Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Telecom Skill Excellence Awards
- To motivate the Telecom Skill ecosystem, DoT launched Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Telecom Skill Excellence Awards scheme in 2017, to reward the successful telecom skilled people for their special contributions in the areas of Telecom Skilling, Telecom Services, Telecom Manufacturing, Telecom Applications in deploying telecom dependent sectoral solutions for different fields such as agriculture, commerce, health, education etc.
- The award was named after Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay ji to commemorate his birth centenary. The nominations were called for the first time for year 2018.
- Sreenivas Karanam, Bangalore was selected for the FIRST prize for his contribution in developing a cost-effective customized technical solution under the brand ‘C mobile’, for deep sea communication, operating along the Kerala coast, facilitating communication among fishermen and issue of weather alerts etc .
- Subrat Kar, New Delhi was selected for the SECOND prize for his innovative solution on development & deployment of a large scale sensor network and devices to avoid train-animal collision, which works without interfering with natural movements/behaviour of animals, thereby helping in wildlife conservation.
- The system under pilot phase, is installed in Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand , to prevent elephant deaths by train-elephant collision.
Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT)
Why in News?
- Defence Minister inaugurated the advanced Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT) test facility during his visit to Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Missile Complex in Hyderabad.
- The state-of-the-art HWT Test facility is “pressure vacuum driven enclosed free jet facility having nozzle exit diameter of 1 metre and will simulate Mach No 5 to 12 (Mach represents the multiplication factor to the speed of sound).
- After America and Russia, India is the third country to have such a large facility in terms of size and operating capability.
- The facility has the capability to simulate hypersonic flow over a wide spectrum and will play a major role in the realisation of highly complex futuristic aerospace and defence systems.
Centenary Celebrations of AMU
Why in News?
- Prime Minister will address the centenary celebrations of Aligarh Muslim University on 22 December, 2020.
- Prime Minister will also release a postal stamp during the event.
- AMU became a University in 1920, through an Act of Indian Legislative Council by elevating the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College to the status of a Central University.
- MAO College was set up in 1877 by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.
- It also has three off-campus centres in Malappuram (Kerala), Murshidabad-Jangipur (West Bengal) and Kishanganj (Bihar).
India International Science Festival (IISF) 2020
Why in News?
- Prime Minister will deliver the inaugural address at the India International Science Festival (IISF) 2020 on 22 December.
- To promote scientific temper in society, the Ministry of Science & Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences in association with Vijnana Bharati conceptualized the India International Science Festival.
- Launched in 2015, IISF is a celebration to promote science & technology.
- The aim is to engage the public with science, celebrate the joy of science and show how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) can provide solutions to improve lives.
- The goal of the IISF 2020 is to help youth develop 21st century skills, with a focus on scientific knowledge, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork.
- A long-term objective is to encourage students to study and work in scientific fields.
Why in News?
- The Himalayan trillium (Trillium govanianum), a common herb of the Himalayas was declared ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently.
- In recent years, the plant has become one of the most traded commercial plants of the Himalayan region, due to its high medicinal quality.
- It has been used in traditional medicine to cure diseases like dysentery, wounds, skin boils, inflammation, sepsis, as well as menstrual and sexual disorders.
- Recent experiments have shown that the rhizome of the herb is a source of steroidal saponins and can be used as an anti-cancer and anti-aging agent. This increased its market value and has now become an easy target for poachers.
Where it Found?
- Found in temperate and sub-alpine zones of the Himalayas, at an altitude from 2,400-4,000 metres above sea level, the existence of the plant has been traced across India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- In India, it is found in four states only- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.
- Often called Nagchatri, in local areas this herb grows to a height of 15-20 cm.
- There are several factors threatening the survival of the plant such as over-exploitation, long life cycle – slow to reach reproductive maturity – and poor capacity for seed dispersal.
- The highly specific habitat requirement, high trade value, and increasing market demand are all causing its decline.
- The researchers note that in 2017, the herb was recorded as a medicinal plant traded from India. Since then its price has increased and sold at $50-315 per kilogram.
