Current Affairs Dec 14

Climate Ambition Summit

Prime Minister’s Speech

  • By 2047, centennial India will exceed the world’s expectations in implementing actions to counter climate change.
  • On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement – the most ambitious step in fight against climate change – the world shouldn’t lose sight of historical emissions.
  • Called for a review of actions taken by all countries based on the commitments they had made under the agreement.
  • India has reduced its emission intensity by 21 per cent over 2005 levels.
  • Solar capacity has grown from 2.63 GigaWatts in 2014 to 36 GigaWatts in 2020.
  • Renewable energy capacity is the fourth largest in the world.
  • It will reach 175 GigaWatts before 2022. And, have an even more ambitious target now – 450 GigaWatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Hosted By?

  • The Climate Ambition Summit is hosted by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

About Paris Agreement

  • The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change which was adopted by 196 parties at 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, on December 12 2015, and entered into force on November 4, 2016.
  • The important virtual summit being co-hosted by France in partnership with Chile and Italy will allow governments to present their commitment and compliance with the Paris Agreement.
  • Paris promised to limit global temperature which rose to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.


Handicraft and GI Toys

Why in News?

  • Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry has devised a comprehensive action plan with steps being taken to boost production & sale of indigenous toys across the country.

What is it?

  • DPIIT has released Toys (Quality Control) Second Amendment Order, 2020.
  • It exempts goods manufactured & sold by artisans registered with Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), from use of Standard Mark under licence from Bureau of Indian Standards, as per Scheme 1 of Schedule-II of BIS (Conformity Assessment) Regulations,2018.
  • The Amendment Order 2020, also exempts products registered as Geographical Indications from following Indian Toy Standards & compulsory use of Standard Mark licence from Bureau as per Scheme 1 of Schedule-II of BIS(CA)Regulations,2018.
  • Quality Control order has been issued by the Department for standardization and quality adherence of Toys.
  • The order will come into effect from 1st January, 2021.
  • This order aims to bring forward the synergized efforts of the GoI, states and the stakeholders to promote ‘Team up for toys’ vision keeping quality standards of the indigenous toys as the priority.


International Universal Health Coverage Day


  • On 12 December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a resolution urging countries to accelerate progress toward universal health coverage (UHC) – the idea that everyone, everywhere should have access to quality, affordable health care – as an essential priority for international development.
  • On 12 December 2017, the United Nations proclaimed 12 December as International Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) by resolution 72/138.
  • Aims to raise awareness of the need for strong and resilient health systems and universal health coverage with multi-stakeholder partners.


PM to visit Kutch


  • Prime Minister will visit Dhordo in Gujarat’s Kutch and lay the foundation stone of several development projects in the state.
  • These projects include a desalination plant, a hybrid renewable energy park, and a fully automated milk processing and packing plant.

Desalination Plant

  • With 10 crore litre per day capacity (100 MLD), will strengthen water security in Gujarat by complementing Narmada Grid, Sauni network and treated wastewater infrastructure.
  • The water from this plant will be used for domestic, farming and industrial needs.
  • It is known to be one of the five upcoming desalination plants in Gujarat besides those at Dahej (100 MLD), Dwarka (70 MLD), Ghogha Bhavnagar (70 MLD) and Gir Somnath (30 MLD).

Hybrid Renewable Energy Park

  • The Hybrid Renewable Energy Park near Vighakot village in Kutch district will be the country’s largest renewable energy generation park.
  • The park, which is a mix of solar and wind power, is expected to take shape in the desert near the Indo-Pak border.


International Financial Services Centres Authority (Bullion Exchange) Regulations, 2020

Why in News?

  • In the Union Budget 2020, Union Minister of Finance Corporate Affairs had made an announcement for setting up an International Bullion Exchange at the International Financial Services Centre in GIFT City, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • Subsequently, the Government of India had notified the bullion spot delivery contract and bullion depository receipt (with bullion as underlying) as Financial Products and related services as Financial Services under the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) Act, 2019.
  • IFSCA has been entrusted with the responsibility of operationalization of this Exchange.
  • In this regard, International Financial Services Centres Authority (Bullion Exchange) Regulations 2020 were approved by the Authority on October 27,2020.
  • The said regulations have been notified and published in the Gazette of India on December 11, 2020.
  • The regulations inter alia cover the Bullion Exchange, Clearing Corporation, Depository and Vaults.

