Current Affairs Nov 30

India International Science Festival 2020 (IISF 2020)

Why in News?

  • CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI)organised a series of pre-events as a Curtain Raiser to the India International Science Festival- 2020.


  • To generate awareness which included lectures on a diverse range of topics ranging from Municipal Solid Waste, Amphibian Robots, Air and Water Purification, Solar Power Technologies, Smart Grid, Mini-Grid and Agro-Machineries.

About IISF

  • India International Science Festival (IISF) is a celebration of science and technology
  • In this programme, students, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, farmers, technocrats come together to discuss how science can provide solutions to improve our lives.
  • The journey of IISF started in 2015.
  • This year’s 6th edition of the IISF is being organized during 22-25 December 2020 on the virtual platform.
  • The theme of this year’s IISF is “Science for Self-Reliant India and Global Welfare”.
  • IISF – 2020 is an integral part of India’s long term vision in developing the spectrum of scientific temper in India and abroad.
  • The objective of this programme is to showcase Indian science achievements and innovations for the students, young researchers and general public and to display India’s contribution in the field of S&T and to motivate the young scientists to find solutions to the burning issues of our society.
  • IISF is an annual event organised jointly by S&T Ministries and Departments of the Government of India and VijnanaBharati (Vibha).




Global Innovation and Technology Alliance (GITA)

Why in News?

  • At 9th Foundation Day celebration of GITA, Govt. of India,has underlined how Global Innovation and Technology Alliance (GITA) served as a catalyst for nurturing innovation and industrial R&D by fostering bilateral academic industry and government collaborations.

About GITA

  • Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) is a “not–for–profit” Section-8 Public Private Partnership (PPP) company promoted jointly by the Technology Development Board (TDB), Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
  • The Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry had, in 2010, recommended incorporation of a Government’s arm’s length entity under PPP mode to professionally manage the Government’s funds for providing flexibility to industry for undertaking R&D along with global partners.

The GITA platform encourages industrial investments in innovative technology solutions by

  • Mapping technology gaps,
  • Undertaking expert evaluation of technologies available across the globe,
  • Facilitating techno–strategic collaborative partnerships appropriate for Indian economy
  • Connecting industrial and institutional partners for synergistic matchmaking and
  • Providing soft funding for technology development / acquisition / deployment.




Dry Swab direct RT-PCR method for Coronavirus Detection

Why in News?

  • The simple and fast method of Dry Swab-Direct RT-PCR, developed by CSIRs constituent lab Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Hyderabad for scaling up of SARS-CoV-2 detection has now been approved by ICMR based on their independent validation.
  • About this Method
  • It is a simple variation of the existing gold standard RT-PCR method and can easily scale up the testing by 2 to 3 fold with no new investment of resources.
  • After evaluating this method and finding an overall concordance of 96.9%, ICMR has now issued an advisory for the use of CSIR-CCMB dry swab method, considering its lesser cost and quick turn-around time.
  • Dry Swab-Direct RT-PCR method involves collecting and transporting the nasal swab in dry state (as opposed to using the viral transport medium VTM) which makes the transportation and handling of the samples easy and less prone to spillage and spread of infection.
  • Secondly, the step of RNA isolation from the sample is omitted and involves only simple processing of the sample followed by direct RT-PCR using the kit recommended by ICMR.
  • Omitting the step of RNA isolation offers a huge benefit over the conventional method, as the RNA isolation is a major bottleneck in terms of time, cost and trained manpower.




China First Downstream Dam On Brahmaputra

Why in News?

  • Chinese authorities have recently given the go-ahead for a Chinese hydropower company to construct the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra River, or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in Tibet, marking a new phase in China’s hydropower exploitation of the river with potential ramifications for India.
  • China’s State-owned hydropower company POWERCHINA had last month signed “a strategic cooperation agreement” with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government to “implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River” as part of the new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).

Earlier Projects

  • China in 2015 operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu in Tibet, while three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed, all on the upper and middle reaches of the river.
  • This will be the first time the downstream sections of the river will be tapped.

