Current Affairs Dec 7

AYUSH Export Promotion Council

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of AYUSH have decided to work together to set up an Export Promotion Council to boost AYUSH exports.
  • Entire AYUSH sector will work together to achieve price and quality competitiveness to boost AYUSH exports.

The following are the action points that emerged from the meeting:

  • Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Commerce and Industry will work together for establishing an AYUSH Export Promotion Council (AEPC). The proposed AEPC can be housed at Ministry of AYUSH.
  • Standardisation of harmonized system (HS) code for AYUSH will be expedited.
  • Ministry of AYUSH will work in collaboration with Bureau of Indian standards to develop international standards for AYUSH products as well as services.
  • Ministry of AYUSH and AYUSH industry will identify best practices/ success stories and promote them amongst the public.
  • AYUSH industry will work on ensuring quality and standards of AYUSH products as well as to become price-competitive.
  • AYUSH will figure in the Brand India activities.



Unknown Disease in West Godavari District

Why in News?

  • Over 170 people, including several women and children, were admitted with some unknown disease in the Government General Hospital (GGH) in Eluru in West Godavari district during the last couple of days.
  • Patients were suffering from dizziness, headache and epilepsy-type symptoms.

Samples sent for testing

  • “Water, food and blood samples have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) and the reports are awaited. CT scan and X-ray reports are normal.



Can Animals Other Than Lizards Regrow The Tail?

Why in News?

  • A new study now shows thet, it is not just Lizard and Geckos but young alligators also have the ability to regrow their tails.
  • This ability gives them a functional advantage in their murky habitats.
  • Advanced imaging techniques were used to study the anatomy and tissue organisation.


  • Regrowth of cartilage, blood vessels, nerves, and scales were consistent with previous studies of lizard tail regeneration.
  • However, scientists surprised to discover scar-like connective tissue in place of skeletal muscle in the regrown alligator tail.
  • Future comparative studies will be important to understand why regenerative capacity is variable among different reptile and animal groups.
  • The ancestors of alligators and dinosaurs and birds split off around 250 million years ago.
  • Alligators have retained the cellular machinery to regrow complex tails while birds have lost that ability raises the question of when during evolution this ability was lost.

Benefits of this Study

  • The team hopes that understanding how different animals repair and regenerate tissues can help in developing new therapies for treating injuries.



China’s Lunar Mission

Why in News?

  • A Chinese probe carrying samples from the lunar surface successfully docked with a spacecraft orbiting the moon, in another space first for the nation.
  • The manoeuvre was part of the ambitious Chang’e-5 mission — named after a mythical Chinese Moon goddess — to bring back the first lunar samples in four decades.
  • The capsule transferred the moon samples to the orbiter, which will separate and return to Earth.
  • The samples from Chang’e-5 will help them learn more about the Moon’s origins and volcanic activity on its surface.
  • If the return journey is successful, China will become only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.




Earth Observation Satellite

Why in News?

  • China successfully launched a new Earth observation satellite which can take high-resolution pictures of ground objects across the globe.
  • The satellite was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China’s Sichuan province.
  • The satellite, Gaofen-14, was sent into orbit by a Long March-3B carrier rocket.
  • Geofen-14 is an optical stereo mapping satellite.

What it can do?

  • It can efficiently obtain high precision stereo images globally, draw large scale digital topographic map, produce digital elevation models, digital surface models and digital orthophoto images, and provide basic geographic information.



Necessity of Headcount On Caste Lines

Why in News?

  • The Tamil Nadu government has decided to appoint a commission to formulate a methodology to collect caste-wise particulars of its population and use that to come up with a report.
  • It is not clear if this will involve a full headcount of all members of every caste, or whether it is better described as a ‘survey’ than a ‘census’.
  • The Centre conducted a ‘Socio-Economic Caste Census’ (SECC) in 2011 throughout the country, but it did not make public the caste component of the findings.
  • In Karnataka, the outcome of a similar exercise has not been disclosed to the public.

Is collection of caste details part of the census?

  • Caste was among the details collected by enumerators during the decennial Census of India until 1931.
  • It was given up in 1941, a year in which the census operation was partially affected by World War II.

Has there been criticism of including caste in the census?

  • The principal argument against taking caste particulars of individuals is that it tends to perpetuate the caste system.
  • H. Hutton, the Census Commissioner in 1931, notes that on the occasion of each successive census since 1901, some criticism had been raised about taking any note of the fact of caste.
  • “It has been alleged that the mere act of labelling persons as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate the system”.
  • However, he rejects the criticism, arguing that there is nothing wrong in recording a fact, and ignoring its existence would be ostrich-like.