International Financial Services Centres Authority (Bullion Exchange) Regulations, 2020.

  • The Government of India, on the recommendation of IFSCA, notified the bullion spot delivery contract and bullion depository receipt (with bullion as underlying) as Financial Products and related services as Financial Services under the IFSCA Act, 2019 on August 31, 2020.
  • IFSCA has been tasked with the responsibility of operationalization of this bullion Exchange.
  • For the first time in India a single regulator will be regulating both the bullion spot and derivative contracts that would be traded on the Exchange.
  • The Authority approved the draft bullion regulations in its meeting, which paves the way for setting up the entire ecosystem for bullion trading, namely, bullion exchange, depository, clearing house and vaults.

The salient aspects of the Bullion Exchange Regulations include:

  • Functions and general obligations of a bullion exchange and clearing corporation
  • Ownership and governance structure of a bullion exchange and clearing corporation
  • Rights and Obligations of Bullion Depositories, Participants and Beneficial Owners
  • The grant of registration to a vault manager by the Authority
  • The role of bullion depositories
  • Other operational aspects of the bullion exchange


India – Bangladesh Bilateral Summit

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hold a virtual bilateral summit on December 17.

Issues Likely to be Discussed

  • Connectivity projects including the resurrection of the 12-km Chilahati-Haldibari rail link after 55 years will be highlighted.
  • The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link, a British-era line, was abandoned after the India-Pakistan war in 1965 (when Bangladesh was East Pakistan), and will be the fifth rail route connecting Bangladesh with Bengal.
  • A sixth line, from Dhaka to Siliguri is expected to be flagged off on Bangladesh’s 50th Independence Day on March 26, when Mr. Modi is expected to travel to Dhaka.
  • The “major issues” including the water sharing agreement for the Teesta and at least six other rivers as well as continued reports of killings of its nationals at the border would also be raised.
  • More connectivity and “high-impact” infrastructure projects and a possible mechanism to oversee projects under concessional Lines of Credit (LoCs) of nearly $10 billion from India in 2017.
  • Progress on a petroleum ‘friendship’ pipeline from Siliguri to Bangladesh’s Dinajpur that was agreed to in 2018 and began construction recently, will also be discussed.
  • A sub-regional electricity grid sharing project which would see Bhutan and Bangladesh contribute power, but officials said they are awaiting Cross-Border Trade in Electricity (CBTE) guidelines from India.
  • They will hold talks on a day after Bangladesh’s “liberation day”, the anniversary of the day in 1971 the Pakistani army surrendered, which is celebrated in both India and Bangladesh as Bijoy or Vijay Diwas.

The Hindu

National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) report

Why in News?

  • The latest National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) report for 2019-20 which was released recently has revealed that still 15.5% men above 15 years of age consume alcohol in dry Bihar.
  • Nearly 77% women in Bihar have their own bank account and over 51% of them use mobile phones.
  • In Bihar, the stringent Prohibition and Excise Act was enforced in April 2016, with a provision of a minimum 10 years of jail term for violators of the law.

Report Findings

  • 5% people over 15 years of age in the State consumed alcohol while only 0.4% women did the same. Similarly, 48.8% men of similar age bracket use tobacco while, only 5.0% women consume it.
  • In Bihar 51.4 % women used their own mobile phones — 61.8% in urban areas and 49.3% in rural areas. In 2015-16, only 40.9% women were using mobile phones.
  • Similarly, as many as 76.7% women had their own bank account which was only 26.4% in 2015-16.
  • The sex ratio of girl child has gone down from 934 (per 1,000 males) in 2015-16 to 908 in 2019-20. But the sex ratio of total female population per 1,000 males has gone up from 1, 062 to 1, 090 in the State.
  • In Bihar 20.6% women used internet in 2019-20 while, 43.6% men used it and the literacy rate of women has gone to 57.8% while, for men the figure is 78.5%.


Tracking Virus Presence in Sewage to Help Monitor Pandemic

Why in News?

  • The detection of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in sewage samples has raised the possibility of using environmental water surveillance to monitor virus activity in infected areas.
  • Similar environmental surveillance for the polio virus has played a critical role in the eradication of wild polio virus globally.

What Researchers are saying?