 Probable Location

  • At the “Great Bend” of the Brahmaputra and at the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Medog County, where the river falls spectacularly over a 2,000 metre-drop and turns sharply to flow across the border into Arunachal Pradesh.




Risk of Diabetes in Metropolitan Cities

Why in News?

  • A new research shows that more than half of men (55%) and some two thirds (65%) of women aged 20 years in India will likely develop diabetes, with most of those cases (around 95%) likely to be type 2 diabetes (T2D).
  • The research titled “Lifetime risk of diabetes in metropolitan cities in India,’’ was done by a team of authors in India, U.K. and U.S.
  • India already has a significant health burden caused by diabetes and estimates suggest 77 million adults have diabetes and this number is expected to almost double to 134 million by 2045.


  • Urbanisation, decreasing diet quality and decreased levels of physical activity — are all contributing to this hidden epidemic.
  • Women generally had a higher lifetime risk across the lifespan.
  • Remaining lifetime risk of developing diabetes declined with age.
  • For those currently aged 60 years and free of diabetes, around 38% of women and 28% of men would develop diabetes.
  • Obesity had a substantial impact on these projections.
  • The risk was highest among obese metropolitan Indians — 86% among 20-year-old women and 87% among men.

How to Prevent

  • It is possible to prevent or postpone diabetes by effective lifestyle modification, such as following a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and reducing body weight in those who are obese or overweight.




Indian Gekkonid

Why in News?

  • A new species of lizard, the smallest known Indian gekkonid, has been discovered in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The species belonged to the genus
  • In India, 45 diverse species of Cnemaspis have been found, of which 34 are from the Western Ghats.


  • The newly discovered dwarf gecko – Cnemaspis avasabinae is the twelfth species to be discovered outside the Western Ghats and also the first species reported from the Velikonda Range in Andhra Pradesh.
  • This discovery suggests that the genus may be even more widely distributed than previously thought.
  • The dorsal colour of the head, body and tail of the reptile is grey-pink with six pairs of dark brown patches.
  • Males of the species lacked femoral pores.
  • Generally, most variants of lizards have femoral pores in both the sexes, and the secretions from these pores play a role in communication.
  • Cnemaspis also have good vision, so visual signalling may play a part in mate attraction in these geckos.




Guttural Toads


  • In 1922, the guttural toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis), a common amphibian in sub-Saharan Africa was introduced to the Republic of Mauritius in an attempt to control cane beetles.
  • They were then moved to the neighbouring Reunion Island around 1927 as a biocontrol for malaria-causing mosquitoes.
  • Why in News?
  • A new study has shown that these toads, now an invasive population on the two islands has shrunk in size.
  • The female toads on Mauritius and Reunion were 33.9% and 25.9% smaller respectively than their original South African counterparts.
  • The males shrank by 22.4% on Mauritius, but not on Reunion Island.
  • This extraordinary reshaping of morphology has taken place in less than 100 years.




Oldest Known Human-made Nanostructures

Why in News?

  • Scientists have discovered the oldest known human-made nanomaterials in the “unique black coatings” of ancient pottery shards — dated to 600 BC — unearthed from an archeological site in Keeladi, Tamil Nadu.

What is this Coating?

  • These coatings are made of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) which have enabled the layer to last more than 2,600 years, raising questions on the tools used during those periods to achieve high temperatures for making earthenwares.
  • Until this discovery, to our knowledge, the most ancient known nanostructures in human-made artifacts are from the eighth or ninth century AD.

About CNTs

  • CNTs are tubular structures of carbon atoms arranged in an ordered manner, coatings in ancient artifacts may not usually last this long due to wear and tear caused by changing conditions.
  • But the robust mechanical properties of the CNT based coating has helped the layer sustain more than 2600 years.
  • Carbon nanotubes have superlative properties, including high thermal and electrical conductivity, and very high mechanical strength.

How they know about it?

  • The people of this time may not have intentionally added CNTs, instead, during the processing at high temperatures, these would have just formed accidentally.
  • The closest scientific explanation for the finding is that some “vegetal fluid or extract” might have been used in the coatings of these pots which may have led to the formation of CNTs during high-temperature processing.
  • Normally with high-temperature processing of carbon, they form these type of tubular nano-structures, but until about the 1990s there were no sophisticated instruments available to characterise them.
  • So these structures are already even present in nature and only now we are observing them.




