Eos-01, India’s Latest Earth Observation Satellite
- India will send its first space mission in almost a year with a launch of EOS-01, an earth observation satellite, on 7th November.
- EOS-01, along with nine satellites from foreign countries, would be launched by a PSLV rocket.
- This will be ISRO’s first mission since the launch of RISAT-2BR1, another earth observation satellite similar to EOS-01, on December 11 last year.
- After that, ISRO had also sent communication satellite GSAT-30 in space in January this year, but that was done using an Ariane rocket launched from French Guiana.
- ISRO had planned more than 20 satellite launches in the fiscal year 2020-21,
- including high profile missions like Aditya L1,
- the first exploratory mission to Sun, and unmanned Gaganyaan, the precursor to India’s first manned space flight.
- Half of the planned launches were those of earth observation satellites.
- EOS-01 is nothing but another Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT) that will work together with RISAT-2B and RISAT-2BR1 launched last year.
- EOS-01 was initially named RISAT-2BR2, and was supposed to be the third of the three-spacecraft constellation aimed at providing all-weather round-the-clock service for high-resolution images.
- With EOS-01, ISRO is moving to a new naming system for its earth observation satellites which till now have been named thematically, according to the purpose they are meant for.
- Land and forest mapping and monitoring, mapping of resources like water or minerals or fishes, weather and climate observations, soil assessment, geospatial contour mapping are all done through earth-observation satellites.
- Henceforth, it seems, all the earth observation satellites would be called EOS-series.
- Radar imaging
- EOS-01, like its cousins RISAT-2B and RISAT-2BR1, uses synthetic aperture radars to produce high-resolution images of the land.
- One big advantage that radar imaging has over optical instruments is that it is unaffected by weather, cloud or fog, or the lack of sunlight.
- It can produce high-quality images in all conditions and at all times.
- Depending on the wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation used by the radar, different properties on land can be captured in the image.
- For example, a low wavelength signal can capture tree cover or vegetation, while a higher wavelength signal can penetrate even dense tree cover to look at the contours of land beneath.
- EOS-01, and its sister RISATs, use X-band radars that operate at low wavelengths and are considered best for monitoring of urban landscape, and imaging of agricultural or forest land.
- According to ISRO, EOS-01 is intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
- The radar images are also considered to be immensely useful for military requirements.
- For the launch of EOS-01, ISRO would be using a new variant of its PSLV rocket that has been flown only once before, in January last year, when it had placed the Microsat-R satellite in orbit.
- This Microsat-R was the one that was brought down in March last year in India’s first anti-satellite test, a demonstration of its capability to hit an in-orbit enemy satellite in space.
- This variant of PSLV does not become waste after depositing its satellite in the orbit.
- Instead, the last stage of the rocket, the one that remains after the satellite is separated, can acquire its own orbit and be used as an orbital platform for other onboard instruments to perform experiments in space.
- In effect, the fourth stage acts like another satellite, with a life span of about six months.
- For the PSLV, this would be the 51st flight. Only two of its launches have not been successful.
- Of the nine foreign satellites being carried in the mission, four each are from the United States and Luxembourg, while another is a technology demonstrator from Lithuania.
Why October Passed Without Witnessing A Cyclonic Storm
- October to December period is among the favourable months for the development of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. This year, however, October passed without witnessing a cyclonic storm.
When have cyclones skipped October, previously?
- Cyclonic disturbances— either in the form of a well-marked low pressure, depression or a deep depression (weather systems with varying wind intensities ranging from 31 – 61 km/hr formed either over sea or land)— are common in October.
- Ocean disturbances enter the Bay of Bengal from the South China sea side and head towards the Indian coast.
- Generally, IMD labels the formation of one cyclone and two cyclonic disturbances in October as normal.
- This year, however, there was no system which intensified to form a cyclone.
- Instead, there were three cyclonic disturbances.
- Two of these cyclonic disturbances in the form of low-pressure systems caused widespread rain in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, north Karnataka and Maharashtra followed by West Bengal and Bangladesh.
- Data on the frequency of cyclone development between 1891-2020 shows no cyclone formation in the month of October on 42 occasions. During the last 130 years, cyclones remained absent for the longest during October of 1950-1954.
Why were there no cyclone developments this year?
- IMD officials have attributed it to the weak La Nina conditions along the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
- Cooler than normal sea surface temperatures over this region—termed as La Nina— has been prevailing since August this year.