How to Prevent
- To prevent its illegal trade, “Implementation and enforcement of sustainable collection protocols and quotas are needed. Designation of areas of natural habitat to local communities for management of harvest is the best option to control its illegal trade. Further, the implantation of FairWild Standard (a set of ecological and fair trade guidelines) can help traders, and concerned agencies in the sustainable harvest and trade of the species.”
- Educational efforts including elevation of public awareness surrounding the threats to the species, and dissemination of best practices for harvest are also needed.
Why do leaves die off in autumn?
- Leaves in cold countries turning yellow and red before falling.
- This usually marks the beginning of autumn. Known as leaf senescence, this process prepares the trees for the coming winter.
- As a result of global warming, European trees were found to start this senescence about two weeks earlier.
- Researchers have now demonstrated that trees have a self-regulating mechanism that limits the photosynthesis period or the productive period.
- This increased photosynthesis in spring and summer could be leading to earlier senescence.
- The analyses suggested that seasonal photosynthesis, autumn temperatures, and day length were the key.
- Several other factors, such as atmospheric CO2 concentrations, summer temperatures, light levels, and precipitation also appear to influence senescence, but only indirectly through affecting photosynthesis.
- In years with increased photosynthesis in spring and summer, leaf senescence began earlier, with each 10% increase in photosynthetic activity advancing leaf senescence by eight days.
World’s Ugliest Orchid
Why in News?
- Gastrodia agnicellus, one of 156 plants and fungal species named by Kew scientists and their partners around the world in 2020, has been crowned “the ugliest orchid in the world”.
- A new species of the normally vibrant and delicate flower discovered in the forests of Madagascar.
- The 11 mm flowers of this orchid are small, brown and rather ugly.
- The orchid depends on fungi for nutrition and has no leaves or any other photosynthetic tissue.
- Although assessed as a threatened species, the plants have some protection because they are located in a national park.
- Among the other discoveries officially named this year were six new species of webcap toadstool mushrooms in the United Kingdom and a strange shrub encountered in southern Namibia in 2010.
- Botanist could not place the shrub in any known genus and neither could anyone else.
- After analysis, result was that it was not just a new species, but a new genus and a new family, called Tiganophyton karasense.
- The shrub has bizarre scaly leaves and grows in extremely hot natural salt pans, hence its name Tiganophyton, derived from the Greek ‘Tigani’, or ‘frying pan’, and ‘Phyton’, or ‘plant’.
Coastal Radar Network
Why in News?
- As part of efforts to further expand the coastal radar chain network meant to enable real time monitoring of the high seas for threats as also expand India’s assistance for capacity building to Indian Ocean littoral states, efforts are in advanced stages to set up coastal radar stations in Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka have already been integrated into the country’s coastal radar chain network.
- Two of the coastal radar stations in Maldives were functional as of last year and work was under way on the third station and was to have been completed early this year.
- The Indian Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) located in Gurugram which was set up after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks is the nodal agency for maritime data fusion.
Info fusion centre
- At the Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) which is meant to promote Maritime Domain Awareness, three more International Liaison Officers (ILO) are expected to join soon. ILOs from France, Japan and the U.S. have already joined the centre.
- Under Phase-I of the coastal radar chain network, 46 coastal radar stations have been set up across the country’s coastline.
- Under Phase-II of the project, which is currently under way, 38 static radar stations and four mobile radar stations are being set up by the Coast Guard and is in advanced stage of completion.
Why in News?
- Bharti Global and U.K. government-led OneWeb announced the launch of 36 communications satellites and said it aims to offer high-speed internet from its constellation of satellites in India by mid-2022.
- The recommencement of satellite launches by OneWeb comes within weeks of billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal-run Bharti Group along with the British government taking over as the new owners of the broadband satellite communications company, which emerged from bankruptcy.
- The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellite communications company recently launched the 36 satellites from a Soyuz launch vehicle, which began from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in Russia.
- This takes the total in-orbit constellation to 110 satellites, part of OneWeb’s 648 LEO satellite fleet that will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity.
- The launch puts OneWeb on track to offer global services to customers from late 2021, starting with the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas, and Canada, with global service in 2022.
Extinction of an Animal
- Over the last 100,000 years, several land-dwelling mammals including big carnivores have gone extinct across the globe.
