Current Affairs Dec 16

‘World’s Largest Renewable Energy Park’ Opens in Kutch

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister laid foundation stones of a desalination plant, a hybrid renewable energy park, and a fully automated milk processing and packing plant in Gujarat.

Desalination Plant

  • This 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 waste water infrastructure.
  • It is 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).

Renewable Energy Park

  • The Hybrid Renewable Energy Park near Vighakot village in the district will be the country’s largest renewable energy generation park. It will lead to the generation of renewable energy to the tune of 30 GW.
  • The park will have a dedicated hybrid park zone for wind and solar energy storage, as well as exclusive zone for wind park activities.

Fully automated milk processing and packing plant

  • Also laid the foundation stone of a fully automated milk processing and packing plant at Sarhad Dairy at Anjar.
  • The plant will cost Rs 121 crore and have the capacity to process two lakh litre milk per day.




AYUSH Health and Wellness Centres

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of AYUSH has approved 200 AYUSH Health and Wellness Centres in almora district of Uttarakhand under centrally sponsored scheme of National AYUSH Mission.


  • The overall responsibility of planning, implementation and providing essential support to the Trust to carry out designated activities will be rested with the State Government.
  • The Central Government will provide necessary technical support.
  • In the operational guideline of AYUSH Health and Wellness Centers, there is a provision for partnership with Government and Non-Governmental organizations for improving the environment for health in providing Comprehensive Primary Health Care.


  • The Central Government has decided to operationalise 12,500 AYUSH Health and Wellness Centres in phased manner by the year 2023-2024 throughout the country.




Scheme for Hygiene-rating Audit Agencies

Why in News?

  • The Quality Council of India (QCI) has come out with a scheme for approval of hygiene rating audit agencies with an aim to help consumers take informed decisions regarding food outlets where they prefer to eat by encouraging businesses to improve hygiene and safety standards.
  • This is being done after the FSSAI launched a certification system for restaurants, hotels and cafeterias among others under its ‘Food Hygiene Rating Scheme’.

How is it done?

  • Under this initiative, these food establishments will be rated based on food hygiene and safety parameters by recognised hygiene-rating audit agencies.
  • The hygiene rating will be in the form of a smiley (1 to 5) and the certificate should be displayed prominently in the consumer-facing area.


  • This will enable consumers to make informed decisions about consuming food at outlets that have higher hygiene ratings and also incentivise food establishments to improve their hygiene ratings.
  • Currently, the scheme is applicable for food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, dhabhas, sweet shops, bakeries and meat retail stores.




Meghdoot awards to Postal Employees

Why in New?

  • Department of Posts conducted Meghdoot Award Function 2020.
  • The Meghdoot award is given every year for excellence in postal service.
  • The meghdoot award 2019-20 was given in the eight categories.


  • In a major step towards providing the citizen centric services, a memorandum of Understanding was signed by Department of Posts with CSC e-Governance Services India Limited.
  • This will give a flip to setting a common service centres in more than 10000 Post Offices across the country for providing various G2C (Government to Citizen) and B2C (Business to Citizens) services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country thus enabling the Government’s mandate of a socially, financially and digitally inclusive society.
  • The B2C (Business to Citizens) Services offered includes Bharat Bill Payment System Bills (Electric, Gas, Water bills etc.).
  • The services offered also included Third Party Services such as EMI (Equal Monthly Instalment) collections for various loans offered by financial institutions and submission of online application forms for loans.
  • Travel services such as Ticket booking service would be available for Flight, Train and Bus Tickets.
  • Through this agreement, Department of Posts intends to provide a one-stop solution for all e-Governance services on assisted model through its “Common Service Centres(PO-CSCs)” in Post Offices.






Why in News?

  • The Department of Posts and the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) unveiled a new digital payment application “DakPay” as part of its ongoing efforts to provide digital financial inclusion at the last mile across the country.


  • This innovative service will not only give access to banking services and postal products online, but also is a unique concept where one can order and avail postal financial services at doorsteps.
  • DakPay is a suite of digital financial and assisted banking services provided through the postal network to cater to the financial needs of various sections of society, particularly those living in rural areas.