  • Researchers claim to have undertaken the study to standardise the methodology for detection of SARS-CoV-2 from sewage and explore the feasibility of establishing supplementary surveillance for COVID-19.
  • Researchers have now suggested that SARS-CoV-2 detection in waste waters could be used to understand the epidemiology of COVID-19.
  • Decreasing concentration or absence of virus at previously SARS-CoV-2-positive sewage sampling sites may indicate successful implementation of COVID-19 control strategies and it may provide evidence of the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2-infected populations and confirmation of COVID-19-free zones.

Intestinal infection

  • The study conducted said though COVID spreads mainly via the droplets of respiratory secretions, it was also detected in stool samples of patients, indicating active infection of the gastrointestinal tract.


  • The study concluded that PEG-dextran phase separation method was effectively used to concentrate SARS-CoV-2 from domestic waste waters to detection levels.
  • It would be feasible to initiate sewage surveillance for the virus to generate data about the viral transmission in various epidemiologic settings.


Use of Fingerprints for Our Body


  • Monkeys, apes and we humans have evolved fingerprints or ridges on hands and feet.
  • This region on our hands and feet also has a high density of sweat glands.

Why in News?

  • A new study has now shown that these ridges and the skin moisture due to the sweat glands helps give greater levels of grip when holding on to objects.
  • Fingerprint ridges help increase the friction when you hold smooth surfaces and the sweat is also regulated to maximise friction.


  • Understanding the influence of finger pad friction will help us to develop more realistic tactile sensors — for example, applications in robotics and prosthetics and haptic feedback systems for touch screens and virtual reality environments.


  • Using hi-tech laser-based imaging technology, the scientists found that the moisture on the finger is regulated by a combination of sweat pore blocking and accelerated evaporation of excessive moisture from external wetting.
  • These two functions together maintain the optimum amount of moisture in the fingerprint ridges.
  • This dual-mechanism for managing moisture has provided primates with an evolutionary advantage in dry and wet conditions — giving them manipulative and locomotor abilities not available to other animals, such as bears and big cats.


Geminid Meteor Shower

Why in News?

  • Geminid meteor shower displayed on December 13 and in the early morning hours of December 14.

What are meteors and meteoroids?

  • Rocks and dust particles from space that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids. Those that enter and streak through the atmosphere are called meteors.

What causes a meteor shower?

  • Usually when comets, which are chunks of ice with lot of dust, come close to the sun, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet.
  • If Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a debris trail, they enter the Earth’s atmosphere with considerable speed and due to friction in the atmosphere, burns up and give rise to not only a single bright streak in the sky but numerous meteors, called meteor shower.

Why is the Geminid meteor shower called so?

  • Geminid meteor shower is so named because the meteors appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini in the night sky.
  • It is not a comet but an unusual asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983, that is the origin of the meteors.

So this shower is from an asteroid. Now what exactly is an asteroid?

  • Asteroids are rocky bodies going round the Sun, originating from a region between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter.
  • Unlike the planets, their orbits are sometimes extremely elliptical and intersect the orbit of Mars and even Earth.
  • The Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids are called Apollo Asteroids.

So we can watch the Geminid meteor shower every year?

  • Generally the meteor shower associated with 3200 Phaethon peaks around second week of December every year and are quite numerous.


Diagnosing Tuberculosis from Urine Samples

Present Method

  • Diagnosing TB usually involves using a sputum sample or a biopsy in the detection tests. This is not just time-consuming or expensive, there are also cases where getting a sputum sample is not easy or even possible, such as with small children or in the case of extrapulmonary TB.

Why in News?

  • IIT Madras researchers are developing a point-of-care platform for early-stage TB screening and detection using urine samples. The platform is yet to be tested in clinical trials.


  • The glycolipid lipoarabinomannan (LAM), an integral component of the cell wall and cell membrane of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the disease-causing bacterium, has been explored as a biomarker for TB diagnosis.
  • Since it is known that LAM is released into the blood stream during active infection and passed out in urine, it can be viewed as a potential biomarker for even cases other than pulmonary TB.
  • In the test conducted by the group, the sample containing Mtb-LAM is mixed with gold nanoparticles and incubated for five minutes.
  • Then a U-shaped fibre-optic sensor device with an LED and a photodetector attached to its two ends is dipped into the mixture.
  • The results are generated in the next ten minutes, and the amount of Mtb-LAM present in the mixture can be read out.