What was the view after Independence?

  • A. Gopalaswami, the first Indian Registrar-General of independent India, said in the 1951 report:
      • “The 1951 census was not [emphasis in the original] to concern itself with questions regarding castes, races and tribes, except insofar as the necessary statistical material related to ‘special groups’ and certain other material relating to backward classes collected and made over to the Backward Classes Commission.”
  • ‘Special Groups’ has been explained as referring to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Anglo-Indians and certain castes treated provisionally as ‘backward’ for the purposes of the census.
  • This implies that BC data were collected, but not compiled or published.

How have caste details been collected so far?

  • While SC/ST details are collected as part of the census, details of other castes are not collected by the enumerators.
  • The main method is by self-declaration to the enumerator.
  • So far, backward classes commissions in various States have been conducting their own counts to ascertain the population of backward castes.

What about SECC 2011?

  • The Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 was a major exercise to obtain data about the socio-economic status of various communities.
  • Even though there could be an overlap in the dataset of SECC 2011 with that of the census taken that year, the findings could be markedly different.
  • The SECC 2011 had two components: a survey of the rural and urban households and ranking of these households based on pre-set parameters, and a caste census.
  • However, only the details of the economic conditions of the people in rural and urban households were released.
  • The caste data have not been released till now.

What is the legal imperative for a caste count?

  • Over the last two decades, the Supreme Court has been raising questions about the basis for reservation levels being high in various States.
  • In particular, it has laid down that there should be quantifiable data to justify the presence of a caste in the backward class list, as well as evidence of its under-representation in services.
  • It has also called for periodical review of community-wise lists so that the benefits do not perpetually go in favour of a few castes.
  • Many community leaders argue that knowing the precise number of the population of each caste would help tailor the reservation policy to ensure equitable representation of all of them.
  • In the case of Tamil Nadu, the State government has said obtaining quantifiable data is necessary for the protection of its 69% reservation policy.




Himachal Pradesh Wants GI Status for Five Products

Why in News?

  • The Himachal Pradesh government is trying to obtain GIs (Geographical Indication) for five products from the state – Karsog Kulth, Thangi of Pangi, Chamba Metal Crafts, Chamba Chukh, and Rajmah of Bharmour.

What is a Geographical Indication?

  • The World Intellectual Property Organisation defines a GI as “a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin”.
  • GIs are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, handicrafts, industrial products, wines and spirit drinks.
  • Darjeeling tea, Kullu shawl, Mysore agarbathi, champagne (France), Swiss watches etc are some of its examples.
  • Internationally, GIs are covered as an element of intellectual property rights under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
  • They are also covered under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

What is special about these five products from Himachal?

  • Karsog Kulth: Kulthi or Kulth (horse gram) is a legume grown as a kharif crop in Himachal Pradesh. Kulth grown in the Karsog area of Mandi district is believed to be particularly rich in amino acids.
  • Pangi ki Thangi: It is a type of hazelnut which grows in Pangi valley located in the northwestern edge of Himachal. It is known for its unique flavour and sweetness.
  • Chamba metal crafts: These include items such as metal idols and brass utensils which, historically, were made by skilled artisans in the courts of kings of Chamba. There are efforts to revive the trade, and a plate made from a brass-like alloy and having carvings of gods and goddesses is still popular.
  • Chamba Chukh: It’s a chutney made from green and red chillies grown in Chamba, and prepared in traditional and unique ways. The practice has largely declined in rural households of Chamba, but survives to some extent at the small-scale industrial level.
  • Bharmouri Rajmah: It’s more specifically called the Kugtalu Rajmah, since it grows in the area around Kugti Pass in the Bharmour region of Chamba district. It is rich in proteins and has a unique flavour.

How many registered GIs does Himachal currently have?

  • These include four handicrafts (Kullu Shawl, Chamba Rumal, Kinnauri Shawl and Kangra Paintings), three agricultural products (Kangra Tea, Basmati and Himachali Kala Zeera) and one manufactured product (Himachali Chulli Oil).

How does a GI tag help?

  • A GI tag provides a better market for these products and prevents misuse of the name.
  • A GI registration is given to an area, not a trader, but once a product gets the registration, traders dealing in the product can apply for selling it with the GI logo.
  • Authorised traders are each assigned a unique GI number.




Houbara Bustards

Why in News?

  • Pakistan has issued special permits to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and two other members of the royal family to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustards during the hunting season 2020-21.
  • The hunters had been allocated certain hunting areas in two provinces — Balochistan and Punjab.

