India, Vietnam Summit
Why in News?
- Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi held a Virtual Summit with H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
- The two Prime Ministers reviewed ongoing bilateral cooperation initiatives, and also discussed regional and global issues.
- A ‘Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People’ document was adopted during the Summit, to guide the future development of the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
- Both leaders also welcomed the signing of a Plan of Action for period 2021-2023 to implement the Joint Vision.
- India’s is currently implementing a $100-million defence line of credit for 12 high speed patrol boats for Vietnam. The boats being built for the Vietnam Border Guard are meant to enhance coastal security and prevent illegal activities.
- Five vessels are being built at Larsen & Toubro’s shipyard in Chennai, and the rest will be made at Hong Ha shipyard in the Vietnamese port city of Hai Phong under the Indian firm’s supervision.
- Both countries also have stakes in the Indo-Pacific region and significant maritime interests, and the summit enabled them to look at potential cooperation on India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and Asean’s Indo-Pacific outlook.
- India and Vietnam will also concurrently serve as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council from 2021, and this has opened up new opportunities for cooperation and coordination on regional and international issues.
List of Outcomes: India – Vietnam Virtual Summit
- India-Vietnam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People.
- To guide the future development of India – Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, building upon the foundations of deep-rooted historical and cultural bonds, shared values and interests, and mutual strategic trust and understanding between the two countries.
- Plan of Action for period 2021-2023 for further implementation of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
- To implement the “Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People” through concrete actions proposed to be taken by both sides during 2021-2023.
- Implementing Arrangement on Defence Industry Cooperation between Dept. of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, India and General Dept. of Defence Industry, Ministry of National Defence, Vietnam.
- To provide a framework for promoting cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries.
- Agreement for US$ 5 million Indian Grant Assistance for Army Software Park at National Telecommunications University, Nha Trang, Vietnam between Embassy of India, Hanoi and Telecommunications University, Ministry of National Defence, Vietnam.
- To facilitate setting up of IT infrastructure at the Army Software Park in Telecommunications University, Nha Trang, with provision for training and services in the field of software applications.
- Implementing Arrangement between Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, India and Vietnam Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations for Cooperation in United Nation Peacekeeping.
- To identify specific activities for development of cooperation in the field of UN Peacekeeping.
- MOU between India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (VARANS).
- To promote mutual cooperation between the regulatory bodies of the two countries in the fields of radiation protection and nuclear safety.
- MOU between CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum and Vietnam Petroleum Institute.
- To promote cooperation in petroleum research and training.
- MOU between Tata Memorial Centre of India and Vietnam National Cancer Hospital.
- To promote exchanges in the areas of training and scientific research, health care services, collaboration in diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients.
- MOU between National Solar Federation of India and Vietnam Clean Energy Association.
- To promote exchange of knowledge, best practices, information between Indian and Vietnamese solar power industries and to explore new business opportunities to promote solar power in India and Vietnam.
Belgaum – Surat – Kishangarh route under UDAN
Why in News?
- The first flight operations from Belgaum (Karnataka) to Surat (Gujarat) to Kishangarh (Ajmer) were flagged off today under the RCS-UDAN (Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) of the Government of India.
- The launch of the flight operations on the Surat-Kishangarh-Belgaum route aligns with the government’s objective to provide air connectivity with metros to the Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities of the country under UDAN.
- More than 300 routes have been operationalised under the UDAN scheme, and the flag off marks the inauguration of the 303rd route under the ambit of the scheme.
- The airlines are being provided Viability Gap Funding (VGF) under the UDAN scheme to keep the fares affordable & accessible for the common people.
Subhas Chandra Bose’s 125th birth anniversary
Why in News?
- The Centre decided to set up a high-level committee to plan the commemoration of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’ 125th birth anniversary in 2022.
- The committee would be headed by Home Minister Amit Shah and would decide on the activities in Delhi, Kolkata and abroad for a year-long commemoration starting January 23, 2021.
- The committee would include experts, historians, Bose’s family members, and eminent persons associated with the Azad Hind Fauj.
