Current Affairs Jan 13

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

Why in News?

  • 5 years ago, on 13th January 2016, the Government of India took a historic step towards strengthening risk coverage of crops for farmers of India and approved the flagship crop insurance scheme – the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
  • The scheme was conceived as a milestone initiative to provide a comprehensive risk solution at the lowest uniform premium across the country for farmers.
  • The average sum insured per hectare has increased from ₹15,100 during the pre-PMFBY Schemes to ₹40,700 under PMFBY.


  • Ministry – Ministry of Agriculture
  • The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme as well as the Modified NAIS.
  • An insurance service for farmers for their yields.
  • It aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claim for the full insured sum.


  1. To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
  2. To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  3. To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  4. To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.

Key Features of scheme

  • Integration of land records with the PMFBY portal, Crop Insurance mobile-app for easy enrollment of farmers and usage of technology such as satellite imagery, remote-sensing technology, drones, artificial intelligence and machine learning to assess crop losses are some of the key features of the scheme.
  • The scheme makes it easier for the farmer to report crop loss within 72 hours of occurrence of any event through the Crop Insurance App, CSC Centre or the nearest agriculture officer.




New Foreign Trade Policy 2021-26

Why in News?

  • Meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry was held on the subject “New Foreign Trade Policy 2021-26”.
  • India’s FTP has conventionally been formulated for five years at a time. The FTP 2015-20 came into effect on 1stApril 2015 and the same was extended by one year till 31 March 2021, due to Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The new FTP will come into effect on April 1, 2021, for a period of five years.

Features of New FTP

  • The `District Export Hubs’ initiative will form an important component of the new Foreign Trade Policy to mobilise the potential of each district of the country to help them emerge as export hubs.
  • The Department of Commerce through the Regional Authorities of the Directorate-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has engaged with State / UTs to take forward this initiative in the districts and enable its implementation in a phased manner.
  • A key driver for India to achieve the $5-trillion (GDP) mark in an expedited time frame would be boosting exports, both merchandise and services,
  • By systematically addressing domestic and overseas constraints related to the policy, regulatory and operational framework
  • For lowering transactions costs and enhancing ease of doing business,
  • Creating a low-cost operating environment through efficient, cost-effective and adequate logistical and utilities infrastructure.




Kayakalp award

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the 5th National Kayakalp Awards.

About Kayakalp

  • The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, launched a National Initiative ‘Kayakalp’ on 15th May 2015 to ensure hygiene, sanitation and cleanliness in Public Health Facilities in India.
  • Those District Hospitals, Sub-divisional hospitals, Community Health Centres, Primary Health Centres and Health & Wellness Centres in public healthcare system who have achieved high level of cleanliness, hygiene and infection control were recognised and felicitated with award.
  • Encouraged by the success of Kayakalp initiative, MoHFW had collaborated with Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and launched Swachh Swasth Sarvatra (SSS) program, under which,
  • One community health centre (CHCs) situated within ODF block receives one-time grant of Rs. 10.00 lakhs under the NHM for undertaking improvement activities, so that the CHC becomes Kayakalp CHC.




India-Bangladesh Police Chiefs’ Dialogue

Why in News?

  • The first Delegation-Level virtual Police Chiefs’ Dialogue between the Police chiefs of India and Bangladesh was held in an environment of positivity and trust.

Points Discussed

  • While discussing ongoing bilateral cooperation, issues of mutual concern and the way forward, it was decided to further strengthen the relationship of the Police forces of the two countries.
  • As a step toward that, designated ‘nodal points’ would be established for timely and effective handling and response to existing as well as emerging security and counter-terrorism challenges.
  • Both sides agreed to enhance their work jointly against terrorist entities including the Global Terrorist Groups, as well as other fugitives, wherever they are present and active.
  • Both sides reiterated the need for sharing of real time intelligence and feedback through the designated ‘nodal points’, while appreciating each other’s ongoing action against insurgent groups operating in the region.
  • The scope of enhanced coordination to combat trans-border criminal activities, including smuggling of drugs, Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN), arms and ammunition and human trafficking was also discussed.




Ultra-High Mobility Electron Gas

Why in News?

