight major components included in the knowledge portal are:
- India’s Climate Profile
- National Policy Framework
- India’s NDC goals
- Adaptation Actions
- Mitigation Actions
- Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation
- International Climate Negotiations
- Reports & Publications
Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) Plant
Why in News?
- Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel laid the foundation stone for the Leafiniti Bioenergy’s CBG plant in Bagalkot district of Karnataka
What it do?
- This plant will utilize 200 TPD of press mud and will be commissioned at the estimated cost of about 42 crores.
- This will generate about 10.2 TPD of CBG and also bio-manure.
- Praj Industries and DVO Inc. have provided the technology for the proposed plant.
Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)
- SATAT was launched in 2018 to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and have an alternative source of clean fuel for transport.
- SATAT will establish an ecosystem for the production of Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) from various waste and biomass sources in the country leading to multiple benefits.
- Using agricultural and municipal wastes to produce gas under SATAT will reduce carbon emission and also fulfil Government’s commitment in COP-21.
- It is also in line with the Swachh Bharat Mission of the Government.
Various supports offered to CBG plants
- Floor price guarantee of CBG produced for 10 years,
- Inclusion of CBG in priority sector lending by the RBI,
- Subsidy scheme and support by various state government w.r.t allotment of land etc.
Thailand: Protesters Warn Of Possible Coup
Why in News?
- Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand, undeterred by arrest warrants and the possibility of violent attacks, held another rally, poking fun at their critics and warning of the possibility of a military coup.
- The potential for violence was illustrated after their last rally, when two men were reportedly shot and critically wounded.
What are Protesters Demand?
- The protest movement’s core demands are for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government to step down, the constitution to be amended to be more democratic, and the monarchy reformed to make it more accountable.
- Their issue concerning the monarchy is the most controversial because the royal institution by law and tradition is virtually untouchable, and regarded by many as the bedrock of national identity.
- The military has declared defence of the monarchy to be among its foremost duties.
- The protest leaders believe that King Maha Vajiralongkorn holds more power than is appropriate under a constitutional monarchy.
History of Coup
- It has also triggered violence, most notably in 1976, when it led to the killings of dozens of students at a university protest against the return from exile of an ousted military dictator.
- That event was the trigger for a coup, and since then Thailand has had successful coups in 1977, 1991, 2006 and 2014.
- There is concern that if the government feels it cannot control the protests, which show little sign of abating, it may impose martial law or be ousted by the army in a coup.
Data Collection without Privacy Compromise
Why in News?
- Smart home devices like speakers and smart watches collect and share data with other devices and systems over the network.
- These Internet of Things (IoT) devices are equipped with sensors and software that store a user’s private information like body measurements and location.
- This stored data is used by the device makers to improve their products and services.
- An improvement in a machine learning (ML) model, called ‘federated learning’, is said to enable companies to develop new ways of collecting anonymous data without compromising their privacy.
What is ‘federated learning’?
- Federated learning is a ML method used to train an algorithm across multiple decentralised devices or servers holding data samples.
- It doesn’t exchange data with the devices, meaning there is no central dataset or server that stores the information.
- Standard ML models require all data to be centralised in a single server. Implementation of federated learning eliminates the need for maintaining a storage hub.
- The term was first introduced in a 2016 Google study titled ‘Communication-efficient learning of deep networks from decentralized data.’
How this works
- Federated learning aims to train an algorithm, like deep neural networks, on multiple local datasets contained in local nodes, without explicitly exchanging data.
- The general principle involves simply exchanging parameters between these nodes.
- Parameters include number of federated learning rounds, total number of nodes, and learning rate.
- The distinct advantage of the model is its ability to reduce privacy and security risks by limiting the attack surface to only the device, rather than the device and the cloud.
- Federated learning is said to have application in healthcare, where hospitals and pharmaceutical companies can exchange data for treating diseases without sharing private clinical information.
Why in News?
- Iconic singer and actor Cher was set to visit Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant, who will soon leave a Pakistani zoo for better conditions after years of lobbying by animal rights groups and activists.
- The elephant has languished in the zoo for 35 years, and lost his partner in 2012.
- Diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished earlier this year, and also suffers behavioural issues.