About Houbara Bustards

  • The houbara bustard is a resident of the colder Central Asian region.
  • It migrates southwards every year to spend its winters in a relatively warmer environment in Pakistan.
  • Arab hunters are specially invited by the Pakistan government to hunt them.
  • Owing to its dwindling population, the houbara is not only protected under various international nature conservation treaties but is also protected under local wildlife protection laws.
  • While Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt the bird, the government invites Arab royals to hunt it every year.




Ensure CCTVs in every police station: SC

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court asked States and Union Territories (UT) to “ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every Police Station functioning” in their respective limits and to store the recording for a minimum of one year.
  • Also asked the Centre “to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of” the CBI, NIA, ED, NCB, DRI, SFIO and “any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest”.
  • The Supreme Court had in the D K Basu vs State of West Bengal case in 2015 directed that CCTVs be installed in all police stations and prisons to check human rights abuses.
  • The court noted that it had in a 2018 order asked the Home Ministry to set up a Central Oversight Body (COB) to implement the plan of action with respect to use of videography in the crime scene during investigation.
  • That order also expanded on the direction given in the 2015 D K Basu case and said “there was a need for further directions that in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish a report of its observations thereon”.
  • The affidavits by the states and UTs remained silent on the constitution of Oversight Committees.
  • Taking note, recent order directed that the Oversight Committees be constituted at State and District levels.
  • Among other responsibilities, the committees “have to review footage stored from CCTVs in the various Police Stations to check for any human rights violation that may have occurred but are not reported”.




Inflation and RBI’s Role in tackling it

Why in News?

  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently announced its decision to hold the benchmark repo rate unchanged at 4%.

What is the projection on CPI inflation?

  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation, the RBI said, would average 6.8% for Q3 and 5.8% in Q4 — both levels above or close to the 6% upper bound of the target range for ensuring price stability — before easing to a 5.2% to 4.6% range in the first half of the next financial year, starting April 2021.

 How does India measure retail inflation?

  • Inflation is the rate of change in the prices of a given set of items.
  • India bases its retail inflation metrics on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • The index records changes in prices for a sample of family budget items that are representative of what consumers typically spend their household income on — food, fuel, housing, clothing, health, education, amusement and even paan, tobacco and intoxicants.
  • The measure is based on a weighted average.
  • That is, some items in the index may get greater weightage depending on their priority in a typical family’s budget.
  • The CPI-based retail inflation is measured monthly and is published as a percentage value of change in the index from the corresponding year-earlier period.
  • Data for a certain month are released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation generally on the twelfth day of the subsequent month.

Why is faster inflation a concern for policymakers?

  • Faster retail inflation is indicative of prices of household items rising quickly.
  • While inflation affects everyone, it is often referred to as a ‘tax on the poor’ as the low-income stratum of society bears the brunt.
  • Persistent high inflation pushes several items out of reach for this category of consumers.
  • Over time, if unchecked, persistent high inflation erodes the value of money and hurts several other segments of the population, including the elderly living off a fixed pension.
  • It hence ends up undermining a society’s consumptive capacity, and thereby, economic growth itself.

What is the RBI’s role in tackling inflation?

  • The RBI’s explicit mandate is to conduct monetary policy.
  • “The primary objective of monetary policy is to maintain price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth. Price stability is a necessary precondition to sustainable growth,” the RBI states on its website.
  • In 2016, the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, was amended to provide a statutory basis for the implementation of a flexible inflation-targeting framework, where the Centre and the RBI would review and agree upon a specific inflation target every five years.
  • Under this, 4% was set as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation target for the period from August 5, 2016, to March 31, 2021, with the upper tolerance limit of 6% and the lower tolerance limit of 2%.
  • To the extent that ensuring price stability is its primary goal,
      • the RBI through its MPC must constantly assess not just current levels of inflation and prices of various goods and services in the economy,
      • but also take into consideration inflation expectations both of consumers and financial markets
      • So as to use an array of monetary tools, including interest rates, to contain inflation within its target range.

What is core inflation and why is it important?

  • Core inflation helps measure inflation after excluding the effects of temporary volatility, especially from prices of items such as fuel and food.
  • For example, seasonal spikes in food prices may skew the inflation rate, but the effect is only transitory.
  • The RBI’s action on rates, however, affects the economy with a lag, by which time the spikes in the price of those food items may have reversed.
  • Viewing inflation after stripping out such volatility helps give it a better picture of the underlying trend in prices.
  • Recently the MPC noted: “Cost-push pressures continue to impinge on core inflation, which has remained sticky and could firm up as economic activity normalises and demand picks up.”