- North America lost its saber-toothed cat, North American lion, scimitar-tooth cat, American cheetah, and the only big cats left now are the Puma and the Jaguar.
- But most of the megafauna of South Asia and Africa were resilient to the arrival of modern humans and the region still has large land mammals such as elephants, tigers, and rhinos.
- A team set out to investigate why these big mammals are still seen in India when they disappeared from the Americas.
- A paper recently published notes that co-evolution – the fact that native animals learn to adapt to a new predator played an important role.
- If humans were hunting, these animals evolved techniques to avoid people.
- For example, if we like to hunt on the plains, maybe these animals lived in the forests.
- It’s basically an evolutionary rat race where one species has to keep up with the other in order to survive.
- However, there were mammalian extinctions in the country: two massive elephant relatives (Palaeoloxodon namadicus and Stegodon namadicus), a hippo (Hexaprotodon sp), and a horse relative (Equus namadicus) were lost.
- All the extinct species were large, slow reproducing species, and they go extinct when the climate is fluctuating.
- Environmental change can stress populations out, especially populations of animals that don’t reproduce quickly.
- Elephants have a two-year pregnancy and it takes about six years between calving events. Hippos, when they’re stressed out, don’t breed well.
- India was also home to ostriches (Struthio camelus) and humans may have been the reason for their local extinction.
- We have ostriches in cave art and we have a lot of evidence of people using ostrich eggshells for ornamentation by making beads.
- Humans probably used eggs for food and once started eating up their offspring, the populations are going to crash.
- Humans may be driving the extinction of the mammals that fought and survived.
- So most of the animals which survived, had a fairly large geographic range.
- But today, these animals are being restricted to small pockets and in fragmented populations, a lot of interbreeding happens making the populations weaker.
- And with increased human pressure, it’s just a matter of time before they start going extinct.
- So we need active conservation to make sure that these animals don’t go the way of Indian hippos or ostriches.
6th Indo-Japan Samwad Conference
- Discussions on global growth cannot happen only among a few as the “table must be bigger” and the agenda broader and growth patterns must follow a human-centric approach.
- Humanity often took the path of confrontation instead of collaboration.
- From Imperialism to the world wars. From the arms race to the space race. We had dialogues but they were aimed at pulling others down. Now, let us rise together.
- Proposed the creation of a library dedicated to traditional Buddhist literature and scriptures.
- The library will not only be a depository of literature. It will also be a platform for research and dialogue — a true Samwad between human beings, between societies, and between humans and nature.
National Energy Conservation Award
Why in News?
- The South Central Railway’s Diesel Loco Shed (DLS) at Vijayawada has bagged the first prize in energy conservation among the industry/railway workshops in the country for saving more than one lakh units.
- It has got the National Energy Conservation Award in the above category announced by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency of Union Ministry of Power.
- These awards are declared for the year 2020 as part of National Energy Conservation Week being celebrated from December 14 to 21.
- DLS was established in 1979 for the maintenance of 20 diesel locomotives.
- With the decrease in demand for diesel locomotives and increase in electric traction in the division, Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) services were started in Vijayawada in 1996 with five rakes placed under DLS to ease traffic constraints both in passenger and express services and also in suburban traffic across the zone.
- At present, the DLS is maintaining diesel locos, DEMUs and coaches.
- The shed is provided with energy efficient equipment such as LED lighting, brush less DC motor fans, inverter type AC units and star-rated machinery.
D.K. Jain Committee
Why in News?
- A three-member Committee chaired by former Supreme Court judge D.K. Jain is scheduled to begin work on unravelling the rogue officials responsible for the infamous ISRO “frame-up” case of 1994, which destroyed the life and reputation of Nambi Narayanan, one of the country’s prominent space scientists.
- The panel is having its first sitting two years after the Supreme Court constituted it in September 2018 to find “ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials.”
- At the time of his arrest on November 30, 1994, Mr. Narayanan was working on cryogenic engine technology at the premier Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). T
- The police investigators had accused him of passing on documents and drawings of ISRO relating to Viking/Vikas engine technology, cryogenic engine technology and PSLV flight data/drawings to Pakistan.
- But the Supreme Court dismissed the case in 2018 as a criminal frame-up based on “some kind fancy or notion.”