- Because Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was positioned in a favourable phase, the low-pressure systems intensified maximum up to a deep depression.
- MJO is kind of an eastward-moving cyclic weather event along the tropics that influences rainfall, winds, sea surface temperatures and cloud cover. They have a 30 to 60-day cycle.
- Most importantly, there was the high wind shear noted between the different atmospheric levels, last month.
- The vertical wind shear— created due to significant wind speed difference observed between higher and lower atmospheric levels— prevented the low-pressure systems and depression from strengthening into a cyclone.
What is the cyclone forecast for November?
- Even though November is one of the main months when cyclones develop, at present, IMD officials note that there are no immediate weather systems likely to form in either seas.
- In addition, since the MJO has just crossed the North Indian Ocean region and has moved eastwards, there will be no supportive factors that could influence the formation of cyclones this month.
Distributing Fortified Rice At Government Schools
- Experts warn that a long journey lies ahead to implement distribution of fortified rice at government schools and anganwadi centres in 15 States as there is need to bring millers and snack manufacturers on board and improve quality control.
- Some are also wary of its nutritional outcomes and caution that fortification of staples such as cereals may hurt local economies.
Recently Govt Announced
- The government announced earlier this week its plans to expand supply of rice fortified with iron, vitamin B-12 and folic acid on pilot basis from 15 districts to 15 States with the aim to curb anaemia.
- Fortified rice can provide 30-50% of the recommended dietary allowance of iron that adults need to consume daily, based on average Indian consumption.
- India, Nutrition International, is one of the organisations partnering with the government to implement a pilot project distributing fortified rice through fair price shops in 15 districts, and expand it to all anganwadis and government schools in 115 districts next year.
- Trials in a controlled setting, giving 100% Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of iron through tablets, have shown results within ten months.
- However, in a programmatic setting, with fortified rice, a minimum of 24 months of constant exposure is needed before we can see the impact.
- Baseline studies are now being conducted in the 15 pilot districts to measure current levels of anaemia in the population.
- The immediate next step requires convincing food manufacturers to use the extrusion machines now used to make snacks such as kurkure or dried pasta shapes to also make fortified rice kernels, enriched with iron and other nutrients.
- So far, there are about 15 manufacturers making the kernels, producing a total of 15,000 tonnes per year.
- The government is talking to other manufacturers and also looking at an expansion in existing capacity, so that the output can be increased to 1.3 lakh tonnes for the 112 districts.
Role of millers
- The other immediate step is bringing the country’s 28,000 rice millers on board, to install blending machines which can mix the fortified kernels into the normal rice in a 1:100 ratio.
- Since the fortified kernels look and taste the same as normal rice grains, there is also an urgent need for quality control to ensure that consumers are not being cheated, and FSSAI is in talks with NABL labs to build capacity for such testing.
- However, the most important step in the long-term will be to create awareness about the benefits of fortified foods to ensure uptake.
- Some public health experts also warn of adverse consequences of “the corporatisation of the food system” by insisting on processes that demand a centralisation of food supplies.
- Local economies should be protected by decentralising procurement and distribution.
- Since the impact on anaemia through fortification remains poorly evidenced, such processes may do more harm than good.
- Micronutrient supplementation can be achieved by many other means, including diversification of diets and providing better quality meals, as well as through supplements that don’t further centralise food systems.
Global Food Production Emissions ‘would Put Paris Agreement Out Of Reach’
- Our diets and agricultural production around the world are so carbon-intensive that emissions from the global food system alone would be enough to put the Paris climate goals out of reach, even if all the other major sources of emissions were closed down, research has shown.
- Farming and food account for about a third of global greenhouse gas production at present. The world’s food systems produced about 16bn tonnes a year of CO2 from 2012 to 2017.
- While emissions from some other carbon-intensive sectors, such as energy generation, have been slowing as clean technology is more widely adopted, farming has received less attention from policymakers.
- But if emissions from food production continue on current trends, they will rise to a cumulative 1,356 gigatons by the end of the century.
- That would be enough in itself to heat the world by more than 1.5C by the 2060s, and probably by about 2C by the end of the century.
- Under the Paris agreement, nations are bound to hold temperature rises to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to a 1.5C limit.
- Greenhouse gas emissions from food systems have increased due to a combination of dietary changes – more food in general, with a larger proportion of food coming from animal source foods – population size, and how food is produced.