  • Scientists have produced electron gas with ultra-high mobility, which can speed up transfer of quantum information and signal from one part of a device to another and increase data storage and memory.


  • The need for attaining new functionalities in modern electronic devices has led to the manipulation of property of an electron called spin degree of freedom along with its charge.
  • This has given rise to an altogether new field of spin-electronics or ‘spintronics’.
  • It has been realized that a phenomenon called the ‘Rashba effect’, which consists of splitting of spin-bands in an electronic system, might play a key role in spintronic devices.
  • Scientists at Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali (Punjab), have produced an ultra-high mobility 2d-electron gas (2DEG) at the interface of two insulating oxide layers.
  • Due to the high mobility of the electron gas, electrons do not collide inside the medium for a long distance and hence do not lose the memory and information.
  • Hence, such a system can easily remember and transfer its memory for a long time and distance.
  • In addition, since they collide less during their flow, their resistance is very low, and hence they don’t dissipate energy as heat.
  • So, such devices do not heat up easily and need less input energy to operate.
  • Aided by a grant from the DST-Nanomission in the form of a sophisticated, custom-made instrument called a combinatorial pulsed laser deposition setup, researcher have produced 2DEG with ultra-mobility at the novel interface composed of chemicals EuO and KTaO3.
  • The strong spin-orbit coupling and relativistic nature of the electrons in the 2DEG resulted in the ‘Rashba field’.
  • According to the INST team, realization of large Rashba-effect at such oxide interfaces containing highly mobile electron gas may open up a new field of device physics, especially in the field of quantum technology applicable for next-generation data storage media and quantum computers.




Supreme Court Stays Implementation of 3 Controversial Farm Laws

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court stayed the implementation of three controversial farm laws, calling its order “extraordinary” and a “victory for fair play”.
  • The laws are: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.
  • The stay on their implementation means the Centre cannot, for the time being, proceed with any executive actions to enforce the laws.

Four-Member Committee

  • The court formed a four-member committee of experts “to listen to the grievances of the farmers on the farm laws and the views of the government and make recommendations”.

Committee members

  • The committee consists of Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee;
  • Parmod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana.
  • The committee has to start work in 10 days and submit a report to the court in two months.
  • The court directed that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in existence before the enactment of the farm laws should be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ landholdings should be protected.

Farm Laws

  • The three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector to remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
  • The government projected the laws as an antidote to lowering demands caused by the pandemic.
  • However, protesting farmers consider the laws as a key to an exploitative regime that would ultimately lead to the loss of their lands.




World Insect Population Declining

Why in News?

  • Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose probably 1% to 2% of its insects each year, study says.
  • Scientists need to figure out if the rate of the insect loss is bigger than with other species.
  • Bugs pollinate the world’s foods, are crucial to the food chain and get rid of waste.

Honeybees & Monarch Butterflies

  • Two well-known ones — honeybees and Monarch butterflies — best illustrate insect problems and declines.
  • Honeybees have been in dramatic decline because of disease, parasites, insecticides, herbicides and lack of food.
  • Climate change-driven drier weather in the U.S. West means less milkweed for butterflies to eat. And changes in American agriculture remove weeds and flowers they need for nectar.




Willingdon Island-Bolghatty Island corridor

Why in News?

  • A trial run of the proposed container roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry service in the Willingdon Island-Bolghatty Island corridor was held, with one of the two vessels built at the Cochin Shipyard operating in the corridor.
  • City-based Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC), which operates a pair of ro-ro ferries in the Fort Kochi-Vypeen route, has been vested with the task of operating the two vessels, the capital cost of which was borne by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).

About Ro-Ro Ferry Service

  • The container ro-ro ferry service will transport commuters and motorists too on board, unlike a private firm.
  • It took about 30 minutes to cover the distance, as compared to over one-and-a-half hours that lorries would take if they took the road route.


  • The ro-ro ferry service is a good opportunity for stakeholders to decongest roads in the city, including the congested NH Bypass and Seaport-Airport Road which are relied on by container-laden lorries and other heavy vehicles.
  • Congestion and pollution in city roads will come down if lorries and even smaller vessels avail the waterway route between the two islands, providing much-needed breathing space in Kochi.