- In the recent past, Government of India has taken several steps towards preserving and conserving the precious heritage of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
- A museum has been set up on Netaji at Red Fort, New Delhi, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister on 23.01.2019.
- A permanent exhibition and a Light and Sound show on Netaji has been planned to be set up at Kolkata in the historic Victoria Memorial building.
- In 2015, Government of India decided to declassify the files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and make them accessible to public.
- During his visit to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2018, the Prime Minister joined the programme to mark 75th anniversary of hoisting Tricolour by Netaji Bose.
- The Prime Minister renamed 3 islands in Andaman and Nicobar. The Ross Island was renamed as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep; the Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep; and the Havelock Island as SwarajDweep.
India’s Leopard Population
Why in News?
- Releasing the Status of Leopards report, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has said that increase in Tiger, Lion & Leopards numbers over the last few years is a testimony to the conservation efforts and of the fledgling wildlife & biodiversity of the country.
- India now has 12,852 leopards as compared to the previous estimate of 7910 conducted 2014. More than 60% increase in population has been recorded.
- The States of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra recorded the highest leopard estimates at 3,421, 1,783 and 1,690 respectively.
- Leopards are among the most adaptable carnivores, and are known to exist very close to human habitations.
- India’s world record tiger survey also estimated the population of leopards and the tiger range was found home to 12,852 (12,172-13,535) leopards.
MoU between CGWB and CSIR-NGRI
Why in News?
- A Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Ministry of Jal Shakti and CSIR-NGRI, Hyderabad for use of advanced heliborne geophysical survey and other scientific studies in parts of the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana under the Aquifer Mapping Programme.
- The major objectives of the study include High resolution aquifer mapping using heliborne geophysical studies, including
- Identification of Sites for artificial recharge, 3D Geophysical model, Geophysical Thematic maps at horizontal and vertical plains, Aquifer Geometry of principal aquifer with demarcation of de-saturated and saturated aquifers, Aquifer system with relatively fresh and saline zones;
- Spatial and depth wise distribution of paleochannel network if any and its linkage with aquifer system;
- Selecting suitable sites for groundwater withdrawal and water conservation through artificial or managed aquifer recharge.
- This is the first time Ministry of Jal Shakti has decided to use the state of the art technology for identification of aquifers in such a large arid/semi-arid area of the country.
- The study is likely to generate groundwater data in very short time period and will help CGWB in expeditiously finalizing the groundwater management plan in above mentioned water stressed areas.
- The findings of the study would help in formulating site specific plans for improving ground water levels in the water stressed areas and charter the road map for sustainable management of ground water resources.
JSA II: Catch the Rain” Awareness Generation Campaign
Why in News?
- National Water Mission(NWM), Ministry of Jal Shakti in collaboration with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports launched the “JSA II: Catch the Rain” Awareness Generation Campaign.
- As a preparatory phase of JSA-II, the Ministry has involved Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangthan (NYKS) for undertaking ‘Catch the Rain’ awareness campaign to cover 623 districts.
- The awareness generation phase of campaign will run from mid-December 2020 to March 2021.
- NWM has launched a campaign Catch the rain” with tag line “catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls” in order to nudge all stake-holders to create Rain Water Harvesting Structures (RWHS) suitable to the climatic conditions and sub-soil strata to store rain water as rains falling in the four/five months of monsoon are the only source of water for most parts of the country.
Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020
- Consumers across the country will now have the right to a minimum standard of service for supply of electricity.
- This will also include the right to round-the-clock electricity supplies, unless stated otherwise for a specific category, such as an agricultural connection.
- Power distribution companies (discoms) across the country are monopolies — whether government or private — and the consumer has no alternative.
- Therefore, it was necessary that consumer rights be laid down in rules and a system for enforcement of these rights be put in place.
- These rules provide for rights of consumers and obligations of distribution licensees, release of new connection and modification in existing connection, metering arrangement, billing and payment, among others.
- An automatic compensation mechanism will be put in place. It will include no supply to a consumer beyond a particular duration and certain number of interruptions in supply, which will be specified by the regulatory commission.
- A new connection has to be given within a maximum time period of seven days in metro cities, 15 days in other municipal areas, and 30 days in rural areas.