- Deforestation and the conversion of land from peatlands, wetlands and other natural habitats are major contributors to the climate crisis.
- Other major sources of emissions from food production are artificial fertilisers; methane from livestock; methane from rice in paddyfields; and livestock manure.
- Food waste is also leading to excess greenhouse gas emissions: a halving of food waste would bring emissions within the carbon budget for 2C.
- More efficient farming, including better practices such as targeted fertiliser use, and agroecological farming that produces higher yields, would also help to reduce overall emissions.
- If emissions from food production are to be cut to safe levels, diets in rich countries are also likely to have to change.
- These countries are primarily those that are middle or high income where dietary intake and consumption of meat, dairy and eggs is on average well above [health] recommendations.
- Citing the UK, the US, Australia, Europe, Brazil and Argentina, and countries such as China where meat consumption is high and increasing.
- People would not have to adopt vegan diets, as some have called for, but reduce their consumption of high-carbon foods that are unhealthy in large quantities, such as meat and dairy.
- If that was achieved, poor nations could feed their populations better, and could increase their consumption of animal products without exhausting the global carbon budget.
- Earlier this week, health professionals in the UK called for a tax on meat to help tackle the climate crisis and improve health.
Alphabet’s Internet-providing Balloons
- Alphabet’s Loon, the high-altitude balloons, designed to provide internet in remote areas, has set a new flight duration of a record 312 flight days.
- They also add up to a lower cost per flight-hour, scale cell towers in the sky to connect more people and places.
- Loon was launched in Puerto Rico in May 2019. It flew to Peru, and has provided test service for three months.
- After that, it floated over the Pacific Ocean for another seven months.
- The flight system was finally collected from Baja, Mexico, for additional analysis in March 2020.
- It was primarily used for connectivity and exploring the massive opportunity in the stratosphere, which represents a multi-billion dollar market spanning telecommunications, high-resolution earth observation, weather prediction and modeling.
- The company estimates 3.8 billion people are still without access to the Internet.
- Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by carrying cell towers 20 km above Earth, and delivering 4G LTE and 5G connectivity in partnership with mobile network operators.
- The stratospheric balloon is already providing its High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) commercial internet services to Kenya, and is expanding its network. HAPS are designed to fly over the edge of space.
- They can act as floating cell towers but up to 200 times the geographic coverage of the land cell tower.
- HAPS can be operated in challenging terrains and be controlled at will. It can provide emergency coverage in times of outages and disasters.
- However, densely populated urban areas limit the function of satellite infrastructure, while ground-based cell towers are expensive to deploy in remote and sparsely populated areas.
- A Virtual Bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Italy Prof. Giuseppe Conte was held on 6th November, 2020.
- The leaders discussed a wide range of issues including political, economic, scientific & technological, space and defence cooperation.
- On regional and international issues, both sides agreed to coordinate closely at multilateral fora especially G-20.
- Italy will assume the Presidency of G-20 in December 2021 followed by India in 2022.
- Together, India and Italy will be part of the G20 Troika from December, 2020. India welcomed Italy’s decision to join ISA as soon as the ratification process is completed.
- 15 MoUs/Agreements in various sectors such as energy, fisheries, ship building, design etc. were signed coinciding with the Summit.
- Italy is India’s 5th largest trading partner in the EU, after Germany, Belgium, UK and France. Bilateral trade stood at 9.52 billion Euros in 2019.
- Around 600 large Italian companies are active in India, covering varied sectors such as fashion and garments, textiles and textile machinery, automotive components, infrastructure, chemicals, energy confectionery and insurance. Several Indian companies are also active in Italy.
PM to inaugurate Ro-Pax terminal at Hazira
- Prime Minister will inaugurate the Ro-Pax terminal at Hazira and flag off Ro-Pax service between Hazira and Ghogha in Gujarat on 8th November 2020.
- This marks a big step towards the Prime Minister’s vision of harnessing waterways and integrating them with the economic development of the country.
- The Ro-Pax Terminal being inaugurated at Hazira is of 100 meters length and 40 meters width, with cost implications of approx. Rs. 25 crores.
- The terminal has wide ranging facilities including administrative office building, parking area, substation and water tower etc.
- The Ro-Pax Ferry Vessel ‘Voyage Symphony’ is a three decks vessel.
