Current Affairs Dec 18

India-Bangladesh Virtual Summit

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister of India and Prime Minister of Bangladesh held a Summit.
  • Both sides held comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Launch rail link

  • The two leaders remotely launched the Chilahati (Bangladesh)-Haldibari (West Bengal) rail link, which is the fifth such link between the two countries.

Biopic on Bangabandhu

  • The filming of a biopic on Bangabandhu would begin under the direction of Shyam Benegal in January 2021.
  • Pledged to name the road from Mujib Nagar to West Bengal’s Nadia as “Shadhinota Shorok”.
  • It was in Mujib Nagar that a government in exile was formed in 1971.
  • Modi accepted an invitation from Dhaka to be present at the 50th anniversary of independence of Bangladesh in March.
  • The Chilahati-Haldibari rail link was last operational in 1965. Upgrade of the old lines were carried out before the inauguration.

Seven agreements

  • The two sides also concluded seven agreements covering areas such as hydrocarbon, High Impact Community Development Projects, elephant conservation, solid waste management, agriculture, and terms of reference of the India-Bangladesh CEOs forum.
  • A pact between the National Museum of India and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum in Dhaka was also declared.
  • Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of the Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and Hariabhanga rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus.
  • This exercise will help in fixing the international boundary on that stretch.

‘Fixed border’

  • The joint statement declared that required work would commence to convert the International Boundary along the Kushiyara River into a “fixed border”.
  • In response to Mangladesh Prime Minister Remarks on the Teesta water-sharing agreement, Indian PM expressed India’s “sincere commitment” to implementing the interim agreement, which is yet to be signed.
  • Bangladesh also expressed a desire to join the trilateral highway project that is being worked out among India, Thailand and Myanmar.

Rohingya refugees’ repatriation

  • Bangladesh urged India to assist in the speedy repatriation of the Rohingya refugees who are currently staying in the Kutupalong refugee settlement colony in Cox’s Bazar.
  • The joint statement, however, did not use the term “Rohingya” and used instead “Displaced persons from the Rakhine state of Myanmar” to refer to the community.

Signing of Bilateral Documents and Inauguration of Projects

  • Framework of Understanding (FOU) on Cooperation in Hydrocarbon Sector;
  • Protocol on Trans-boundary Elephant Conservation;
  • MOU regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) through Local Bodies and other Public Sector Institutions;
  • MOU on Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage / Solid Waste Disposal Ground at Lamchori Area for Barishal City Corporation;
  • Terms of Reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum;
  • MoU between Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Museum, New Delhi, India; and
  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture.

The following bilateral development partnership projects were also inaugurated:

  • Beautification and city development project in Rajshahi City;
  • Construction of Khalishpur Collegiate Girl’s School in Khulna;


Organic Black Rice

Why in News?

  • The global market of black rice, one of the finest quality scented varieties from Chandauli, is growing further as a consignment of the famous variety left for Doha, the capital of Qatar.
  • Various measures are being taken for increasing export of agriculture produce from east UP by using Varanasi as a hub.
  • Flowers from this region will also be exported.
  • In June 2018, chemicals-free black rice was cultivated for the first time in Chandauli.
  • In June, a consignment of black rice grown in Chandauli, known as the rice bowl of east UP, had been procured by a firm for export to Australia.
  • “Black rice from Chandauli is being purchased in bulk by export firms.”
  • The minimum support price announced by the government for rice is below Rs 2,000 per quintal, while in the open market it gets upto Rs 2,500 as per demand. But, the export firm purchased black rice for Rs 8,500 per quintal, which is almost four times than the MSP of last kharif crop.



Why in News?

  • The 35th edition of India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT) between the Indian Navy and the Indonesian Navy was conducted from 17 to 18 December 2020.


  • Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kulish, an indigenously built missile corvette along with P8I Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) will undertake coordinated patrol with Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Cut Nyak Dien, a Kapitan Pattimura (Parchim I) class corvette and a MPA of the Indonesian Navy.


  • As part of Government of India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with countries in the Indian Ocean Region for Coordinated Patrols, cooperation in EEZ Surveillance, Passage exercises and Bilateral/ Multi-lateral exercises, towards enhancing regional maritime security.


  • To reinforce maritime links, the two navies have been carrying out CORPAT along their International Maritime Boundary Line since 2002, with the aim of ensuring safety and security of shipping and international trade in the region.
  • CORPATs build up understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitate institution of measures to prevent and suppress Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery and piracy.






Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

Why in News?

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved procurements worth ₹28,000 crore, which includes six additional more capable Air Borne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to be designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • An earlier proposal to develop two bigger early warning aircraft based on Airbus A330 aircraft has now been converted to six AEW&C platforms mounted on Airbus A320.
  • The project was expected to be completed in six years.


  • These platforms would be much more capable than the existing Netra AWE&C aircraft, offering 360 degree coverage.
  • The IAF currently operates three Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) and three smaller indigenous Netra AEW&C systems mounted on Embraer aircraft.
  • A shortage of these force multipliers was felt during the aerial engagement with thee Pakistan Air Force, a day after the Balakot airstrike in February last year.
  • This was the first meeting of the DAC since the new Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 came into effect and these were the first set of Acceptance of Necessity (AoNs) accorded, with majority AoNs being accorded in the highest categorization of Buy Indian (IDDM).


National Lok Adalat

Why in News?

  • Last National Lok Adalat of the year 2020 was organised through virtual and physical mode across the country under the aegis of the National Legal Services Authority.
  • In the National Lok Adalat, cases pertaining to MACT cases, labour dispute, money recovery, land acquisition, maintenance cases, NI Act cases under Section 138, Criminal Compoundable Offences, matrimonial disputes (except divorce), service matters relating to pay, allowances and retirement benefits, other civil cases (rent, easmentary rights, injunction suits, specific performance suits) etc. were taken up.

About Lok Adalat

  • Lok Adalat, conducted by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is an alternative method of dispute resolution.
  • It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled / compromised amicably.
  • Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
  • Under the said Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and
  • No appeal lies against such an award before any court of law.
  • National Lok Adalats are conducted quarterly for settlement of cases (both pre-litigation and post-litigation) in all the courts from the Supreme Court of India to the Taluk Courts on a single day.


High-performance Hybrid Supercapacitors

Why in News?

  • Scientists have developed a low-cost supercapacitor device with excellent capacitive retention with a novel electrode material they have synthesized, which can pave the way for the next generation high power-high energy storage devices.

About Supercapacitor

  • Supercapacitors have gained considerable attention due to their high power density, long cycle life, and excellent capacity retention compared to their battery counterparts.
  • Supercapacitors with high capacitance and excellent capacitive retention developed from low-cost fabrication techniques are the need of the hour, considering their potential utility in the commercial market.

Who Developed & How?

  • Scientists at the International Advanced Research Center for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), in collaboration with IIT Hyderabad have developed a facile, scalable, and cost-effective electrochemical route to synthesize electrodes made of Nickel cobaltite (NiCo2O4) containing nanosheet structures with incorporated oxygen vacancies as an active material, for hybrid supercapacitors.
  • These electrodes have been found to have excellent electrochemical performance.
  • Such hybrid supercapacitors combine the features of both conventional double layer supercapacitors and batteries and act as high power-high energy storage devices.

Challenges & Solution

  • However, it remains challenging to design pseudocapacitor devices with redox metal oxide (MO) materials with high porosity, which exhibit high capacitance and good cycle life.
  • It is desirable to amend the intrinsic properties of the synthesized MO to enhance its conductivity, stability, and electrochemical activity.
  • Scientists at ARCI and IIT-H addressed these challenges and were successful in synthesizing NiCo2O4 nanostructured electrodes by a novel electrodeposition route.
  • They also introduced an optimum number of oxygen vacancies by an environmentally benign chemical reduction process to make up for an active, positive electrode material for hybrid supercapacitor.
  • This could be an effective alternative to the existing carbon-based electrodes for supercapacitors to achieve high energy density.


Metal CO2 Battery

Why in News?

  • India’s planetary missions like Mars Mission may soon be able to reduce payload mass and launch costs with the help of an indigenously developed Metal- CO2 battery with CO2 as an Energy Carrier.

Who Developed?