- Electricity is a concurrent subject and the Centre has the power to make rules that have to be enforced by all. These rights have been notified.
- These rules are based on the draft issued in September this year.
- The rules recognise consumer as a prosumer as well, where prosumers will maintain consumer status and have the same rights as a general consumer.
- They will also have right to set up renewable energy generation unit, including rooftop solar photovoltaic systems — either on their own or through a service provider. It also allows net metering for loads up to 10 kilowatt (kW) and for gross metering for loads above 10 kW.
New Routes for RO-RO, RO-PAX & Ferry Services
Why in News?
- MoPSW has identified Domestic locations namely Hazira, Okha, Somnath Temple, DIU, PIPAVAV, Dahej, Mumbai/JNPT, Jamnagar, Kochi, Ghogha, Goa, Mundra and Mandvi and
- 6 International routes, connecting 4 international destinations namely Chattogram (Bangladesh), Seychelles (East Africa) Madagascar (East Africa) and Jaffna (Sri Lanka) from Indian major coastal port towns for the commencement of ferry services through inland waterways.
- Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) has been working continuously for the promotion of Coastal Shipping under Sagarmala Programme.
- The Sagarmala programme is the flagship programme of the Ministry to promote port-led development in the country through harnessing India’s 7,500 Km long coastline and potentially navigable waterways.
- MoPSW, through Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL), is desirous of facilitating the companies to operate RO-RO, RO-PAX and Ferry services on various routes across the nation and provide the required support to make the project operational.
- MOPSW has recently successfully implemented one of such ferry routes by deploying RoPAX vessel ferry service between Hazira and Ghogha.
- This ferry service has reduced the distance between Ghogha and Hazira from 370 Km to 90 Km and travel time from 10 to 12 hours to about 5 hours.
The purpose is to:
- Create a supplementary mode of transportation, which will not only be beneficial for the daily commuters, tourists’ movement and cargo transportation but also helpful in reducing carbon footprint by shifting to environment-friendly mode of transportation from rail and road.
- Provide impetus to the tourism industry
- Create job opportunities in the coastal regions
- Saving in terms of both cost and time for the users
- Decongest road and rail networks
Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine
Why in News?
- The EU gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for the first inoculations to start across 27 countries.
- The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended the vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech for use, and the European Commission formally approved it.
- The EMA added that the vaccine would “very likely” be effective against a new strain of the disease spreading through Britain.
Checks & Controls over Private Hospitals
Why in News?
- There should be a comprehensive public health Act with suitable legal provisions to keep checks and controls over private hospitals in times of a pandemic and to curb black marketing of medicines, the standing committee on Home Affairs, headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma, has said in a report that was submitted to Rajya Sabha Chairman.
- There had been several reported instances of beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals being sold at exorbitant rates.
- It suggested that the government should be proactive by holding awareness campaigns on cheaper and effective repurposed medicines to prevent people from panicking and spending a huge amounts of money on expensive drugs.
- There is need to have regulatory oversight on all hospitals working in the country to prevent refusal to accept insurance claims. The committee strongly recommends that the target should be to make COVID-19 treatment cashless for all people that are having insurance coverage.
- Separate wing may be formed in the NDMA that will specialise in handling /managing pandemics like COVID-19 in future. This wing may take a leading role in building a partnership of government with the public sector, corporates, NGOs and other stakeholders.
- The problems being faced by farmers, non-corporate and non-farm small/micro enterprises in getting loans need to be addressed.
- More interventions and schemes were required to support the recovery and to sustain this economic revival especially for the MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs, along with the Department of Food and Public Distribution, take up the matter with the State governments to ensure that the local administrations are delivering the rations/ allowances in time and this should be continued until the schools reopen.
Legion of Merit
Why in News?
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded the ‘Legion of Merit’ by U.S. President Donald Trump for his role in advancing the India-U.S. relationship.
- The award was also presented to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
- India, the U.S., Japan and Australia constitute the ‘Quad’ group of countries – seen as an alternative to Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The award is in recognition of the Prime Minister’s steadfast leadership and vision for India’s emergence as a global power, and exemplary contribution made by him for the advancement of the India-United States strategic partnership and promoting global peace and prosperity.