COVID-19 Herd Immunity

Why in News?

  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) chief scientist warned that even as numerous countries start rolling out vaccination programmes to stop COVID-19, herd immunity is highly unlikely this year.
  • In recent weeks, Britain, the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and others have begun vaccinating millions of their citizens against the coronavirus.
  • Scientists typically estimate that a vaccination rate of about 70% is needed for herd immunity, where entire populations are protected against a disease. But some fear that the extremely infectious nature of COVID-19 could require a significantly higher threshold.
  • The U.N.-backed initiative known as COVAX, which is aiming to deliver shots to developing countries is short of vaccines, money and logistical help as donor countries scramble to protect their own citizens, particularly in the wake of newly detected COVID-19 variants in Britain and South Africa, which many officials are blaming for increased spread.



 Mystery Over Unequal Aerosol Distribution

Why in News?

  • A study by the National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL) in Gadanki in Chittoor district has solved the mystery over the unequal aerosol distribution in the atmosphere in India and China.


  • Aerosols are known to be caused by crop residue burning, forest fires, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation.

Study Findings

  • Studies have pointed to the effect of the enhanced man-made emissions on the Asian monsoon circulation and the resultant precipitation over East and South East Asia.
  • A ‘Dipole pattern’ in Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), based on long-term satellite measurements, indicated a concurrent increase over India and a marked reduction over China.
  • The study observed a rapid increase in aerosol loading over India and its adjoining seas, and in sharp contrast, reduction over China, which is credited to the country’s ‘clean air actions’.
  • Scientists at NARL, a unit of the Department of Space, have found decreasing trends in the surface (black carbon) aerosol concentration in the recent decade.
  • The pollutants over the earth’s immediate surface are easily lifted to the free troposphere through convection and upward vertical velocities, leading to higher aerosol concentration farther from the earth.

 Global warming

  • The increased aerosol concentration over India is attributed to land aridity due to global warming, a 20% increase in fire activity and more than 50% rise in aerosol loading in the Thar Desert, southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa over the last decade.
  • Interestingly, decreasing trends in AOD were observed in northwestern India, which is credited to conversion of deserts into crop-land areas.
  • Depending on the aerosol type, they can modify the cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity, thus affecting convection and/or precipitation process.




Breathing Rate and the Risk of Virus Infection

Why in News?

  • Breathing slow can bring various health benefits — but not as far as airborne transmission of disease is concerned.
  • In a new study IIT Madras researchers have found that a lower breathing frequency — and holding one’s breath — increases the risk of virus-laden droplets reaching the deep lung.

The complex lung

  • Our bodies fight off much of the aerosols we inhale before they can deposit themselves in the inner lung, thanks to the complex geometry of the extrathoracic region and the lungs.
  • Part of the aerosols are flushed out in the form of mucus, while those that cross the nasal passage would still have to navigate the complex branching structure that define the lung.
  • The study looked at the dynamics of micrometre-sized droplets through such micro-channels, mimicking the lung environment.
  • “Transport of material — particles or gases — in the deep lung (as we approach the acinus or blood barrier) is purely diffusive.
  • This diffusive nature ensures that gases are able to diffuse much faster than particles. This is part of the body’s own protection against aerosol particles reaching the blood.

The findings

  • The experiments showed that low breathing frequency — the number of breaths per minute —increases the time the virus stays inside, and therefore increases the chances of deposition and consequently infection.
  • The research found a correlation between deposition and the aspect ratio of the capillaries, suggesting that droplets are likely to deposit in longer bronchioles.
  • Diffusion and impaction are two of the three mechanisms by which aerosols are deposited in various regions of the lung, the third being sedimentation (under the effect of gravity).
  • Impaction happens when the droplets are moving so fast that they do not faithfully follow the air, and instead “impact” the walls of the bronchi.
  • “Diffusion is an effect where the tiny droplets are transported towards the walls of bronchioles by ‘random walk’. This is aided by the fluctuations in the air causing droplets to move towards bronchiole walls.
  • Turbulence — which the study associated with deposition by impaction — is the primary mode of deposition in the upper bronchi where the air velocity is high.
  • But once the air reaches the deep lung, it is slowed down significantly, resulting in gas transport aided by diffusion primarily.