  • Chandra Shekhar Sharma, a recipient of this year’s SwarnaJayanti fellowship, will be working to develop Scientific Understanding and Technical Development of Metal- CO2 battery with CO2 as an Energy Carrier for India’s Mars Mission.
  • Recently demonstrated the technical feasibility of Lithium- CO2 battery in simulated Mars atmosphere for the first time.
  • As a part of the SwarnaJayanti Fellowship, he aims to develop a working prototype of Metal (M)-CO2 battery technology and explore the feasibility of this technology in the Mars mission, particularly for the surface landers and rovers by using the CO2 gas which is abundantly available in its atmosphere.
  • The development of Metal-CO2 batteries will provide highly specific energy density with the reduction in mass and volume, which will reduce payload mass and launch cost of planetary missions.
  • Another parallel aspect of this research is to develop Metal-CO2 battery technology also as a promising clean strategy for restraining the climate effects of CO2 emissions.
  • Metal-CO2 batteries have a great potential to offer significantly high energy density than the currently used Li-ion batteries and provide a useful solution to fix CO2 emissions, which is better than energy-intensive traditional CO2 fixation methods.


Why Indian Monsoon Derails In August?

Why in News?

  • A planetary wave from the North Atlantic is capable of derailing the Indian monsoon on which the Indian economy is heavily dependent, suggests a study published in the journal Science.


  • The findings suggest that modelling efforts ought to focus on including the influence of mid-latitudes, in addition to the Pacific and Indian oceans, for getting a better handle on predictability of the monsoon, its variability as well as droughts.

Past Analysis

  • A team showed that, in the past century, Indian monsoon droughts that occurred in non-El Niño years were sub-seasonal, as against El Niño droughts, where the deficit persists throughout the season.
  • The research team analysed daily rainfall during the two categories of droughts from 1900 to 2015 and noticed dramatic differences in the evolution of rainfall deficit.
  • Rainfall deficit in El Niño droughts sets in early around mid-June and becomes progressively worse.
  • By mid-August, the deficit is very high and spread across the country, with no sign of recovery.
  • During non-El Niño droughts there is a moderate decrease in June rainfall, followed by signs of recovery during mid-July to mid-August ‒ the peak of the season.
  • However, in late August, there is an abrupt and steep fall in rainfall, resulting in drought conditions.
  • The interaction between upper-level winds and deep cyclonic vorticity anomalies located above anomalously cold North Atlantic waters during late August to early September results in an atmospheric disturbance.
  • This disturbance, a Rossby wave, curves in towards India and, apparently squeezed in by the Tibetan Plateau, disrupts the flow of the monsoon winds.



Why in News?

  • Yogasana will be a competitive sport in the country, with the Ministries of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy), and Youth Affairs and Sports, announcing that they will now work at establishing yogasana as a competitive sports globally.
  • The National Board of Promotion and Development of Yoga and Naturopathy in 2019 recommended that yogasana be recognised as a competitive sport.
  • A pilot championship of traditional yogasana by the name of ‘National Individual Yogasana Sports Championship’ (virtual mode) is proposed to be organised in February 2021.
  • Yogasana as a sports discipline is likely to have 51 medals in four events and seven categories.
  • The proposed events for both men and women include ‘Traditional Yogasana’, ‘Artistic Yogasana (Single)’, ‘Artistic Yogasana (Pair)’, ‘Rhythmic Yogasana (Pair)’, ‘Free Flow/Group Yogasana’, ‘Individual All Round – Championship’ and ‘Team Championship’.
  • Yogasana as an Olympic event would create a widespread opportunity for expanding awareness of Yoga and its myriad health benefits.



Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Why in News?

  • On the night of December 21, sky watchers will witness a rare celestial event – the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.
  • The planets will appear extremely close to each other, making them look like one bright dot in the sky.
  • The event will be visible from all over the world and can be seen without any special instruments.
  • These two giant planets have not appeared so close since 16 July, 1623.
  • Before that, the closest observable Jupiter-Saturn conjunction was in the medieval times, in 1226.
  • The next occasion when these two gas giant planets will come comparably close will be on 15 March, 2080.
  • In addition to this spectacular conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, it will be the longest night of the year.
  • December 21 is the winter solstice day in the northern hemisphere.






Human Freedom Index 2020

Why in News?

  • A global ranking of personal, civil and economic freedom, placed India at 111 out of 162 countries.

Released by

  • The Human Freedom Index 2020, which uses data from 2008 to 2018, by the Cato Institute in the United States and Fraser Institute in Canada, noted a decrease in personal freedoms since 2008 globally.
  • The index covered 76 indicators of personal, civic and economic freedom.


  • India was ranked 110 in terms of personal freedom and 105 on economic freedom, with an overall score of 6.43 out of 10.
  • New Zealand was ranked one in the index, followed by Switzerland and Hong Kong.
  • Given the Chinese Communist Party’s unprecedented intervention in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020, the authors expect the territory’s freedom score to decline notably in future editions of the index.
  • The three least-free countries in descending order are Venezuela, Sudan, and Syria.
  • The index put China at 129 rank, Bangladesh at 139 and Pakistan at 140.