Antibody sandwich

  • To describe the above process in detail, the sample for analysis is mixed with the reagent containing detector antibody (anti-MTB-LAM IgG) conjugated with plasmonic gold nanoparticles.
  • The gold nanoparticle labels capture the analyte (LAM) molecules from the sample solution through the detector antibody.
  • Then the pre-mixed solution is given to the sensor probes immobilized with capture antibody (anti-MTB-LAM IgM).
  • Thus on the sensor surface, a sandwich-like immunocomplex of the three is formed.
  • This comprises capture antibody-analyte-detector antibody with a plasmonic label.
  • Likewise a large number of immunocomplexes are formed on the sensor surface that are proportional to the LAM concentratio.
  • Each of the plasmonic labels absorb light passing through the fibre, leading to a drop in light intensity at the detector. The drop in the light intensity is a measure of LAM concentration.


Rare Myristica Swamp Treefrog

Why in News?

  • Myristica Swamp Treefrog, a rare arboreal species endemic to the Western Ghats that bears the scientific name Mercurana myristicapalustris, has been recorded for the first time north of the Shencottah gap in Vazhachal Reserve Forest in Thrissur.
  • Unlike the Myristica Swamp Treefrog found in the foothills of the Agasthyamalai, these frogs were found to be active throughout June and early July and has adapted to a non-Myristica swamp predominant with the plant Polyalthia fragrans.
  • The frog was first described in 2013 from the lowland Myristica swamps of Arippa, near Kulathupuzha Reserve Forest, in the western foothills of Agasthyamalai.
  • These frogs are rare and elusive for the reason that they are arboreal and active only for a few weeks during their breeding season.
  • The breeding season, unlike for other frogs, starts in the pre-monsoons season (May) and ends before the monsoon becomes fully active in June.
  • Before the end of the breeding season, the female frogs along with their male counterparts descend to the forest floor.
  • The female digs the mud and lays eggs in shallow burrows in mud.
  • After breeding and egg-laying, they retreat back to the high canopies of the tree and remain elusive till next breeding season.


Facade of Aztec Skull Tower

Why in News?

  • Archaeologists have unearthed new sections of a famous Aztec tower of human skulls dating back to the 1400s beneath the center of Mexico City.
  • The team uncovered in March the facade and eastern side of the tower, as well as 119 human skulls of men, women and children, adding to hundreds previously found.


  • The tower, approximately five meters (16.4 feet) in diameter, was first discovered five years ago.
  • It is believed to be part of the Huey Tzompantli, a huge array of skulls that struck fear into the Spanish conquistadores when they captured the city under Hernan Cortes in 1521.
  • The cylindrical structure is near the huge Metropolitan Cathedral built over the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, now modern day Mexico City.
  • Archaeologists have identified three construction phases of the tower, which dates back to between 1486 and 1502.
  • The tower’s original discovery surprised anthropologists, who had been expecting to find the skulls of young male warriors, but also unearthed the crania of women and children, raising questions about human sacrifice in the Aztec Empire.



National Family Health Survey (NFHS)

Why in News?

  • The Health Ministry recently released partial data from the fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) claiming “considerable improvement” in the supply of vaccine for childhood immunisation from the fourth round in 2015-16.

Survey Revealed

  • In Andhra Pradesh, the percentage of fully vaccinated children (12-23 months) jumped to 73% from 65% in the fourth edition.
  • However, children with diarrhoea in the two weeks preceding the survey also jumped to 7.2% from 6.6%.
  • In West Bengal, institutional births of children increased from 75% to 91% and in Gujarat, the proportion of anaemic children sharply increased from 62.6% to 79.7%.
  • Substantial improvement in maternal and child health indicators over NFHS-4 was recorded in the present survey.
  • The fertility rate has further declined, and contraceptive use has increased in most Phase I States.
  • The survey found considerable improvement in vaccination coverage among children aged 12-23 months across all States/UTs.
  • Women’s empowerment indicators (including women with bank account) also portray considerable progress.

About Survey

  • Like other versions, the newest edition too has information on population, health and nutrition for India, and is based on statistics gleaned from 6.1 lakh households.
  • The results from 17 States and five Union Territories were released recently under Phase-I.
  • Phase II is expected to be completed by May 2021.


Ashraf Patel

Why in News?

  • Ashraf Patel has recently won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award instituted by the Schwab Foundation and Jubilant Bhartia Foundation.
  • Ashraf Patel is the co-founder of Pravah and ComMutiny Youth Collective.
  • In partnership with UNICEF ROSA, they developed an appreciative enquiry tool to assess the impact of COVID 19 on the lives of adolescents in 8 South Asian countries.
  • ComMutiny members across 17 states reached 30 thousand vulnerable households with relief supplies in the times of COVID 19 crisis.