Share Buyback

Why in News?

  • The board of directors of GAIL, India’s largest gas distributor, is set to consider a share buyback of shares which will result in the distribution of surplus reserves to shareholders including the Government of India.
  • The centre has reportedly asked a number of public sector units to issue buybacks to help shore up its finances, which have been hit by the pandemic.

What is a share buyback?

  • A share repurchase or buyback is a decision by a company to purchase its own stock from the market.
  • Such a move reduces the number of outstanding shares of the company and tend to push up their price and is often undertaken when management considers the company’s shares undervalued.
  • It is also a key way to transfer surplus earnings to shareholders and tends to lead to an increase in share prices.



Paternity Leave

Why in News?

  • While the Indian team is on a tour to Australia, Kohli came back to India after the first Test, on paternity leave.

Law on Paternity Leave

  • Unlike maternity leave, which is legally mandated, the private sector is not bound to provide paternity leave in India.
  • There is a legal stipulation for central government employees –– a “male civil servant (including an apprentice, probationer) with less than two surviving children may be granted Paternity Leave for a period of 15 days before or up to six months from the date of delivery of the child.”
  • The “less than two surviving children” means the employee can take paternity leaves only for his first two children.
  • Thus, the decision on how long a paternity leave they wish to provide rests with a particular company.
  • The longest leave –– six months –– is provided by Ikea, which extends rules from home country Sweden to India.
  • Among Indian companies, Zomato made news in 2019 when it decided to give a 26-week paternity leave to its employees.
  • For women, on the other hand, the law mandates that female workers of all establishments with 10 or more workers can take 26 weeks of paid leave, up to eight weeks of which can be claimed before the delivery of the child.

Effect of the imbalance

  • Over the years, many have pointed out that while short paternity leaves deprive fathers of the chance to spend time with their newborns and burden mothers unfairly with the bulk of caregiving, they also make hiring men more advantageous for companies.

Societal attitudes

  • According to a 2019 report by Promundo, a US-based organisation working for gender equality, 90 out of 187 countries they surveyed offered statutory paid paternity leave. India was not among them.
  • One of the reasons for it could be that socially, child-rearing is still largely considered a woman’s responsibility in India, and thus, if companies are not offering long paternity leaves, it is also because employees are not asking for it.
  • According to the same report, 80 per cent of men in India said changing nappies, bathing and feeding children was a woman’s job.
  • In 2016, when demands were made that paternity leave be made legally binding just like maternity leaves, then WCD minister Maneka Gandhi had said: “I will be happy to give it, but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything.”
  • In 2017, Congress MP Rajeev Satav had moved a private members Bill, the Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017, which proposed equal maternity and paternity leaves across all sectors. It has not moved forward.



Cuba placed back on US terrorism sponsor list

Why in News?

  • The Trump administration has designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.
  • Reversing an Obama-era decision to remove the label and potentially hindering the efforts of incoming president Joe Biden to normalize relations with the country.

But Why?

  • The State Department gave Cuba the designation “for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists,” accusing the nation of reneging on its commitments made when President Barack Obama took them off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2015.
  • Cuba rejoins just three other countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism — Iran, North Korea and Syria. Sudan was recently removed as part of its agreement to normalize ties with Israel.




One Planet Summit

Why in News?

  • Organized by France, in cooperation with the United Nations and the World Bank, the ‘One Planet Summit’ for biodiversity on 11 January 2021 aims to advance the protection of nature.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which was launched in 2019 by Costa Rica, France and Britain to set a target of protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030, has now been joined by 50 countries.
  • A 2019 U.N. report on biodiversity showed that human activities are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming for over 1 million species of plants and animals.
  • The one-day summit focused on four major topics:
  • Protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems;
  • Promoting agroecology, a more sustainable way to grow food;
  • Increasing funding to protect biodiversity; and
  • Identifying links between deforestation and the health of humans and animals.