- It has a load capacity of 30 trucks (of 50 MT each) on the main deck, 100 passengers cars on the upper deck and 500 passengers plus 34 crew & hospitality staff on the passenger deck.
- It will work as a Gateway to South Gujarat and Saurashtra region.
- It will reduce the distance between Ghogha and Hazira from 370 Km to 90 Km.
- The reduced cargo travel time from 10 to 12 hours to about 4 hours will result in huge savings of fuel (approx 9000 litres per day) and lower the maintenance cost of vehicles drastically.
- The ferry service, while making 3 round trips/day on the Hazira-Ghogha route.
- It will also lead to reduction in CO2 emission by approximately 24 MT per day and net saving of approximately 8653 MT per annum.
- Eco-tourism and religious-tourism in Gujarat, especially in Porbandar, Somnath, Dwarka and Palitana will grow exponentially.
- The benefits of enhanced connectivity through this ferry service will also result in increased inflow of tourists in the famous Asiatic lion wildlife sanctuary at Gir.
NPPA plays crucial role in making Cancer Drugs affordable
- National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has said that its price rationalisation initiated February 2019 has had the far reaching impact of its decision leading to huge price reduction in anti cancer
- Invoking extraordinary powers in public interest NPPA had launched a Pilot on Trade Margin Rationalisation for 42 anti cancer drugs as a step towards making the healthcare more affordable for the suffering patients.
- Observing the National Cancer Awareness day on 7th November 2020 .
- Based on the feed-back received from the pharmaceutical companies after implementation of the NPPA notification, it was observed that under this exercise 526 brands of 42 anti cancer drugs showed price reduction up to 90%.
- For example, MRP of drug Erlotinib 150 mg tab under Brand Birlotib was revised from Rs.9999/- to Rs.891.79/-, showing a decrease of 91.08%. Similarly, the MRP of Pemetrexed 500 mg injection sold as Pemestar 500 was revised from Rs.25,400/- to Rs.2509/- which was 90% less than pre-revised price.
- The Pilot has effected annual saving of Rs. 984 crore to cancer patients.
- It is also a matter of great satisfaction that the Pilot has received immense support from all the stakeholders including patients support groups.
- All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) has also appreciated the steps taken by NPPA to curb profiteering in sale of anti-cancer medicines by capping the trade margin in public interest.
- According to World Health Organisation (WHO), says NPPA, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and in 2018 there were approximately 18 million cases globally, of which 1.5 million were in India alone.
- There were around 0.8 million cancer deaths in India in 2018 against 9.5 million globally.
- The numbers of new cases are estimated to double in India by 2040.
Why Cancer Drug needs to be available at Affordable Rate
- The financial burden associated with cancer can force patients and households to acute misery, destitution, and even insolvency.
- Therefore cancer drugs need to be affordable so that whenever required the treatment can be provided at the earliest in the early stages when the cancer is curable.
- Availability and affordability of cancer drugs will give impetus to treatment outcomes bringing down the cost of treatment.
- The Central Government supplements the efforts of the State Governments to prevent and control cancer and to provide affordable and accessible care.
- National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) is being implemented under National Health Mission (NHM) for up-to the district level activities.
- Under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojana (PM-JAY) is being implemented to reduce the financial burden for poor and vulnerable groups arising out of catastrophic hospital episodes and to provide access to quality health services. It offers a benefit cover of Rs. 5,00,000 per family per year (on a family floater basis).
- NPPA regulates the prices of all Drugs as per the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) 2013.
- It fixes the Ceiling Price of scheduled formulations as per the list of medicines specified in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) which are included in the First Schedule of Drug Pricing Control Order (DPCO), 2013.
- By regulating prices of Scheduled Drugs, NPPA roughly covers only 16-17% of the Pharma sector universe.
- First Schedule of DPCO, 2013 also includes select drugs used for the treatment of cancer.
- However, there has been a long standing felt need to further regulate the Non Scheduled segment also where high markups have led to arbitrary pricing practices.
- Gov-Tech-Thon 2020, a 36 hours, pan-India virtual hackathon organized by IEEE, National Informatics Centre (NIC)and Oracle, under the aegis of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), witnessed a successful conclusion on 1st November, 2020.
- The virtual hackathon received registrations from over 1300 aspirants forming 390 teams.
- Shortlisted 447 enthusiasts from 100 teams participated in the Hackathon on the five problem statements provided by 3 central Government Ministries –
- Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare,
- Ministry of Road Transport and Highway and
- Ministry of Education.