How Stars Explode Due To Neutrinos

Why in News?

  • Scientists may soon find a clue to how stars explode due to neutrinos,

About Neutrinos

  • They are one of the most abundant particles in the universe.
  • These sub atomic particles are extremely difficult to detect because of their limited interactions with matter.

Who is behind this?

  • Basudeb Dasgupta, Associate Professor in the Department of Theoretical Physics Tata Institute of Fundamental Research at Mumbai, is one of the 21 recipients of this year’s Swarna Jayanti Fellowship of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • He aims to understand the basic physics of how the quantum state of the neutrino evolves, the astrophysics of how neutrinos affect the exploding star, and how we can experimentally detect these neutrinos and decode the information they carry with them.
  • He played a leading role in understanding collective neutrino oscillations in dense astrophysical environments.
  • Identified a simple model that shows these faster oscillations and proved that it is almost identical to a much simpler problem that can be solved exactly– a ball rolling down a hill whose slope increases as the cube of the horizontal distance travelled.
  • They have also shown how these oscillations lead to mixing of all the neutrinos, which may have major consequences for how neutrinos deposit heat inside a supernova.
  • Dasgupta has also made insightful contributions towards identifying the particle nature of dark matter.





Why in News?

  • An AI & Robotics Technologies Park (ARTPARK) set up in Bengaluru.

What its Role?

  • It will promote technology innovations in AI (Artificial Intelligence)& Robotics leading to societal impact by executing ambitious mission mode R&D projects in healthcare, education, mobility, infrastructure, agriculture, retail and cyber-security focusing on problems unique to India.


  • ARTPARK, is a unique not-for-profit foundation established by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru with support from AI Foundry in a public-private model.
  • With seed funding of Rs. 170 Cr ($22mn) from Department of Science & Technology(DST), Govt. of India, under the National Mission on Inter-disciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS),
  • It will bring about collaborative consortium of partners from industry, academia and government bodies.
  • This will lead to cutting edge innovations in terms of new technologies, standards, products, services and intellectual properties.

What it do?

  • ARTPARK will develop AI & Robotics facilities to support technology innovations as well as capacity building through advanced skills training of students and professionals in these areas.
  • It will develop DataSetu – that will enable confidentiality and privacy-preserving framework to share data and run analytics spurring the data-sharing ecosystem and create a data marketplace, boosting AI applications and solutions.
  • One such service will be BhashaSetu – that will enable real-time Indic language translation, both of speech to speech and speech to text.
  • ARTPARK, in collaboration with AI foundry, will run a novel ARTPARK Venture Studio that will mentor technopreneurs who will take the outputs of the mission mode projects to launch new startups.




Disease-resistant Banana Plants

What in News?

  • An improved understanding of Fusarium, a root pathogen infection in banana plant may soon help develop strategies to prevent the disease that causes wilting of the fruit crop that is grown in at least 5 major states of India.
  • India is the leading producer of banana in the world and the present cultivation is vulnerable to this fungal disease which dwells in soil as a saprophyte and shifts to the parasitic mode in presence of host roots.

Who is behind this?

  • Siddhesh Ghag a recipient of the INSPIRE Faculty fellowship, is using genetic approaches to decipher the molecular cross-talk between banana and Fusarium during infection.
  • His team is focusing on studying the transcriptional factors that regulate the expression of virulence genes in Fusarium oxysporumcubense(Foc), the fungal plant pathogen, that causes Panama disease of banana.

Research Findings

  • According to the research, a molecular combat exists between the two partners at the site of infection where repertoire of virulent factors from Foc and defense molecules from banana are secreted.
  • In the process of recognition of banana roots, Foc activates a series of virulence genes.
  • All these virulence genes are under the control of a few master regulators which are up-regulated during colonization.
  • FocSge1 is one such master regulator that acts as a co-activator and triggers the expression of effector genes required for pathogenicity.
  • The FocSge1 deletion strain of Fusarium created in Dr.Ghag’s lab showed characteristics that together contributed to the loss of pathogenicity (property of causing disease).