- The battle for his relocation began in 2016.
- The elephant has also developed stereotypical behaviour, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.
- Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life.
Right of Ordinary People To Bail
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court gave a clarion call to judges to protect personal liberty and the right of ordinary people to bail, saying “liberty is not a gift for the few”.
What SC Says?
- Common citizens without the means or resources to move the High Courts or the Supreme Court were languishing in jails as undertrials.
- It is through the instrumentality of bail that our criminal justice system’s primordial interest in preserving the presumption of innocence finds its most eloquent expression.
- Liberty survives by the vigilance of her citizens, on the cacophony of the media and in the dusty corridors of courts alive to the rule of [and not by] law. Yet, much too often, liberty is a casualty when one of these components is found wanting.
- Highlighted that 91,568 bail pleas were pending in High Courts, while 1.96 lakh bail applications continued to wait for a hearing in the district courts.
- The judgment focused on the importance of the district judiciary.
- The district judiciary was only “subordinate” in hierarchy. It was less to none when it came to saving the lives of citizens or doing justice for them.
- The district judiciary “must be alive to the situation as it prevails on the ground – in the jails and police stations where human dignity has no protector”.
BIS Standards Revised For Two Wheeler Helmets
What in News?
- Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has issued the ‘Helmet for riders of Two Wheelers Motor Vehicles (Quality Control ) Order, 2020.’
- Protective Helmets for Two Wheeler Riders have been included under compulsory BIS certification and the publication of the Quality Control Order.
Why Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety was form?
- For considering lighter helmets in India suiting the country’s climatic conditions.
- Ensuring compliance amongst citizen to wear the helmets.
- The Committee had experts from different fields, including expert doctors from AIIMS and also from BIS.
- The Committee in March 2018 after detailed analysis in its report recommended lighter helmets in the Country, and Ministry accepted the report.
As per Committee Recommendations
- The BIS has revised specifications through which it is expected to make lighter helmets.
- With good competition in the Indian markets and with numerous helmet manufacturers, now it is expected that the competition would enable for good quality and lighter helmets demand.
- The total number of two-wheelers being manufactured in India annually is nearly 1.7 crore.
Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines
Why in News?
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued the Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines 2020 as per the requirements and provisions of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 and further as per the amended Section 93 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The objectives of issuing these guidelines include:
- Regulating shared mobility and reducing traffic congestion and pollution, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 has been amended by the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019 to include the definition of the term ‘aggregator’.
- Prior to the amendment the regulation of Aggregator was not available.
- To provide ease of doing business, customer safety and driver welfare.
The Guidelines provide for –
- License issued by the State Government is a mandatory re-requisite for permitting business operations by the aggregator.
- For regulating the aggregators, the guidelines specified by the Central Government may be followed by State Governments
- In order to ensure compliance with the license requirements the Act stipulates penalties under Section 93 of the Act.
- These Guidelines seek to establish a regulatory framework for aggregators by State Governments to ensure that the aggregator’s are accountable and responsible for the operations executed by them.
- The business shall also be considered as a service provided by the aggregators to serve the larger public interest in terms of generation of employment, commutation facilities to the public which is cost effective and comfortable.
- Enable the government to achieve its goal of ensuring maximisation of using public transport, reduced fuel consumption consequently reducing the import bill, reduced vehicular pollution thereby reduced harm to human health.
- This Ministry vide notification dated S.O. No. 5333(E) dated 18th October, 2018 has exempted the electric vehicles and vehicles running on Ethanol or Methanol from the requirements of Permit. The State Governments to facilitate operations of such vehicles.
Proposed Guidelines to ensure –
- regulation of aggregators,
- eligibility conditions / qualifications for of an entity to be an aggregator,
- compliances with regard to vehicles and drivers
- compliances with regard to Aggregator App and Website
- manner of fare regulation,
- drivers welfare
- service to citizens parameters and ensuring safety
- evolving concepts like pooling and ride sharing in private cars,
- license fees / security deposit and powers that the State Governments
Indian economy contracts by 7.5% in Q2
Why in News?
- India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted 7.5% in the second quarter of 2020-21, following the record 23.9% decline recorded in the first quarter, as per estimates released by the National Statistical Office.