Africa’s Great Green Wall project

  • A side conference focused on investment for Africa’s Great Green Wall project, which involves gigantic efforts to stop the Sahara Desert from spreading further south.
  • Participants welcomed the creation of a so-called accelerator, which is expected to release $14.3 billion over the next five years to finance the program.
  • Launched in 2007, it aims to plant an arc of trees running 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) across Africa — from Senegal along the Atlantic all the way to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden.


  • Another initiative involves a new coalition of Mediterranean countries working to better protect the sea from pollution and overfishing.
  • Britain’s Prince Charles launched an “urgent appeal” to private sector leaders to join a new investment alliance targeting $10 billion by 2022 to finance nature-based solutions.




Pope Changes Law

Why in News?

  • Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to officially allow lay women to perform tasks during mass, but stressed the move was not a precursor to them becoming priests.

What changes?

  • The law makes explicit that lay women can be altar servers and readers during liturgies.
  • Although this has been common practice for years in many developing countries, the change in canon law means that bishops will no longer have the power to prevent women within their diocese from taking on the roles.
  • While Pope Francis last April created the second commission since 2016 to study the possibility of women being ordained as deacons, the topic of them becoming priests is still very much taboo.
  • Deacons can lead prayer services and may manage other pastoral duties if a priest is absent, but are barred from consecrating communion and hearing confessions, among other duties.




 UK Nuclear Spacecraft

Why in News?

  • British spacecraft could travel to Mars in half the time it now takes by using nuclear propulsion engines built by Rolls-Royce under a new deal with the UK Space Agency.
  • The aerospace company hopes nuclear-powered engines could help astronauts make it to Mars in three to four months, twice as fast as the most powerful chemical engines, and unlock deeper space exploration in the decades to come.

Nuclear Technology

  • The government hopes nuclear technology could transform space travel by providing plentiful energy to power the spacecraft as they travel further from the sun and are unable to make use of solar energy.
  • Rolls-Royce has provided the nuclear propulsion technology used to power the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet for 60 years. The company hopes to build several small modular nuclear reactors on land too, to help meet the UK’s growing demand for electricity.
  • Britain’s plan to build atomic spacecraft will not be the first.
  • US scientists first tested nuclear spacecraft technology in the Nevada desert in the 1950s and 1960s before the programme was cancelled in 1971.
  • The US has undertaken several nuclear space programmes in recent decades. Late last year the US government issued a new space policy directive to advance NASA’s nuclear developments.

The Guardian



Baby Sharks

Why in News?

  • Baby sharks will emerge from their egg cases earlier and weaker as water temperatures rise, according to a new study that examined the impact of warming oceans on embryos.
  • About 40% of all shark species lay eggs, and the researchers found that one species unique to the Great Barrier Reef spent up to 25 days less in their egg cases under temperatures expected by the end of the century.

What Study Found

  • The extra heat caused embryonic epaulette sharks to eat through their egg yolks faster and when they were born, the rising temperatures affected their fitness.
  • Weaker sharks were less efficient hunters, which could then have a knock-on effect across the coral reefs where they live, upsetting the balance of the ecosystem.
  • Epaulette sharks grow to about one metre and live in the shallow waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Females lay leathery egg cases, known by some as a “mermaid’s purse”.
  • Because the egg cases are translucent, researchers can see the sharks developing and how quickly they are eating the egg yolk. Warmer temperatures saw them eat the yolk faster.
  • In normal temperatures, the sharks emerged from the egg cases after 125 days. But in 31C waters, they emerged after 100 days. The researchers also measured the fitness of the baby sharks, and found that it peaked at 29C but then fell sharply at 31C.
  • A study of tropical reef sharks released last year found they were likely to become functionally extinct on about 20% of reefs around the globe.




High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People

  • A coalition of more than 50 countries has committed to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife.
  • The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris, hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
  • Scientists have said human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, and agricultural production, mining and pollution are threatening the healthy functioning of life-sustaining ecosystems crucial to human civilisation.
  • Protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water.
  • The commitment is likely to be the headline target of the “Paris agreement for nature” that will be negotiated at Cop15 in Kunming, China later this year.