Mission COVID Suraksha

Why in News

  • The Government of India (GOI) has announced the third stimulus package of Rs. 900 Crore for the Mission COVID Suraksha- The Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission.
  • This grant will be provided to the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) for Research & Development of Indian COVID-19 vaccines.

About Mission

  • The COVID-19 Vaccine development Mission with end-to-end focus from preclinical development through clinical development and manufacturing and regulatory facilitation for deployment, would consolidate all available and funded resources towards an accelerated product development.
  • This will help accelerate development of approx. 5-6 vaccine candidates and ensure that these are brought closer to licensure and introduction in market for consideration of regulatory authorities for introduction in public health systems, to combat further spread of COVID infection.


  • Accelerating pre-clinical& clinical development; licensure of COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are currently in clinical stages or ready to enter clinical stage of development,
      • establishing clinical trial sites, and
      • strengthening the existing immunoassay laboratories, central laboratories and suitable facilities for animal studies,
      • Production facilities and other testing facilities to support COVID-19 vaccine development.
  • Supporting development of common harmonized protocols, trainings, data management systems, regulatory submissions, internal and external quality management systems and accreditations.
  • Capabilities for process development, cell line development and manufacturing of GMP batches for animal toxicology studies and clinical trials will also be supported under the Mission.
  • A key element will be development of suitable Target Product Profile so that vaccines being introduced through the mission have preferred characteristics applicable for India.




Andhra to Give Stretch of Vizag Coastline to the Navy

Why in News?

  • The State government has formally agreed to give a 27-km stretch of the coastline at Nakkapalli in Visakhapatnam district for setting up an Alternative Operating Base (AOB) of the Indian Navy.
  • The Indian Navy had sought notification for a 97-km area as the limits of the proposed Rambilli port in order to facilitate the establishment of the AOB.
  • The AOB is designed to support a fleet of eight to 12 nuclear-powered ballistic missile vessels and submarines to be built for the Navy.

Submarine pens

  • Besides, it has been planned by the Navy to set up ‘submarine pens’ (bunkers that help in hiding the submarines from spy satellites and protecting them from air attacks) in the AOB.
  • The AOB is given top priority by the State government, along with the three ports mooted at Ramayapatnam, Machilipatnam and Bhavanapadu at estimated cost of ₹10,000 crore.




Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

Why in News?

  • Iran’s senior-most nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated recently near Tehran.
  • Fakhrizadeh was the head of the Research and Innovation Organisation of the Ministry of Defense.

How was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassinated?

  • Fakhrizadeh’s car was targeted by an explosion and machine gun in Absard, which is located about 40 km east of Tehran.

Who was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh?

  • One of the most prominent scientists of Iran, Fakhrizadeh was also a member of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
  • He was a “key player” – something that Israel has alleged in the past – especially since Iran started breaching its nuclear deal commitments.
  • Earlier this year, Iran said it would abandon limitations on enriching uranium, thereby refusing to adhere to the 2015 nuclear deal that it signed with six major powers.

What are the implications of his killing?

  • The killing of Fakhrizadeh could “complicate” the effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which Biden has pledged to do.
  • Significantly, ties between the US and Iran – which first became acrimonious during the 1979 Iranian revolution – have continued to worsen since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran.
  • Therefore, his assassination could also be an attempt to slow down Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
  • In January last year, a US strike killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander. Because of Soleimani’s influence, observers equated his killing to that of a US vice president.




Two 2018 Private Member Bills

Why in News?

  • Two private member Bills presented in Parliament in 2018 could hold the key to loosening the deadlock between the government and protesting farmers in North India.
  • The Bills could not be enacted despite huge pressure from the farmers, who even met the President in May 2018 for seeking his pro-active intervention in the enactment of these legislations.
  • The Bills are now in focus again during the ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest of the farmers.

What were these private member Bills?