- The country has now entered a technical recession with two successive quarters of negative growth.
- Agriculture, which was the only sector to record growth between April and June this year, grew at the same pace of 3.4% in the second quarter
- Manufacturing gross value-added (GVA) staged a sharp recovery to record 0.6% growth between July and September after collapsing 39.3% in the first quarter.
- Electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services also recorded 4.4% growth in the second quarter, recovering from a 7% contraction in Q1.
- But it remained a bleak quarter for several sectors, including mining, services such as retail trade and hotels, construction and financial services.
- The construction sector, which had contracted 50.3% in the first quarter at the peak of the lockdown against COVID-19, saw some improvement with contraction narrowing to 8.6% in the second quarter.
- Trade, hotels, transport and services remained deeply affected, shrinking 15.6% between July and September after a 47% dip in Q1.
- To better understand the term “technical recession”, distinguish it from two other phrases — a recession and a recessionary phase of an economy.
What is a recessionary phase?
- At its simplest, in any economy, a recessionary phase is the counterpart of an expansionary phase.
- When the overall output of goods and services — typically measured by the GDP — increases from one quarter (or month) to another, the economy is said to be in an expansionary phase.
- And when the GDP contracts from one quarter to another, the economy is said to be in a recessionary phase.
- Together, these two phases create what is called a “business cycle” in any economy.
- A full business cycle could last anywhere between one year and a decade.
How is a recession different?
- When a recessionary phase sustains for long enough, it is called a recession.
- When the GDP contracts for a long enough period, the economy is said to be in a recession.
- There is, however, no universally accepted definition of a recession — as in, for how long should the GDP contract before an economy is said to be in a recession.
- But most economists agree with the definition that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in the United States uses.
- According to NBER, “During a recession, a significant decline in economic activity spreads across the economy and can last from a few months to more than a year”.
- The NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee typically looks at various variables — employment, consumption etc — apart from GDP growth to arrive at a decision.
- It also looks at the “depth, diffusion, and duration” of decline in economic activity to determine whether an economy is in a recession or not.
Then, what is a technical recession?
- While the basic idea behind the term “recession” — significant contraction in economic activity — is clear, from the perspective of empirical data analysis, there are too many unanswered queries.
- For instance, would quarterly GDP be enough to determine economic activity?
- Or should one look at unemployment or personal consumption as well?
- It is entirely possible that GDP starts growing after a while but unemployment levels do not fall adequately.
- During the 2008 global financial crisis, NBER pegged June 2009 as the end date for the recession but some metrics did not recover for much longer.
- For instance, “non-farm payroll employment, did not exceed the level of the previous peak until April 2014”.
- To get around these empirical technicalities, commentators often consider a recession to be in progress when real GDP has declined for at least two consecutive quarters.
- That is how real quarterly GDP has come to be accepted as a measure of economic activity and a “benchmark” for ascertaining a “technical recession”.
How long do recessions last?
- Typically, recessions last for a few quarters. If they continue for years, they are referred to as “depressions”.
- But a depression is quite rare; the last one was during the 1930s in the US.
- In the current scenario, the key determinant for any economy to come out of recession is to control the spread of Covid-19.
Why in News?
- The bloom of Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle” that the Karnataka coast has been witnessing since about a month, has displaced microscopic algae called diatoms, which form the basis of the marine food chain.
- The bioluminescent Noctiluca Scintillans also brightened the sea water during night.
- This has deprived food for the planktivorous fish.
- The toxic blooms of Scintillans were linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills.
- Though the species does not produce a toxin, it was found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia, which is then excreted into the surrounding waters, possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms.
- The ammonia makes Scintillans unpalatable for most creatures.
- Only jellyfish and salps were known to prey on it.
- Scintillans grazes on other micro-organisms such as larvae, fish eggs, and diatoms.
- But the unicellular phytoplankton that live inside it can photosynthesise, turning sunlight into energy.
- They help their host cell survive even when food was scarce.
- Thus, Scintillans acts as both a plant and an animal.
- Plankton bloom was reported when the density of plankton would be more than 1,00,000 cells per m3.