Services Offered

  • The services include free-of-cost money receipts and transfers at doorsteps, and scanned QR codes, to make payments for a range of utility and banking services.
  • India Post aims to provide facilities such as checking bank balances;
  • transactions through multiple bank accounts;
  • the payment facility through the IPPB mobile banking application for postal products’ making payments using DakPay virtual debit card; and
  • cash withdrawal and deposit using the Aadhaar-enabled payment system.
  • The government is also contemplating a provision for credit facilities.

About India Post Payments Bank

  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100% equity owned by Government of India.
  • IPPB was launched by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on September 1, 2018.
  • The bank has been set up with the vision to build the most accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man in India.
  • The fundamental mandate of India Post Payments Bank is to remove barriers for the unbanked & underbanked and reach the last mile leveraging the Postal network comprising 155,000 Post Offices (135,000 in rural areas) and 300,000 Postal employees.




Swarnim Vijay Mashaal

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister will light up ‘Swarnim Vijay Mashaal’ at the National War Memorial (NWM) in Delhi and kickstart the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the 1971 India-Pakistan war.


  • In December 1971, the Indian Armed Forces secured a decisive and historic Victory over Pakistan Army, which led to the creation of a Nation – Bangladesh and also resulted in the largest Military Surrender after the World War – II.

 What is Planned?

  • From 16 December, the Nation will be celebrating 50 Years of India-Pak War, also called ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’.
  • The Prime Minister will light up the ‘Swarnim Vijay Mashaal’ from the eternal flame of NWM on the occasion.
  • Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year on December 16 to mark India’s triumph in liberating Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971.
  • In one of the fastest and shortest campaigns of military history, a new nation was born as a result of the swift campaign undertaken by the Indian Army.




Genetically Modified Pig for Food, Drugs

Why in News?

  • S. regulators have approved a genetically modified pig for food and medical products, making it the second such animal to get the green light for human consumption.
  • But the company behind it says there are no imminent plans to sell it for meat.

Why Genetically Engineered?

  • The pig is genetically engineered to eliminate the presence of alpha-gal, a type of sugar found in many mammals.
  • The sugar makes its way into many products — including medications, cosmetics and food — and can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • The main goal of the company behind the pig, United Therapeutics Corp., is to develop medical products, such as blood thinners, that won’t set off such reactions.
  • The pig, called GalSafe, also has commercial potential as food, but the company doesn’t know when it might be able to secure an agreement with a meat producer to process and sell it.

Alpha-Gal Syndrome

  • The meat allergy the pig addresses, called alpha-gal syndrome, isn’t yet considered a major issue.


  • Symptoms can include hives, itching, cramping and vomiting.
  • Unlike other food allergies, alpha-gal reactions typically happen several hours after eating beef, pork or lamb, making it difficult to diagnose.
  • Though there aren’t any plans yet to sell meat from GalSafe pigs, the genetically modified salmon could become available in the U.S. soon.

The Hindu



Scrap quotas for faculty recruitment in IITs

Why in News?

  • A committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Education (MoE) to suggest measures for effective implementation of reservation policies in IITs has recommended that these institutions be exempted from following reservation policies in faculty recruitment.
  • The committee based its recommendations primarily on arguments claiming the need for IITs to maintain their academic excellence and the lack of candidates from the reserved categories who fulfil the qualification criteria.

Key Recommendations

  • Suggested that IITs be included in the list of Institutes of Excellence that are exempted from reservation policies under the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act (CEI Act) of 2019.
  • Currently, eight institutions including the Homi Bhabha National Institute and its constituent units, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Space Physics Laboratory and Indian Institute of Remote Sensing are part of this exempted list.
  • Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance under an Act of Parliament, IITs have ought to be listed under the Schedule to the above CEI Act, 2019 for exemption from reservations.
  • The report argued that a “system emphasising targeted goals over a period of time” and not “specific quotas” be followed so that IITs can “compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching.”
  • The committee suggested offering a two-year Research Assistantship funded by the MoSJE for students from reserved categories aspiring to join Ph. D programmes.
  • If granting full exemption from reservations was not possible, the committee recommended that the implement of reservation policies for all categories including Economically Weaker Sections be restricted just to Assistant Professor Grade I and Grade II and not for levels above.
  • The committee also said vacancies not filled in a particular year due to non-availability, be de-reserved in the subsequent year. It further recommended the conduct of special recruitment drives to attract candidates from reserved categories.