Planet HD106906 b

Why in News?

  • A strange exoplanet, orbiting a double-star 336 light years away, has caught the interest of astronomers.
  • The oddball behaviour of the planet, HD106906 b, provide clues about our own mysterious Planet Nine — if it exists.

What is this exoplanet, and what is Planet Nine?

  • HD106906 b is not a new discovery: It appears in archival images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004.
  • But at the time, people did not recognise the object to be a planet.
  • It was not until follow-up observations were taken in 2013 of the system using a different telescope (specifically the Magellan Telescopes in Chile) that people figured out that this was actually a distinct planet.
  • Planet Nine is an elusive, distant planet in our own Solar System.
  • Although it has not been found yet, it has been predicted by a series of studies over the last few years, and has been described by astronomers as “hiding in plain sight”.
  • If it exists, Planet Nine is 10 times as massive as Earth.

Why is Planet Nine believed to exist?

  • These predictions arise from the peculiar behaviour and alignment of various objects in the Solar System. Astronomers believe all this is happening under the influence of Planet Nine.
  • For example, in the outer reaches of the Solar System, beyond Neptune, there is a region called the Kuiper belt, populated by icy debris. Some of the objects in this region have been found to be very peculiarly aligned, and Planet Nine is likely responsible for this.
  • Then in 2018, astronomers reported the peculiar behaviour of another object in the Solar System, called 2015 BP519.
  • The object orbits our Sun — but at an extreme tilt (54°) when compared to the orbits of Earth and the other seven planets.
  • Simulations showed that the influence of Planet Nine (if it exists) would explain this tilt. Without Planet Nine, the tilt would be unexplained.

Why is the new exoplanet being compared with Planet Nine?

  • Both planets (assuming Planet Nine is real) reside far out in their respective stellar systems.
  • Both orbit their respective stars at an extreme tilt. And both are massive enough to influence the behaviour of other objects in their respective regions.
  • HD106906 b presents a more extreme case in these respects.
  • While Planet Nine is assumed to be 10 times as massive as Earth, HD106906 b is 11 times the mass of Jupiter.
  • HD106906 b is unusually far away from its pair of host stars — over 730 times the distance that earth is from the sun. That makes its orbit extremely long — 15,000 years. Its binary star is relatively young at 15 million years, compared to our Sun which is 4.6 billion years old.



Rising Water Levels in East Africa’s Rift Valley Lakes

Why in News?

  • Marooned giraffes, fleeing flamingoes and stranded impalas: in recent years the rising water levels in east Africa’s Rift Valley lakes have become the norm, displacing people, threatening wildlife and submerging schools and hotels.

About Problems

  • The gradual rise was first noticed 10 years ago but was accelerated by heavy rains in 2019.
  • This year Lake Turkana, the northernmost lake in Kenya, was six metres deeper than usual by November.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has described the threat to the lake as “critical”.
  • Its 2020 conservation outlook warns: “Lake Turkana’s unique qualities as a large lake in a desert environment are under threat as the demands for water for development escalate and the financial capital to build major dams becomes available.”
  • Two other Rift Valley lakes, Baringo and Bogoria, could merge with catastrophic ecological consequences.
  • Comparative images taken by Nasa’s Earth Observatory in 2013 and 2020 show heavy deposits of sediment along the edges of the two lakes that are now 13km (8 miles) apart, down from 20km.
  • Lake Baringo is a freshwater habitat that hosts fish, Nile crocodiles, and hippos.
  • Local people rely on its water for domestic use and farming.
  • Lake Bogoria is alkaline and home to thousands of flamingoes that depend on the blue-green algae thriving in its waters.
  • The hot water geysers and hot springs that used to attract tourists to the region lie buried underneath.
  • Should the two lakes ever merge, fresh water from Baringo would dilute the alkali in Bogoria and reduce the growth of algae.
  • Several years ago, a similar rise in the waters of Lake Nakuru caused millions of flamingoes to flee the lake for Bogoria.


Que-    The State cabinet recently approved a proposal to close down all government-run madrassas and Sanskrit tols (schools)

a) Uttar Pradesh

b) Madhya Pradesh

c) Assam

d) Bihar

Ans-     (c)

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