- Bioluminescence was the production and emission of light by a living organism and occurs due to a chemical reaction, involving a light-emitting molecule and an enzyme, called luciferin and luciferase.
New Zealand May Declare Climate Emergency
Why in News?
- New Zealand’s government will decide if a climate emergency should be declared in the country or not.
- The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will introduce the motion in the parliament and if passed the move will be a symbolic announcement about the government’s commitment towards doing more for the climate and bringing climate change to the centre of policy making.
What is the meaning of a climate emergency?
- In its ongoing online petition, Greenpeace New Zealand is urging the government to declare a climate emergency since people are “facing more extreme weather events, catastrophic loss of wildlife and a crisis over access to freshwater and food”.
- In 2019, the Oxford dictionaries declared “climate emergency” to be the word of the year.
- It defines climate emergency as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it”.
- But even before the New Zealand government planned to declare a climate emergency, some of the regions in the country had already started declaring it since last year.
- Even so, such a declaration is only symbolic and does not have any legal weight because of which critics have said that such announcements don’t do enough and are, in fact, “hollow”.
- Some of the countries that have declared a climate emergency in recent years include the UK, Portugal, Canada, France and, most recently, Japan.
The Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC)
Why in News?
- Speaking on the 12th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, Defence Minister said that “today, the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police have prepared such a three-tier security cover in the coastal areas of the country that no suspicious activity can be escaped from their lives”.
- To ensure that these three tiers work in an integrated manner, an organisation named the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) was set up in 2014.
Why was the need felt?
- The Indian Navy is responsible for overall maritime security (coastal and offshore) and is supposed to be assisted in coastal security by the Coast Guard, State Marine Police and other agencies.
- Post 26/11 though, at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on February 16, 2009, the Coast Guard was additionally designated as the authority responsible for coastal security in territorial waters, and thrust was given to enhance surveillance in territorial waters by all agencies including the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police, and Customs.
What is IMAC?
- IMAC, based in Gurgaon, was established in November 2014, and is the nodal centre for maritime security information collation and dissemination.
- It is jointly operated by the Navy and Coast Guard and is the cornerstone of the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network for monitoring maritime traffic in India’s area of interest.
- IMAC’s task is to facilitate exchange of maritime security information among various national stakeholders, and generate a common operational picture.
- Since “threats in maritime domain have a transnational” character, the senior official said IMAC feeds data from international sources as well.
- It is important to note that IMAC tracks only non-military or commercial ships, known as white shipping.
- Military ships, or grey hull ships, are tracked by the Directorate of Naval Operations, as this is on a classified network.
What does IMAC look at?
- IMAC focuses on ships passing through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- At its headquarters, officers can look at all ships that transmit signals to an Automatic Identification System (AIS) when passing through IOR, and can look at information including route, destination, nationality and ownership for each vessel.
- The IOR, 5500 nautical miles wide by 7500 nm long, includes 35 countries.
How does IMAC function?
- IMAC has linkages with a number of national and international organisations, from which It collates data, analyses patterns, and alerts relevant authorities if anything is found suspicious.
India’s Push for Gender Equity in Science
Why in News?
- One of the focuses of the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, currently being drafted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), will be to increase the participation of women in science.
- To this end, the DST will incorporate a system of grading institutes depending on the enrolment of women and the advancement of the careers of women faculty and scientists.
- The concept borrows from a programme started by the UK in 2005 called the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network), which is now being adopted by many countries.
What is Athena SWAN?
- The Athena SWAN Charter is an evaluation and accreditation programme in the UK enhancing gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
- Participating research organisations and academic institutions are required to analyse data on gender equity and develop action plans for improvement.
- The programme recognises such efforts with bronze, silver or gold accreditation.
Why does India need such a programme?
- In India, it will be called GATI (Gender Advancement through Transforming Institutions).
- India is ranked 108 out of 149 countries in the 2018 Global Gender Gap report. According to DST figures, in 2015-16, the share of women involved in scientific research and development was 14.71% — after it had actually increased from 13% in 2000-2001 to 29% in 2014-15.
- The DST has also found that women are either not promoted, or very often drop out mid-career to attend to their families.
Brereton War Crimes Report
Why in News?