The five challenges seeking innovative solutions from Gov Tech-Thon 2020 were
- Suggest alternate crops or crop rotation for farmers during different seasons using artificial intelligence technology, considering the terrain and local challenges to increase the productivity.
- Seed supply chain is a complex ecosystem involving various stakeholders. Address the issues of poor seed quality effectively by tracing the seeds using BlockChain technology.
- A mobile / web based application for scanning, resizing and uploading documents (as required) in a single flow.
- A tool for monitoring online exams from homes / institutions through a combination of remote-supervision software and web cam. System should ensure necessary authentication, control, fraud detection and compliance, using appropriate technology like AI / ML etc.
- A self-learning tool for automating Vehicle Fitness Test procedures transparently.
- First place was secured by FitForFuture team from Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Private Limited, for demonstrating an innovative solution prototype for automating vehicle fitness checks.
- Second prize went to HackDemons of Indian Institute of Information Technology Vadodara for providing secure solution for delivering unsupervised tests remotely and
- Orange team from PES University Bengaluru secured third prize for providing a unique solution for seed certification using BlockChain technology.
- National Informatics Centre (NIC) is attached office of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
- NIC was established in 1976, and has rich experience in providing ICT (Information & Communication Technology) and eGovernance support to the Government for the last 4 decades and helping bridge the digital divide.
- It has emerged as a promoter of digital opportunities for sustainable development.
- NIC spearheaded “Informatics-Led-Development” by implementing ICT applications in social and public administration and facilitates electronic delivery of services to the government (G2G), business (G2B), citizen (G2C) and government employee (G2E).
- NIC, through its ICT Network, “NICNET”, has institutional linkages with all the Ministries /Departments of the Central Government, 37 State Governments/ Union Territories, and about 720+ District Administrations of India.
- NIC has been closely associated with the Government in different aspects of Governance besides establishing a Nationwide State-of-the-Art ICT Infrastructure,
- it has also built a large number of digital solutions to support the government at various levels, making the last-mile delivery of government services to the citizens a reality.
About IEEE Computer Society
- IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.IEEE and its members inspire a global community to innovate for a better tomorrow through its more than 419,000 members in over 160 countries.
National Water Awards
- Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation is organising the 2nd National Water Awards (NWAs) 2019 Distribution Ceremony on 11th& 12th November, 2020.
- The awards are given to motivate the individuals/organizations who are doing commendable work in the field of water resources conservation and management.
- Also, it strives to create awareness among the people about importance of water and motivate them to adopt the best water usage practices.
- The award winners in different categories will be given a citation, trophy and cash prize.
- The NWAs focuses on the good work and efforts made by individual and organisations across the country, and the government’s vision for the path to a ‘JalSamridh Bharat’.
- The event provides a good opportunity to start-ups as well as leading organisations to engage and deliberate with senior policymakers on how to further accelerate the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan’ in India.
- The event also provides an occasion for all people and organisations to further cement a strong partnership and people engagement in water resources conservation and management activities.
India an Automobile Manufacturing Hub in Next 5 Years
- Ministry of Road Transport & Highways said that the government is working towards making India a global automobile manufacturing hub in the next five years.
- The government is already making policies to support the industry.
- Addressing the virtual ‘Electric Mobility Conference 2020’, organized by FICCI Karnataka State Council, Gadkari said,
- “The future is very bright and India has the potential to become the largest electric vehicle (EV) market in the world as the government continues to push for EV adoption.”
- Called upon the automobile industry to reduce the cost of the EVs so that the sale number goes up and as the sale goes up the industry would also gain.
- Stressed that the quality of the vehicles should also be maintained.
- e-Mobility is going to be the future mode of transport with greater efficiency and less impact on the environment. Import of crude oil and air pollution are two major concerns for the country.
- Referring to the NITI Aayog report, the Minister said that India needs a minimum of 10 GWs per hour of cells by 2022, which will be expanded to 50 GWs by 2025.
- India need to encourage the manufacturing of these cells in India.
- The government is working towards making e-Highway on Delhi and Mumbai Expressway where e-buses and trucks would run.
- Also emphasised promoting use of bio fuels like CNG, LNG and informed that he would soon launch tractors run on Bio-CNG.
International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict
- The day is observed annually on November 6 across the world to raise awareness about the protection of the environment during armed confrontations.