- Morrison was presented the award for “addressing global challenges and promoting collective security” and Mr. Abe “for his leadership and vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” as per the NSA.
- The Legion of Merit, instituted in 1942 by former U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces and also members of foreign (i.e., non-U.S.) armed forces and sometimes heads of state or government.
- The award is presented to foreign recipients in four categories: Chief Commander, Commander, Officer and Legionnaire.
- Other Indians who have won the award include Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa who received the Legion of Merit (Degree: Chief Commander) in 1949 from then U.S. President Harry S. Truman.
- The most severe part of the winter in Kashmir consists of three months. It is divided into three parts called the Chilas:- The Chillai Kalan, the Chillai Khurd, and the Challai Bache.
- Chillai-Kalan, is the 40-day period of harsh winter. Chillai-Kalan begins from December 21 and ends on January 31 next year.
- Chillai-Kalan is followed by a 20-day long Chillai-Khurd (small cold) that occurs between January 31 and February 19 and a 10-day long Chillai-Bachha (baby cold) which is from February 20 to March 2.
- During Chillai-Kalan, the weather in Kashmir valley continues to remain dry and cold with minimum temperatures hovering below the freezing point.
- The chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum in Chillai-kalan.
- It is this snow that adds to the glaciers of the Valley and replenishes the perennial reservoirs that feed the rivers, streams and lakes in Kashmir during the months of summer. Any snowfall after the chillai kalan does not last long.
- It mostly remains overcast during this period and even if the sun breaks loose of the cloud cover, it is feeble and helpless against the bone chilling power of chillai kalan.
Change in Pattern of Arrival of Migratory Birds
Why in News?
- There has been a change in pattern of arrival of migratory birds to sanctuaries, wetlands and waterbodies in delta districts after Gaja cyclone, according to a study.
- The migratory birds belonging to distant continents come in large numbers, stay for three to four months and fly back.
- The bird sanctuaries at Point Calimere in Nagapattinam district and Karaivetti in Ariyalur district and Vaduvoor Lake on the border of Thanjavur and Tiruvarur districts are among the most sought destinations for the winged visitors.
- At times, the birds arrive in early November and fly back in February after extended stay by three to four weeks.
- November to January is not just a period of rainy and winter season. It is the peak of paddy cultivation period. The abundant availability of food particles, small organisms, insects, fresh water and warm temperature attract the migratory, terrestrial and aquatic birds.
- Study indicates some deviations in the pattern of arrival of migratory birds, particularly after Gaja cyclone that caused extensive damage to the flora and fauna at the Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary at Point Calimere.
- Open billed stork, great egret, black headed ibis are among the birds spotted in significant numbers across paddy fields, water bodies and wetlands in the delta region in non-seasonal time.
- The pattern in change of arrival of migratory birds could not just be the impact of the Gaja cyclone.
- Climate change and disturbances in their habitats could also be the reasons.
Why in News?
- Health officials in Kozhikode district of Kerala convened emergency meetings and kicked in preventive measures recently after six cases of shigella infection and nearly two dozen suspected cases were detected within the urban corporation limits.
What is shigella infection?
- Shigellosis, or shigella infection, is a contagious intestinal infection caused by a genus of bacteria known as shigella.
- The bacteria is one of the prime pathogens responsible for causing diarrhea, fluctuating between moderate and severe symptoms, especially in children in African and South Asian regions.
- The bacteria, after entering the body through ingestion, attacks the epithelial lining of the colon resulting in inflammation of the cells and subsequently the destruction of the cells in severe cases.
- It takes only a small number of shigella bacteria to enter a person’s system and get her sick.
What are the common symptoms?
- People with shigellosis may start experiencing symptoms within one or two days of the entry of germs in the body.
- The common symptoms are diarrhea (often bloody and painful), stomach pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.
- There have been cases too where people don’t experience any signs of the bacterial infection.
How does it spread?
- The infection is known to spread person-to-person when the bacteria is swallowed accidentally.