Directorate of Revenue Intelligence’s Annual Report

Report Findings

  • Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu accounted for the majority of drug seizures during 2019-20.
  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence’s annual report said 72 seizures of substances covered under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act were made across India.
  • In 2018-19, the majority of seizures was reported from Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Assam.
  • India also faces a huge problem of synthetic drugs like mephedrone, amphetamine type substances (ATS), new psychoactive substances (NPS).
  • From the seizure data, it is observed that activities related to illicit manufacturing and trafficking of such psychotropic substances are mostly prevalent in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
  • The northeastern States face the problem of synthetic drugs due to their borders with Myanmar, which is one of the major producers, especially methamphetamine.



FDI Equity Inflows into India

Why in News?

  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) equity inflows into India crossed the $ 500 billion milestone during April 2000 to September 2020 period, firmly establishing the country’s credentials as a safe and key investment destination in the world.
  • According to the data of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

From Where?

  • About 29 % of the FDI came through the Mauritius route.
  • It was followed by Singapore (21 %), the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan (each 7 %), and the UK (6 %).
  • The other big investors have been from Germany, Cyprus, France and Cayman Islands.

Past Growths

  • Since 2015-16, FDI inflows have been recording significant growth.
  • In that fiscal, the country received $40 billion FDI, an increase of 35 % over the previous year.
  • In 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20, the investments stood at $43.5 billion, $44.85 billion, $44.37 billion and $50 billion, respectively.

Key Sectors

  • The key sectors which attracted the maximum of these inflows include services segment, computer software and hardware, telecommunications, trading, construction development, automobile, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Indian FDI journey began with enactment of FEMA (that replaced the draconian FERA) in 1999.




Havana Syndrome

Why in News?

  • The mysterious symptoms that have afflicted American diplomats stationed in Cuba, puzzling scientists and intelligence agencies alike, are most likely to have been caused by “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy”.
  • Those suffering from Havana syndrome, as the condition has become known, have complained of headaches, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and other ailments.
  • While psychological and social factors could play a part in Havana syndrome, they did not explain “the acute initial, sudden-onset, distinctive, and unusual symptoms” and signs.
  • US and Canadian embassy staff posted to Cuba began complaining of hearing loss, speech problems, nosebleeds and other unexplained symptoms in 2016.
  • Some said they had heard high-pitched chirping like that of crickets, while others reported hearing a grinding noise or experiencing a ringing in their ears.
  • The incidents led the US state department to expel two Cuban diplomats from Washington in 2017.




Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine

Why in News?

  • The Serum Institute of India (SII) became the first indigenous company to apply to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) seeking emergency use authorisation for the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in the country, citing unmet medical needs due to the pandemic and in the interest of the public at large.
  • A day earlier, the Indian arm of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer became the first to seek a similar approval from India’s drug regulator for its own COVID-19 vaccine in the country, after securing such clearance in the UK and Bahrain.
  • Based on phase 2 and 3 clinical trial results, the SII with the help of the ICMR, will pursue early availability of the vaccine for India.
  • The firm has stated that data from four clinical studies, two in the UK and one each in Brazil and India, shows that Covishield is highly efficacious against symptomatic and most importantly against severe COVID-19 infections.
  • In terms of safety, Covishield was well tolerated with respect to solicited adverse events and was not associated with an increased number of SAEs and deaths. A majority of solicited reactions were mild in severity and resolved without any sequelae.




Bhasan Char

Why in News?

  • Bhasan Char, the site where Bangladesh has begun sending Rohingya refugees from the overcrowded camps at Cox’s Bazar, is an island formed by sedimentation (char is Bengali for sediment) close to the coast.

  • It is estimated that more than 8 lakh Rohingya, who fled an army crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine Province in 2016, live in the camps at Cox’s Bazar in unhygienic conditions.
  • Bangladesh’s plan is to move some 1 lakh refugees to Bhasan Char, 39 km from Naokhali on the mainland.

What’s on Bhasan Char

  • Bhasan Char is less an island and more mud flat, and is vulnerable to going under water from tides and flooding. Much of it is submerged during the monsoon.
  • Located near the mouth of the river Meghna where it flows into the Bay of Bengal, Bhasan Char surfaced only in 2006 from the sediment deposited by the river.




Red Sea turtles

Why in News?

  • Turtle populations in the Red Sea could be turning overwhelmingly female because of a rise in sea temperatures caused due to anthropogenic climate change.
  • The Red Sea is home to five out of seven species of sea turtles.
  • In order to maintain a 50:50 ratio of males and females in the population, a temperature of 29.2 degrees Celsius is pivotal. Above this, hatchlings would be predominantly female.
  • The sand temperatures at four of the sites exceeded 29.2 degrees, leading the team to the conclusion that ‘feminisation’ of the population could be already happening.


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