- In any armed conflict, it is the human cost that is counted first in terms of dead and wounded. However, the impact of war on the environment is always ignored.
- During any war, crops are burned, water wells are polluted, forest cut down and animals killed to achieve military advantage against the rivals. The warring armies care little about the impact of wars on the future.
- According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts were linked to the exploitation of natural resources over the last 60 years.
- Hence to minimise the impacts of wars and armed conflicts on the environment, the United Nations General Assembly in 2001 declared November 6 as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
- This day is observed annually on November 6 across the world to raise awareness about the protection of the environment and ecosystem in any circumstance.
- The day aims to ensure that the environment is not harmed during any armed conflict in any part of the world.
- In 2016, the UNEP adopted a resolution that recognized the role of healthy ecosystems and sustainably managed resources in reducing the risk of armed conflict.
- UNEP said that decades of wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia or Iraq have led to immense loss of natural resources. Afghanistan has witnessed an astounding increase in deforestation with some areas reporting nearly 95 per cent deforestation rate.
- The Islamic State terror group in 2017 set ablaze oil wells and a sulfur factory near the Iraqi city of Mosul, poisoning the landscape and people.
Academia And The Free Will
- India announced its National Education Policy (NEP) on July 29 this year.
- The policy aims at overhauling the educational system in the country and making “India a global knowledge superpower”, with a new system that is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-4 (SDG 4).
- It also emphasises universal access to schools for all children, raising the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), and ending the spiralling dropout rate in India.
- The academic community is still debating and weighing the pros and cons of the NEP.
- However, one of the key disappointments is that the real problem plaguing the educational system in the country and the higher education system, the erosion of academic freedom, is being discussed by nobody.
- India has scored considerably low in the international Academic Freedom Index (AFI) with a score of 0.352, which is closely followed by Saudi Arabia (0.278) and Libya (0.238). In the last five years, the AFI of India has dipped by 0.1 points.
- Surprisingly, countries like Malaysia (0.582), Pakistan (0.554), Brazil (0.466), Somalia (0.436) and Ukraine (0.422) have scored better than India.
- Uruguay and Portugal top the AFI, with scores of 0.971 each, followed closely by Latvia (0.964) and Germany (0.960).
The many claims in NEP 2020
- The NEP 2020 claims that it is based on principles of creativity and critical thinking and envisions an education system that is free from political or external interference.
- For instance, the policy states that faculty will be given the “freedom to design their own curricular and pedagogical approaches within the approved framework, including textbook and reading material selections, assignments and assessments”.
- It also suggests constituting a National Research Foundation (NRF), a merit-based and peer-reviewed research funding, which “will be governed, independently of the government, by a rotating Board of Governors consisting of the very best researchers and innovators across fields”.
- However, the question is whether these promises and offers will be put into practice or remain just a rhetoric.
- The AFI has cited the ‘Free to Think: Report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project’, to suggest that the political tensions in India may have something to do with declining ‘academic freedom’.
- The AFI used eight components to evaluate the scores:
- freedom to research and teach,
- freedom of academic exchange and dissemination,
- institutional autonomy, campus integrity,
- freedom of academic and cultural expression,
- constitutional protection of academic freedom,
- international legal commitment to academic freedom under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and existence of universities.
- India has not fared well in components like institutional autonomy, campus integrity, freedom of academic and cultural expression and constitutional protection of academic freedom.
- Most universities in the country are subjected to unsolicited interference from governments in both academic and non-academic issues.
- It is common knowledge by now that a majority of appointments, especially to top-ranking posts like that of vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors and registrars, have been highly politicised.
- At present, many educational institutions and regulatory bodies, both at the Central and State levels, are headed by bureaucrats.
- However, the NEP 2020 aims to de-bureaucratise the education system by giving governance powers to academicians.
- It also talks about giving autonomy to higher education institutions by handing over their administration to a board comprising academicians.
- This may help de-bureaucratise the education system and reduce political interference to an extent.
INDIA’S RESOLUTION ON COUNTER-TERROR ADOPTED BY UNGA
- Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations T S Tirumurti announced that India’s annual resolution on the issue of counter-terrorism was co-sponsored by over 75 countries and adopted by consensus in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly.
- India, a victim of state-sponsored cross-border terrorism, has been at the forefront in highlighting the serious threat to international peace and security emanating from acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups.