  • The first Private member Bill was ‘The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018′, and the second was ‘The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018’.
  • These Bills were drafted by the members of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the umbrella organisation of 500 farmers’ unions across the country in the ongoing ‘Dilli Chalo’ Protest.
  • The Bills were presented by the then Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty.
  • A private member’s Bill is presented by an MP who is not a minister.
  • In contrast, bills introduced by the ministers are considered government Bills.

What were the main demands in these Bills?

  • The first bill obligates the govt to waive all loans of all peasants, including landless peasants, agricultural workers, sharecroppers, fishermen which includes declaration of private loans as null and void and payment to the creditors by the govt without any recovery from the debtors.
  • The reason to make this bill is that the nation is indebted to farmers for the food security and sovereignty functions that they contribute.
  • In spite of their contribution, 1000s of farmers are committing suicide, millions are in distress due to indebtedness and it is the obligation of the government to prevent such things which are related to government policies.
  • The second bill obligates the govt to regulate and decrease the cost price of farm inputs including diesel, seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, machinery and equipment,
      • to set up a Cost and Prices Commission in order to assess all the cost of production which shall include computing of paid-up costs, family labour, rent of land, depreciation of capital inputs, interest and insurance costs designated as C2 costs, and
      • to ensure through public and private purchasing agencies that the farmers get a guaranteed MSP of C2 + 50%.

What happened to these Bills after presenting in Parliament?

  • Both the Bills have not been considered till date.
  • Generally after the dissolution of Lok Sabha the private Member’s Bills are kept aside and can be presented again.




Siberian Primrose

Why in News?

  • Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have found that the Siberian primrose, a plant endemic to the Nordic countries, could become extinct due to global warming.
  • The plant originated in southern Finland. From there, it spread northwards to the Gulf of Bothnia, an arm of the Baltic Sea and even farther north, to Norway on the Arctic Circle during the last Ice Age.
  • The primrose specialised in growing on seashore meadows with low vegetation, which in Finland, were formed by the post-glacial isostatic rebound.





Why in News?

  • Researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom had created a new variety of wheat that increased grain production by up to 12 per cent.

What’s the Problem?

  • The rate of wheat yield increase had been slowing since the Green Revolution and was currently less than one per cent per year.
  • Most improvements were by breeding varieties with higher number of grains.
  • But when researchers tried to increase the size of grains, it was accompanied by a decrease in grain numbers.
  • The researchers at the University of York had now resolved the issue by modifying the growth of the young developing grain by increasing the amount of a protein that controlled growth rates in plants.
  • Found that there was no decrease in grain number, resulting in an increase in yield.




How the Arctic Has Influenced Antarctica’s Ice Sheets

Why in News?

  • New research by Canada’s McGill University has shown that the Antarctic ice sheet was largely moulded in the last 40,000 years by its counterpart in the Arctic.
  • As climate cooled during the last Ice Age, water became locked up in land ice in the Northern Hemisphere, leading to dropping sea levels in Antarctica. This consequently led to growth of the Antarctic ice sheet.
  • On the other hand, as the climate warmed during the period of deglaciation, the retreating ice in the Northern Hemisphere led to rising water levels around Antarctica.
  • This, in turn, drove a retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet.




Discarded Fishing Gear Threatens Ganga Dolphins, Turtles

Why in News?

  • Waste fishing gear in the Ganga posed a threat to the river’s wildlife including otters, turtles and dolphins, new research led by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom showed.
  • Entanglement in fishing gear could harm species including the critically endangered three-striped roofed turtle and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
  • The researchers conducted surveys along the length of the Ganga and found that the levels of waste fishing gear were highest near to the sea.
  • A large number of fishing equipment was being discarded in the river, driven by short gear lifespans and lack of appropriate disposal systems.
  • The Ganga supports some of the world’s largest inland fisheries, but no research has been done to assess plastic pollution from this industry and its impacts on wildlife.
  • Ingesting plastic can harm wildlife, but entanglement, which is known to injure and kill a wide range of marine species.


Que-    Who is the first woman to be elected SGPC president more than 20 years ago, has recently made a comeback.

a) Sada Kaur

b) Amrita Pritam

c) Amrit Singh

d) Bibi Jagir Kaur

Ans-     (d)