- The CBI, which took over the probe from the Kerala Police, had promptly filed a closure report in 1996.
- But Mr. Narayanan fought on to bring his accusers to justice.
- The apex court, in its 2018 judgment, had called the treatment meted out to the scientist while he was in custody “psycho-pathological”.
- The court ordered the Kerala government to pay Mr. Narayanan ₹50 lakh in compensation, though it said mere money was not enough to make up for the torture the scientist had endured for 24 years. An enquiry was called for to look into the circumstances behind the “frame-up.”
- The court had allowed the Central Government and the State Government to nominate one officer each to the committee.
- The Centre had appointed a top official, D.K. Prasad, and the Kerala government appointed former additional chief secretary, V.S. Senthil.
Iran’s Underground Nuclear Facility
Why in News?
- Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the US over its atomic programme.
- The construction site sits northwest of Fordo’s underground facility, built deep inside a mountain to protect it from potential airstrikes. The site is near other support and research-and-development buildings at Fordo.
- Among those buildings is Iran’s National Vacuum Technology Center. Vacuum technology is a crucial component of Iran’s uranium-gas centrifuges, which enrich uranium.
- Mr Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
- Mr Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its regional policies and other issues in withdrawing from the accord, though the deal focused entirely on Tehran’s atomic programme.
- When the U.S. ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits as a series of escalating incidents pushed the two countries to the brink of war at the beginning of the year. Tensions still remain high.
- Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium at Fordo and instead make it “a nuclear, physics and technology center.”
- As of now, Iran is enriching uranium up to 4.5%, in violation of the accord’s limit of 3.67%. Iran’s parliament has passed a bill that requires Tehran to enrich up to 20%, a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. The bill also would throw out IAEA inspectors.
- An Iranian scientist who created its military nuclear programme two decades ago recently was killed in a shooting outside of Tehran.
Why in News?
- Any exploitation of the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans for commercial and strategic gain would spell the death knell for its occupants, the Sentinelese, a most secluded, particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) who reside in complete isolation on the island, the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) has said.
- In a policy document, which comes almost two years after American national John Allen Chau was allegedly killed by the Sentinelese on the island, the AnSI says the “right of the people to the island is non-negotiable”.
What Policy Document Says
- The “right of the people to the island is non-negotiable”.
- These rights are unassailable, non-negotiable and uninfringeable.
- The prime duty of the state is to protect these rights as eternal and sacrosanct.
- Therefore, their island should not be eyed for any commercial or strategic gain, for if it were to happen, it surely would be a death knell for its occupants.
- Along with maintaining the territorial integrity of the North Sentinel Island, the document also calls for building a knowledge bank on the Sentinelese.
- Since ‘on-the-spot study’ is not possible for the tribal community, anthropologists suggest the ‘study of a culture from distance’.
- The Sentinelese, with a population of about 50 to 100 on the North Sentinel Island, are not only among the most isolated of nearly 70 PVTGs across the country, but also among the five in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which include the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa, and the Shompens.
Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre For Monkeys
Why in News?
- Recently, the first rescue and rehabilitation centre for monkeys in the State was inaugurated at Gandi Ramanna Haritavanam near Chincholi village in Nirmal district, Telangana.
- It is the second such facility for the primates in the country. The other such facility in the country was in Himachal Pradesh.
- To make the rehab centre a sustainable habitat for the primates, several fruit and flower variety plants, tree varieties that would given good shade and medicinal plants would be raised.
- The monkeys that venture into human habitations would be caught in a phased manner and brought to the rehab centre where they would be operated upon for birth control and would be released into forests against after the rehab period.
6th International Science Film Festival of India (ISFFI)
Why in News?
- As part of IISF – India International Science Festival, the International Science Film Festival of India (ISFFI) seeks to promote science popularization among citizens and aims at attracting talented young science filmmakers and science enthusiasts.
- Science film is an effective tool for science communication to foster and create an excitement of science amongst people at large; it also helps inculcate a scientific temper among the audience thereby shaping the analytical thinking, a prerequisite for the inclusive development of the nation.
- The ISFFI offers an opportunity for students and other participants to get involved with the process of science film-making and improve their understanding of various feats in science and technology.