- The ‘Brereton War Crimes Report’, which was released recently, alleges that a group of 19 soldiers within the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) elite Special Air Services and commandos regiment had killed and brutalised at least 39 Afghan civilians, including children.
- The Australian army moved to discharge 13 soldiers in connection with a recent report.
What is the Brereton War Crimes Report?
- The report was released after a four-year inquiry led by Army Reserve Major General Paul Brereton following whistle-blower and local media reports of alleged killings of unarmed Afghani civilians.
- Australian Defense Force Chief Angus Campbell said that the inquiry found “credible evidence” of the “murder” of 39 prisoners, farmers and other civilians by 19 Special Forces soldiers between 2005 and 2016.
What were the main findings of the report?
- The report identified 25 soldiers who were involved either directly or as “accessories” in the killing of Afghani civilians.
- The soldiers carried out a number of gruesome acts, ranging from slitting throats and keeping kill counts to photographing dead bodies with planted phones and weapons to cover up their actions.
- The report also detailed a disturbing initiation ritual known as “blooding” where junior soldiers were sometimes forced to shoot prisoners as their “first kill”.
- The senior command was unaware of the war crimes that were being carried out. The crimes were actually committed and covered up by patrol commanders — who were generally lower-ranking sergeants and corporals, regarded as “demigods” by their juniors.
- The report categorically states that 23 of the incidents of unlawful killing would qualify as “war crimes of murder” if accepted by a jury, while another two incidents would constitute “the war crime of cruel treatment”.
- But in every single case, investigators found that it “was or should have been plain that the person killed was a non-combatant.”
Why in News?
- Recently, a team of CBI officers probing the alleged rape and murder of a 19- year-old Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, arrived at the Gandhinagar-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) with the four accused.
- A brain electrical oscillation signature profiling (BEOSP) test will be conducted on all four.
So what exactly is the BEOSP test?
- Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling (BEOSP) also known as brain fingerprinting is a neuro psychological method of interrogation in which the accused’s participation in the crime is investigated by studying their brain’s response.
- The BEOSP test is carried out via a process known as electroencephalogram, conducted to study the electrical behaviour of the human brain.
- Under this test, the consent of the accused is first taken and they are then made to wear caps with dozens of electrodes attached to them.
- The accused are then shown visuals or played audio clips related to the crime to check if there is any triggering of neurons in their brains which then generate brainwaves.
- The test results are then studied to determine the participation of the accused in a crime.
What differentiates a BEOSP test from a polygraph or a lie detector?
- The BEOSP procedure does not involve a question answer session with the accused and is rather a neuro psychological study of their brain.
- In a polygraph test, the accused person’s physiological indicators are taken into account which include blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration and skin conductivity.
- However experts say that while a person might be able to control their pulse rate and BP even in times of distress, a BEOSP test offers a much more credible result.
Can these tests be admitted as evidence?
- Not as a standalone.
- In 2010, the Supreme Court passed a judgment in the Selvi versus State of Karnataka case where the bench observed that narco analysis, polygraph and brain mapping tests cannot be forced upon any individual without their consent and the test results cannot be admitted solely as evidence.
- However any information or material discovered during the tests can be made part of the evidence.
Burrowing Frog Named After Bengaluru
Why in News?
- A group of researchers documenting “Amphibians in the Deccan Plateau parts of Karnataka” encountered a new species of frog.
- This new species — Sphaerotheca Bengaluru — is being named after the city to highlight the lacunae in documentation of amphibians from non-forested areas and to restore frog habitats in Bengaluru.
- The new species was described based “on the morphological differences and molecular approach with the known species of the borrowing frogs (across the distribution range, South Asia).
Que- Which Gulf country is set to become the first Arab Gulf country to generate electricity from coal.
a) The United Arab Emirates
b) Saudi Arabia
Que- India had recently concluded an agreement with which country for construction of Shahtoot Dam, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents of city.
Que- Which city has recently dethroned London to become the world’s most connected city as the coronavirus shakes up international travel.
- a) Beijing
- b) Paris
- c) Shanghai
- d) Toronto
- Shanghai has risen up the ranks with the top four most connected cities all in China—Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.