- This can happen in child-care settings if a person does not wash his hands after cleaning the baby’s diaper and then eats food with the same hands.
- Spread through contaminated food and water is the most common form of transmission across the world.
Why in News?
- December 21, is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
- In the Southern Hemisphere, conversely, today is Summer Solstice — in places like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, therefore, December 21 is the year’s longest day.
- This situation will be reversed six months from now — on June 21, 2021, the Northern Hemisphere will see the Summer Solstice when the day will be the year’s longest.
- And the Southern Hemisphere will see the year’s shortest day — or longest night.
Why are the hours of daylight not the same every day?
- The explanation lies in Earth’s tilt. And it’s not just the Earth — every planet in the Solar System is tilted relative to their orbits, all at different angles.
- The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted at an angle of 23.5° to its orbital plane.
- This tilt — combined with factors such as Earth’s spin and orbit — leads to variations in the duration of sunlight that any location on the planet receives on different days of the year.
- The Northern Hemisphere spends half the year tilted in the direction of the Sun, getting direct sunlight during long summer days.
- During the other half of the year, it tilts away from the Sun, and the days are shorter.
- Winter Solstice, December 21, is the day when the North Pole is most tilted away from the Sun.
- The tilt is also responsible for the different seasons that we see on Earth.
- The side facing the Sun experiences day, which changes to night as Earth continues to spin on its axis.
- On the Equator, day and night are equal.
- The closer one moves towards the poles, the more extreme the variation.
- During summer in either hemisphere, that pole is tilted towards the Sun and the polar region receives 24 hours of daylight for months.
- Likewise, during winter, the region is in total darkness for months.
- At latitudes of 23.5° (matching the tilt) are the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, north and south of the Equator.
- At 66.5° (or 90° minus 23.5°) are the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, to the north and south. It is at latitudes higher than 66.5° (in either direction) that days of constant darkness or light occur.
New population of Blue Whales
Why in News?
- Scientists have found evidence of a previously undiscovered population of blue whales living in the western Indian ocean based on an analysis of sound recordings from the region..
- While these highly endangered mammals are found around the globe in all oceans, and sing very low-pitched and recognisable songs.
- Every blue whale population has its own unique song.
- According to the researchers this population of blue whales was previously assumed to belong to the same that had been studied off Sri Lanka, ranging into the southcentral Indian Ocean.
Himachal Testing Residents for Leprosy
Why in News?
- Health workers in Himachal Pradesh are screening the state’s entire population for symptoms of leprosy, in a door-to-door surveillance campaign launched recently.
How many active cases of leprosy does Himachal have?
- There are currently around 80-82 patients with leprosy in Himachal, mostly adults. Half of these patients were diagnosed in 2020, and the rest have been under treatment since last year.
How prevalent is leprosy in Himachal Pradesh?
- With advances in leprosy treatment in the 1980s, the WHO resolved to globally “eliminate leprosy as a public health problem”, that is, bring down the number of cases to less than one per 10,000 by the year 2000.
- India declared this elimination status in 2005. Himachal attained the status in 2002, and since then, the prevalence rate has been less than one in 10,000.
- For the last five years, the leprosy prevalence rate in Himachal has hovered around 0.2 per 10,000.
Diagnosis & Treatment
- Diagnosis is generally done after confirming a definite loss of sensation in a pale or reddish skin patch on the body, or in some cases by using the slit-skin smear examination.
- Based on the number of skin lesions and other symptoms, leprosy is classified as paucibacillary and multibacillary, the latter being more severe.
- The disease is cured by multi-drug therapy, which consists of a three-drug regimen and is provided to patients in blister packs.
- The treatment is six months long in case of paucibacillary and lasts a year in case of multibacillary leprosy.
- Patients with anaesthetic feet are also given multi-cellular polyurethane (MCP) footwear which help in preventing foot injuries.
- Leprosy is known to occur at all ages and is curable.
- Treatment in the early stages can prevent disability. Its mode of transmission has never been fully understood, and its likely transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contact.
- Around two lakh new cases were reported globally in 2019, of which 1.14 lakh were reported from India.