About Committee

  • The Committee was constituted in April 2020 with Director of IIT Delhi, V. Ramgopal Rao, as its Chairperson and the Director of IIT Kanpur, Registrars of IIT Bombay and IIT Madras, and representatives from Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE), Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training and Department of Persons with Disabilities as members.
  • It was asked to suggest measures on effective implementation of reservation policies not only in recruitment, but also for admissions. The committee met twice in May and submitted its report on June 17, 2020.


National Family Health Survey

Report Findings

  • Over 60% women in 12 states and union territories have never used the internet, the latest National Family Health Survey has revealed.
  • The survey covered 22 states and UTs in the country.
  • The states and UTs where less than 40% women have used the internet are Andhra Pradesh (21%), Assam (28.2%), Bihar (20.6 %), Gujarat (30.8%), Karnataka (35%), Maharashtra (38%), Meghalaya (34.7%), Telangana (26.5%), Tripura (22.9%), West Bengal (25.5%), Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu (36.7%) and Andaman & Nicobar Islands (34.8%).
  • About 50% men have used the internet in seven states – Andhra Pradesh (48.8%), Assam (42.3%), Bihar (43.6%), Meghalaya (42.1%), Tripura (45.7%), West Bengal (46.7%), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (46.5 %).
  • Andhra Pradesh (68.6%), Bihar (57.8%) and Telangana (66.6%) accounted for the lowest literacy rates among women, while Kerala (98.3%), Lakshadweep (96.5%) and Mizoram (94.4%) recorded the highest literacy rate among women in surveyed states and UTs.
  • Andhra Pradesh (79.5%) and Bihar (78.5%) accounted for lowest literacy rates among men while Kerala (98.2%) and Lakshadweep (99.1%) recorded the highest literacy rate among men in surveyed states and UTs.
  • Literacy refers to women or men who completed standard 9 or higher and women or men who can read a whole sentence or part of a sentence.
  • Less than 40% women had 10 or more years of schooling in eight states and UTs of Andhra Pradesh (39.6%), Assam (29.6%), Bihar (28.8%), Gujarat (33.8%), Meghalaya (35.1%), Tripura (23.2%), West Bengal (32.9%) and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu (35.8%).
  • Less than 50% men had 10 or more years of schooling in nine states and UTs of Andhra Pradesh (47.9%), Assam (35.5%), Bihar (42.8%), Gujarat (45.6%), Meghalaya (34.7%), Mizoram (49.1%), Tripura (29.4%), West Bengal (34.7%) and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu (49.4%).
  • The NFHS-5 (2019-20) was conducted in 6.1 lakh sample households, involving household-level interviews, to collect information on population, health, family planning and nutrition related indicators from 22 states and UTs.




VUI 202012/01

What is it and Why in News?

  • British scientists are trying to establish whether the rapid spread in southern England of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is linked to key mutations they have detected in the strain.
  • The mutations include changes to the important “spike” protein that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells.
  • The new variant, which UK scientists have named “VUI 202012/01” includes a genetic mutation in the “spike” protein, which – in theory – could result in COVID-19 spreading more easily between people.
  • But there is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe COVID-19 infections, or that it would render vaccines less effective.
  • Mutations, or genetic changes, arise naturally in all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, as they replicate and circulate in human populations.
  • In the case of SARS-CoV-2, these mutations are accumulating at a rate of around one to two mutations per month globally.
  • The majority of the mutations seen so far have had no apparent effect on the virus, and only a minority are likely to change the virus in any significant way – for example, making it more able to infect people, more likely to cause severe illness, or less sensitive to natural or vaccine-induced immune defences.




Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST)

Why in News?

  • The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) — the only significant instrument of its kind after the collapse of another telescope in Puerto Rico this month — is about to open its doors for foreign astronomers to use, hoping to attract the world’s top scientific talent.
  • Nestled among the mountains in southwest China, the world’s largest radio telescope.
  • The world’s second-largest radio telescope, at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, was destroyed when its suspended 900-tonne receiver platform came loose and plunged 140 metres (450 feet) onto the radio dish below.
  • The Chinese installation in Pingtang, Guizhou province, is up to three times more sensitive than the U.S.-owned one, and is surrounded by a five-kilometre “radio silence” zone where mobile phones and computers are not allowed.

About FAST

  • Work on the FAST began in 2011 and it started full operations in January this year, working mainly to capture the radio signals emitted by celestial bodies, in particular pulsars — rapidly rotating dead stars.

China’s Achievements in near Past

  • The world’s most populous country has so far only won one scientific Nobel Prize — awarded in 2015 to chemist Tu Youyou.
  • But in the past two decades, China has built the largest high-speed train network in the world, finalised its Beidou geolocation system — a competitor of the American GPS — and is now in the process of bringing lunar samples back to Earth.
  • China is pouring billions into its military-run space programme and has published a plan to become by 2035 a world leader in artificial intelligence, space, clean energy and robotics.
  • The data being collected by FAST should allow for a better understanding of the origins of the universe — and aid in the search for alien life.




Obesity and Tumours

  • Obesity is one of the major cancer risk factors.
  • But how are they related?
  • A new study has noted that a diet containing high fat impels the immune system’s T-cells which accelerates tumour growth.
  • There is a metabolic tug-of-war between T-cells and tumor cells that changes with obesity.
  • So there is a high chance that a person with a high fat diet is at more risk of getting diagnosed with tumours than a person on a normal diet.




Himalayan Serow

Why in News?

  • A Himalayan serow has been sighted for the first time in the Himalayan cold desert region.

What kind of an animal is the Himalayan serow?

  • A biologist has decribed a Himalayan serow as resembling a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.
  • It’s a medium-sized mammal with a large head, thick neck, short limbs, long, mule-like ears, and a coat of dark hair.
  • There are several species of serows, and all of them are found in Asia.
  • The Himalayan serow, or Capricornis sumatraensis thar, is restricted to the Himalayan region.
  • Himalayan serows are herbivores, and are typically found at altitudes between 2,000 metres and 4,000 metres (6,500 to 13,000 feet). They are known to be found in eastern, central, and western Himalayas, but not in the Trans Himalayan region.

So where has this serow been sighted?

  • The animal was spotted by locals and wildlife officials at a riverside rocky wall near Hurling village in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
  • This is the first recorded human sighting of the serow in Himachal Pradesh. The animal has been spotted a few times earlier in the state, but that has always been through camera traps.

Why is the sighting of the serow unusual?

  • Spiti lies in the cold mountain desert region of the western Himalaya, and its valley floor has an average elevation of 4,270 metres above sea level.
  • Serows are generally not found at this altitude, and never before has a serow been seen in the Himalayan cold desert.
  • The animal has also been spotted in the Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary, and in the higher reaches of Chamba.

Is the serow a threatened or endangered species?

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Himalayan serows have experienced significant declines in population size, range size and habitat in the last decade, and this is expected to continue due to intensive human impact.
  • Previously assessed as ‘near threatened’, the Himalayan serow is now been categorised as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is listed under Schedule I of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which provides absolute protection.




India, Iran and Uzbekistan Meeting

Why in News?

  • India, Iran and Uzbekistan discussed the joint use of Chabahar port to enhance regional connectivity as the three countries held their first trilateral meeting focused on the strategic trade and transit facility in the Gulf of Oman.

What happen in Meeting?

  • Discussed joint use of Chabahar port for trade and transit purposes and enhanced regional connectivity.
  • All sides also noted the significant role played by Chabahar port for the region to deliver humanitarian assistance during the Covid pandemic.
  • The meeting was held as a follow up of decisions taken during the virtual summit held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Uzbekistan on 11th of this month.