- The initiative recognizes the effort and contribution of film producers in the specialized areas of science and technology and motivates them to develop this unique profession of science film making with innovative quality content especially relevant to our country.
- This year the ISFFI 2020 is to be organised in a virtual environment from December 22nd to 25, 2020.
- Union Home Minister recently visited the native village of Bengali revolutionary Khudiram Bose in Midnapore, West Bengal.
Who was Khudiram Bose?
- Bose was born in 1889 at a small village in Midnapore district.
- From his adolescent years he was drawn towards revolutionary activities, being inspired by a series of public lectures given by Sri Aurobindo and sister Nivedita, when the duo visited Midnapore in the early 1900s.
- In 1905, when Bengal was partitioned, he actively participated in protests against the British.
- At the age of 15, Bose joined the Anushilan Samiti, an early 20th century organisation that propounded revolutionary activities in Bengal.
- Within a year, he had learnt how to make bombs and would plant them in front of police stations.
- The deciding moment of Bose’s life came in 1908 when he along with another revolutionary, Prafulla Chaki were assigned the task of assassinating the district magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Kingsford.
What happened during Kingsford’s assassination attempt?
- On April 30, 1908, Bose threw a bomb on a carriage which he suspected was carrying Kingsford.
- But it turned out that it was carrying the wife and daughter of a barrister named Pringle Kennedy, who lost their lives, as Kingsford escaped.
- Bose was arrested from a railway station called Waini where he had reached next morning after having walked 25 miles. Chaki on the other hand, killed himself before he could get arrested.On July 13, 1908, Bose was finally sentenced to death.
- He was executed on August 11, 1908.
‘Positive Pay System’ For Cheque Transactions
Why in News?
- On January 1, 2021, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will introduce the ‘Positive Pay System’ for cheque transactions above Rs 50,000 in a bid to enhance safety and eliminate frauds.
What is the Positive Pay System for cheque transactions?
- The concept of Positive Pay involves a process of reconfirming key details of large-value cheques.
- Under this process, the issuer of the cheque submits electronically, through channels like SMS, mobile app, Internet banking and ATM, certain minimum details of that cheque (like date, name of the beneficiary, or payee and amount) to the drawee bank, details of which are cross-checked with the presented cheque by Cheque Truncation System (CTS).
- Any discrepancy is flagged by CTS to the drawee bank and presenting bank, who then take redressal measures.
What type of cheques will come under Positive Pay?
- Banks will enable the new system for all account holders issuing cheques for amounts of Rs 50,000 and above.
- While availing of this facility is at the discretion of the account holder, banks may consider making it mandatory in case of cheques for amounts of Rs 5,00,000 and above.
- The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) will develop the facility of Positive Pay in CTS, and make it available to participant banks.
What will be the new dispute redressal mechanism?
- Only those cheques that are compliant with the new system will be accepted under the dispute resolution mechanism at the CTS grids.
- Member banks may implement similar arrangements for cheques cleared or collected outside CTS as well.
Why is the new system being implemented?
- The RBI says the Positive Pay system is to augment customer safety in cheque payments and reduce instances of fraud occurring on account of tampering of cheque leaves. Banks had recently witnessed a rise in frauds involving high-value cheques.
Special Anti-Corruption Courts
Why in News?
- A PIL seeking to establish special anti-corruption courts in every district to decide cases related to various economic offences like money-laundering and tax evasion within one year has been filed in the Supreme Court.
- Also sought directions to high courts to take appropriate steps to decide cases related economic offences.
- The PIL, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, contended that due to long pendency and ineffective anti-corruption laws, India has never been ranked among the top 50 in the Corruption Perception Index. The Centre and State governments have also not taken appropriate steps in this regard.
- Due to long pendency and ineffective anti-corruption laws, even after 73 years of independence and 70 years after becoming a socialist secular democratic republic, none of our districts are free from cases related to black money, benami property, disproportionate assets, bribery, money laundering, tax evasion and similar other economic offences.
- India’s anti-corruption laws are very weak and ineffective and fail to control corruption, and even the Benami Transactions Act, passed in 1988, is gathering dust without action.