India’s 42nd communications satellite, CMS-01

Why in News?

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully placed into a transfer orbit India’s 42nd communications satellite, CMS-01, carried on board the PSLV-C50, from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR.
  • The satellite was placed into a precise Geo-Synchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  • CMS-01 is a communications satellite envisaged for providing services in extended C Band of the frequency spectrum and its coverage will include the Indian mainland, and the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands.

  • The satellite is expected to have a life of more than seven years.
  • The satellite will act as a continuation of the GSAT-12 launched 11 years ago.

First launch after space reforms

  • The next launch, the PSLV-C51, will be a special mission for ISRO and the entire country as the vehicle will be carrying the country’s first satellite under the space reforms programme announced by the Indian government.
  • Recently, India have brought in space reforms to unlock India’s potential in the space sector, which the Government of India has initiated.
  • Within eight months [of the announcement], the first satellite, from Pixxel India named ‘Anand’, will be launched on board the PSLV-C51. This is the first among a series of satellites to be launched.
  • Two more satellites, ‘Satish Sat’ from Space Kidz India and ‘Unity Sat’ from a consortium of universities will also be launched.


Implications of the Mutated Coronavirus

Why in News?

  • A mutated variant of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 has been associated with recent infections in England.

What is a mutation?

  • A mutation means a change in the genetic sequence of the virus.
  • In the case of SARS-CoV-2, which is an RNA virus, a mutation means a change in the sequence in which its molecules are arranged.
  • A mutation in an RNA virus often happens when the virus makes a mistake while it is making copies of itself.
  • Only if the mutation results in a significant change in the protein structure can the course of a disease be altered.

What is the new mutation?

  • UK researchers have identified it as N501Y.
  • It is likely to be a mutation in the spike protein.
  • There has been a single nucleotide change in one portion of the spike protein, so there would be no bearing on the disease biology or even diagnostics.

What can it mean for people’s response to coronavirus vaccines?

  • Several coronavirus vaccines are designed to create antibodies targeting the spike protein.
  • But the vaccines target multiple regions on the spike, while a mutation refers to a change in a single point.
  • So, if there is one mutation, it does not mean vaccines would not work.


Currency Manipulation

Why in News?

  • The United States has once again included India in its monitoring list of countries with potentially “questionable foreign exchange policies” and “currency manipulation”.
  • This comes a year after India was removed from the watchlist in the US Treasury Department’s semi-annual foreign-exchange report to the US Congress.

What does the term ‘currency manipulator’ mean?

  • A label given by the US government to countries it feels are engaging in “unfair currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
  • The practice would mean that the country in question is artificially lowering the value of its currency to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.

What are the parameters used?

  • An economy meeting two of the three criteria in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 is placed on the Monitoring List. This includes:
  1. A “significant” bilateral trade surplus with the US — one that is at least $20 billion over a 12-month period.
  2. A material current account surplus equivalent to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over a 12-month period.
  3. “Persistent”, one-sided intervention — when net purchases of foreign currency totalling at least 2 percent of the country’s GDP over a 12 month period are conducted repeatedly, in at least six out of 12 months.
  • Once on the Monitoring List, an economy will remain there for at least two consecutive reports “to help ensure that any improvement in performance versus the criteria is durable and is not due to temporary factors”.
  • The administration will also add and retain on the Monitoring List any major US trading partner that accounts for a “large and disproportionate” share of the overall US trade deficit, “even if that economy has not met two of the three criteria from the 2015 Act”.

Why is India back in the Monitoring List again?

  • India, which has for several years maintained a “significant” bilateral goods trade surplus with the US, crossed the $20 billion mark, according to the latest report.
  • Bilateral goods trade surplus totalled $22 billion in the first four quarters through June 2020.


International Migrants Day

  • International Migrants Day is celebrated every year on December 18 to highlight the contributions made by international migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the challenges they face.
  • The day was chosen to commemorate the adoption of on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1990.

International Migrants Day significance

  • In the 21st century, more people than ever live in a country other than the one they were born in. While some migrate out of choice, others migrate due to necessity.
  • According to the United Nations, an estimated number of migrants globally reached 272 million in 2019.

International Migrants Day 2020 theme

  • The International Migrants Day 2020 theme is Reimagining Human Mobility.