NRIs in the Gulf Won’t Get Postal Voting Rights

Why in News?

  • In a meeting held last recently with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Election Commission (EC) has indicated to the government the countries where it would like to have postal voting introduced for NRIs on a pilot basis.
  • The proposal may get implemented first for voters based in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, and South Africa.

What is the reason behind the EC leaving out the Gulf countries, which have significant Indian diaspora, from the proposed pilot?

  • The Commission does not have anything against the NRIs settled in the Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • MEA has in the past expressed strong reservations over facilitating voting for Indian citizens living in non-democratic nations.
  • Holding a democratic exercise, involving voters queuing outside Indian Missions and Embassies, in non-democratic countries will require permissions, and the host nation may not approve.
  • Given these concerns, the EC, for now, hasn’t included Gulf countries in its proposed pilot.

What is the current strength of NRI voters?

  • According to a UN report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million people.
  • Registration of NRI voters, in comparison, has been very low: a little over 1 lakh overseas Indians registered as voters in India, according to the EC.
  • In last year’s Lok Sabha elections, roughly 25,000 of them flew to India to vote.




San Isidro Movement

Why in News?

  • In Cuba, a country under an authoritarian communist regime for more than six decades, a campaign by artists and activists demanding greater freedom of expression is fast grabbing the limelight.
  • The Movimiento San Isidro, or the San Isidro Movement (MSI), started two years ago to protest state censorship of artistic works, and has now become a platform for Cuban dissidents both within and outside the Caribbean nation.

What is Cuba’s San Isidro Movement (MSI)?

  • The movement started in September 2018, when the Cuban government sought to enforce Decree 349, a law that would have given powers to the nation’s Culture Ministry to restrict cultural activity it did not approve of.
  • To protest against the decree, artists, poets, journalists and activists gathered in San Isidro, a Black-majority locality that is among Havana’s poorest yet most culturally active wards, and which also forms part of the Old Havana UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • What gave crucial firepower to the movement was a landmark 2015 deal between Cuba and the US, one of whose provisions stipulated that the Cuban regime should allow its people greater internet freedoms in exchange for opening bilateral relations with Washington.




Mucormycosis Fungus

Why in News?

  • Doctors at Sir Ganga Ram hospital have witnessed more than 12 cases of Covid-19 triggered Mucormycosis fungus — which causes loss of eyesight, removal of the nose and jaw bone, and 50 per cent mortality in cases where it affects the brain — within 15 days.

Black Fungus or Mucormycosis

  • Black Fungus or Mucormycosis, previously called zygomycosis, is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes which exist in the environment.
  • Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
  • The symptoms are face numbness, one-side nose obstructions or swelling of eyes, or pain.





Maritime Theatre Command (MTC)

Why in News?

  • The country’s first Maritime Theatre Command (MTC) is set to take concrete shape by next year, with its commander-in-chief having full operational control over the western and eastern naval fleets, maritime strike fighter jets and transport aircraft, two amphibious infantry brigades and coastal patrol vessels.
  • The MTC will be the first new “geographical” theatre command to be created as part of the biggest-ever military restructuring plan to build an integrated land-air-sea war-fighting machinery for greater combat punch in a more cost-effective manner.
  • The MTC will have its headquarters at the Karwar naval base in coastal Karnataka.
  • It will look after the country’s 7,516-km coastline and 1,382 islandsas well as the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond.
  • With two sub-theatres for west and east, the MTC will bolster joint operations and application of force in the maritime domain.
  • This becomes crucial in face of China’s ever-expanding naval footprint in the IOR. China already has the world’s largest Navy with 350 warships and submarines, and plans to reach a force-level of 420 by the end of this decade.
  • As per the plan, the MTC will subsume the Western Naval Command (Mumbai), Eastern Naval Command (Vizag), the tri-Service Andaman and Nicobar Command (Port Blair) and the Southern Air Command (Thiruvananthapuram).


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