- Through its annual resolution ”Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction”, India has urged greater international co-operation to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
- This resolution, co-sponsored by more than 75 countries, was adopted by consensus without a vote.
- India’s call for strengthening national measures to address this issue at the General Assembly also predates the adoption of resolution 1540 by the Security Council,
- which obliges all states to refrain from supporting by any means non-state actors
- from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting, transferring or using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.
U.S. Removes East Turkestan Islamic Movement From Terror List
- The United States said it had removed from its list of terror groups a shadowy faction regularly blamed by China to justify its harsh crackdown in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region.
- Revoking the designation of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a “terrorist organization.
- ETIM was removed from the list because, for more than a decade, there has been no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist.
- The administration of George W. Bush in 2004 added ETIM, also sometimes called the Turkestan Islamic Party, to a blacklist as it found common cause with China in the US-led “war on terror.”
- Beijing has regularly blames ETIM for attacks as it justifies its measures in Xinjiang, where rights groups say that one million or more Uighurs or other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim people are incarcerated in camps.
- But scholars say that China has produced little evidence that ETIM is an organized group or that it is to blame for attacks in Xinjiang, which separatists call East Turkestan.
- Activists say that China is trying to forcibly integrate Uighurs by indoctrinating them with communist ideology and making them renounce Islamic customs.
- ETIM was listed on the US Terrorism Exclusion List, which affects entry of people into the country, but was never hit with the tougher designation of Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Covid-19 Can Make Tinnitus Worse
- Tinnitus is a common condition that causes the perception of noise or ringing in the ears and head. New research has found that tinnitus is being exacerbated by Covid-19 — and also by the measures against the infection.
- It found that 40% of those displaying symptoms of Covid-19 simultaneously experience a worsening of their tinnitus.
- Although the study focused on people with pre-existing tinnitus, a small number of participants also reported that their condition was initially triggered by developing Covid-19 symptoms.
- This suggests that tinnitus could be a Covid symptom in some cases.
- The new study also found that a large proportion of people believe their tinnitus is being made worse by social distancing measures.
- As many as 46% of UK respondents said that lifestyle changes had negatively impacted their tinnitus, compared to 29% in North America.
Mit’s Battery-free Underwater Navigation System
- Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a battery-free submersible navigation system, called Underwater Backscatter Localization (UBL), that operates on soundwaves.
- The system uses sensors that generate own electric charge as a result of mechanical stress caused by vibrating soundwaves. It uses this charge to selectively reflect some soundwaves back into their environment.
- A receiver translates that sequence of reflections, called backscatter, into a binary pattern: 1s for soundwaves reflected; 0s for soundwaves not reflected.
- The resulting code can carry information about ocean temperature or salinity, and in principle, the same technology could provide location information.
- To communicate underwater, acoustic signals are frequently used instead of GPS as the radio waves are not effective in water. Also, sound travels faster and farther in water, compared to in air.
- According to the researchers, batteries of the tracking devices that produce acoustic signals can drain very quickly, as sound is power-hungry. That makes it hard to precisely track objects or animals for a long time-span.
- The tests conducted by the team provided proof-of-concept as UBL estimated the distance between a transmitter and backscatter node at various distances up to nearly half a meter, in shallow-water environment.
- The technology could also help subsea robots work more precisely, and provide information about climate change impacts in the ocean.
Right To Recall Panchayat Member
- The Haryana Assembly on Friday passed a Bill which provides the right to recall members of Panchayati Raj institutions to those who elected them and gives women 50% reservation in these rural bodies.
- The Bill also proposed 8% reservation to the “more disadvantaged” among the Backward Classes.
- The Bill allows the recall of village sarpanches and members of the block level panchayat samitis and district level zila parishads if they fail to perform.
- With the enactment of the Bill, people in rural areas will get the right to remove a sarpanch or members of the two bodies even before their tenure is over.
- According to a statement of objectives, the amendment is aimed at increasing their accountability to the voters.
- To recall a sarpanch and members of the two bodies, 50% members of a ward or gram sabha have to give in writing that they want to initiate proceedings.
- This will be followed by a secret ballot, in which their recall will require two third members voting against them.
Metro Neo For Low-cost Ride In Suburbs And Smaller Cities
- The government is set to approve national standard specifications for Metro Neo, a no-frills, low-cost urban rail transit system aimed at cities with population of less than 10 lakh or suburbs of bigger cities.
- Approval paves the way for state governments and urban local bodies to design proposals as per their requirements.
- Running on rubber tyres but drawing traction power from overhead wires, Metro Neo systems are lighter and smaller than conventional Metro trains — with a 10-tonne axle load instead of the normal 17 tonnes.
- “It is suitable for places where the traffic demand is around 8,000 passengers one way in peak time.
- Metro Neo costs about 25 per cent of conventional systems but with similar facilities, and is cheaper than the other budget option Metrolite, which costs about 40 per cent of the normal Metro.
- Cities like Maharashtra’s Nashik and Telangana’s Warangal have pitched for Metro Neo systems.
- While Warangal’s plans are still on the drawing board, Nashik is planning a 33-km stretch with 30 stations, and its proposal, under Maharashtra Metro, is being processed by the Urban Affairs Ministry.
- The approval of specifications comes in the run-up to the 13th Urban Mobility India conference on November 9, which is the Government’s annual platform for global and domestic stakeholders to engage on best practices in urban development.
- The modern concept of urban mobility is to move people instead of moving vehicles.
- According to the Government’s blueprint, 910 km of Metro projects of various kinds are proposed to be built across the country in the next five years to take the total to around 1,600 km.
China Successfully Launches 13 Satellites
- China successfully sent 13 satellites, including 10 from Argentina, into the orbit in what was stated to be the biggest launch of foreign satellites by the country.
- The satellites, including 10 commercial remote sensing satellites developed by Argentinian company Satellogic, blasted off atop a Long March-6 carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in north China’s Shanxi Province.
- This launch was the 351st by the Long March rocket series.
- China plans to launch 90 earth observation satellites for Satellogic.
- China has been using its space rockets to put satellites of several countries, including close ally, Pakistan.
- It is also the first time that China will launch such a large number of satellites for a foreign client.
Bill To Reserve 75% Of Pvt Sector Jobs For Locals
- The Haryana assembly passed a bill providing for 75% reservation of factory and other blue-collar jobs for local candidates.
- The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill 2020 is applicable only to new private-sector job openings and, hence, won’t affect outsiders already employed in factories and other industrial units in the state.
- All jobs with a monthly starting salary of below Rs 50,000 come under the ambit of the proposed law.
- Privately managed companies, societies, trusts, limited-liability partnership firms and jointly ventures based within the state and employing 10 or more people can hire only up to 10% of the approved local quota from one district.
- Employers may claim exemption whenever an adequate number of local candidates with the desired skills, qualifications or proficiency are not available. The penalty for contravention of these provisions ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000.
- The Bill states that a designated portal shall be made on which local candidates and the employer will have to register and “no local candidate shall be eligible to avail the benefit unless he registers himself for the designated portal”.
- Andhra Pradesh already has such a law, while BJP-governed Karnataka’s new industrial policy envisages a 70% reservation of factory and other such jobs for Kannadigas.
Fossil Amphibian Hints At Earliest Evidence Of ‘slingshot’ Tongue
- Scientists have uncovered the oldest evidence of a “slingshot” tongue, in fossils of 99m-year-old amphibians.
- The prehistoric armoured creatures, known as albanerpetontids, were sit-and-wait predators who snatched prey with a projectile firing of their “ballistic tongues”.
- Although they had lizard-like claws, scales and tails, analysis indicates that albanerpetontids were amphibians and not reptiles.
- They believe the findings redefine how the tiny animals fed. Albanerpetontids were previously thought of as underground burrowers.
- Modern-day amphibians are represented by three distinct lineage: frogs, salamanders, and limbless caecilians.
- Researchers have said that until 2m years ago there was a fourth line, the albanerpetontids, whose lineage dated back at least 165m years.
- Fossils of the tiny creatures were uncovered in Myanmar, trapped in amber, and a specimen found in “mint condition.
- The researchers said the fossil represented a new species of albanerpetontids, named Yaksha perettii, which was about 5cm long without the tail.
- Another fossil, a tiny juvenile previously misidentified as a chameleon because of its “bewildering characteristics”, also had features that resembled that of an albanerpetontid – such as claws, scales, massive eye sockets and a projectile tongue.
- The animals might have breathed entirely through their skin, as some salamanders did.
- Despite the findings, researchers said that how albanerpetontids fitted in the amphibian family tree remained a mystery.