Current Affairs Jan 19


Why in News?

  • Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), Delhi based DRDO laboratory, handed over Rakshita, a bike-based casualty transport emergency vehicle to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Why Bike?

  • The bike ambulance will help in overcoming the problems faced by Indian security forces and emergency healthcare providers.
  • It will provide life-saving aid for evacuation of injured patients from low intensity conflict areas.
  • This will be handy in the congested streets and remote locations, where access through ambulance is difficult and time consuming.
  • The bike can respond to a medical emergency need of patients faster than a four-wheeler due to its functionality and integrated emergency medical support system.
  • Rakshita is fitted with a customized reclining Casualty Evacuation Seat (CES), which can be fitted in and taken out as per requirement.

Other major features

  • The head immobilizer, safety harness jacket, hand and foot straps for safety, adjustable footrest, physiological parameter measuring equipment with wireless monitoring capability and auto warning system for driver.
  • The vital parameters of the patient can be monitored on the dashboard mounted LCD.
  • It is also equipped with air splint, medical and oxygen kit for on spot medical care.
  • This bike ambulance is useful not only for the paramilitary and military forces but has potential civil applications too.




Sushruta-The Father of Plastic Surgery

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the newly constructed Burns and Plastic Surgery Block of AIIMS, New Delhi and dedicated it to Sushruta, ‘The Father of Plastic Surgery’.
  • India has as many as 70 lakh burn injuries annually with mortality rate as high as 1.4 lakhs per year and an additional 2.4 lakhs patients end up with severe deformities.
  • Due to its large population, most of the burn care facilities are overburdened and the state-of-the-art burn care is negligible.

Burns & Plastic Surgery Block has three goals

  • The first is to reduce the number of deaths due to burns;
  • Second, by adhering to standard protocols the Institution will be able to reduce the number of people who will end up with deformities.
  • Third is to bring down the costs; management of burns involve direct and indirect costs.




Two Welfare Projects of ONGC

Why in News?

  • In line with Prime Minister’s vision to increase the use of renewable energy and making India Atmanirbhar, two projects supported by Energy Maharatna ONGC for the welfare of people in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh were launched.
  • The Minister laid the foundation stone of a hostel-cum-training facility for farmers at Bharat Bharati Shiksha Samiti.
  • Also launched the distribution of Solar Chulhas to poor households in Betul, which is being developed as a solar village.

Solar Chulhas

  • ONGC has got solar chulhas designed and developed through IIT Bombay, at an investment of around ninety lakh rupees.
  • The two-floor (G+1) hostel-cum-training facility, will be used to train poor farmers in organic farming.





Why in News?

  • The first-ever National Road Safety Month was inaugurated, to build awareness about road safety and reduce road accidents in India.
  • During the last few years, a road safety week was being organised, but considering the importance of the issue, a month-long programme has been made this year.
  • A film on Road safety was launched on the occasion, besides flagging off of a National Championship Safe Speed Challenge from Amritsar to Kanyakumari, and giving away of awards for Road Safety.

Accident Data

  • In India, a total of 1.5 lakh people died, while more than 4.5 lakh people got injured in road accidents every year, resulting in social-economic losses from accident deaths equivalent to a shocking 3.14% of GDP every year.
  • 70% deaths are in the age group of 18 to 45-year-old people, which is nearly 415 people dying per day in India.
  • The Indian government had participated in a conference in Sweden, where a vision was conceptualised – to have zero road fatalities in India by 2030.




Chabahar Port

Why in News?

  • India has supplied a consignment of two Mobile Harbour Cranes (MHC) to Iran’s Chabahar port, with a total contract value of over USD 25 Million under a contract agreement for supply of 6 MHC.
  • The consignment of cranes arrived from Marghera port, Italy has been unloaded successfully at Chabahar port and presently undergoing trials run.
  • With 140 metric tons lifting capacity, multipurpose equipment and accessories like Mobile Harbour Cranes (MHC) will enable India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) to provide seamless services for Container, Bulk and General Cargo at Shahid Beheshti Port of Chabahar.
  • This is a step towards India’s commitment towards infrastructure development of ‎Shahid Beheshti Port of Chabahar.
  • The bilateral contract between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Republic of India was signed on 23rd May 2016 ‎for Equipping, Mechanizing and starting Operations at Shahid Beheshti Port of Chabahar development Phase- I.
  • To achieve this ambitious aim, an SPV namely India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) Mumbai was incorporated under the ambit of the Ministry of Ports, ‎Shipping and Waterways.
  • The location of Chabahar Port has strategically advantage and high potential to provide connectivity among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other CIS countries specially Eastern CIS countries to increase trade between these countries.




Why in News?

  • The Rafale fighter jet inducted into the IAF last year will fly over the Rajpath during the Republic Day parade.
  • Beginning September 2020, the IAF has inducted and operationalised eight Rafale fighter jets of the 36 jets contracted from France in a €87-billion deal in 2016.

Other Participants

  • At the Republic Day flypast, 42 aircraft will take part including a vintage Dakota plane and 15 fighters and 10 transport aircraft. There will be 17 helicopters from the IAF and four from the Army Aviation.
  • The IAF will showcase scaled down models of the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), SU-30MKI and Rohini medium range surveillance radar.
  • The LCA model would be equipped with indigenous Rudram Next Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGRAM) and LCH model would be equipped with Dhruvastra, indigenous helicopter fired anti-tank guided missile both of which are under development.
  • The SU-30MKI would be equipped with the indigenous Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air to Air missile.




Quota in Promotions

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court asked Attorney General to compile the various issues being raised by States with regard to the application of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2006 in M. Nagaraj case, which had upheld the application of creamy layer principle to members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in promotions.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde said

  • The issues raised by States are not common.
  • “Promotions which have been made or proposed to be made in several States are in question in these matters. The issues are not common in all the cases which have arisen from several States.”

About Case

  • The case is based on a plea by the Centre to refer to a seven-judge Bench the question whether creamy layer should apply or not to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community while providing them reservation in government promotions.
  • The Centre’s plea came despite the Supreme Court, in September 2018, in Jarnail Singh case, reiterating the Nagaraj judgment of 2006.
  • The 2018 judgement, which was authored by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, had refused the government’s plea to refer the 2006 Nagaraj judgment to a seven-judge Bench.
  • It had, while modifying the part of the Nagaraj verdict which required States to show quantifiable data to prove the ‘backwardness’ of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community to provide quota in promotion in public employment, rejected the Centre’s argument that Nagaraj misread the creamy layer concept by applying it to SC/ST.




State Labour Laws

Why in News?

  • The Union Labour and Employment Ministry is likely to appoint legal consultants this month to look at whether States’ labour laws are in consonance with the Centre’s four new labour codes.

Which Codes?

  • The codes on wages, social security, industrial relations and occupational safety, health and working conditions could be implemented before the April 1 target.
  • Along with the implementation of the codes, the Ministry would appoint legal consultants soon to review the various State laws.
  • The matter would be taken up with the States if the laws are found to be out of tune with the codes.


  • The four codes have amalgamated 29 Central labour laws, including those covering matters of minimum wages, benefits for workers and strikes.
  • For the first time, gig and platform workers have been covered under the ambit of social security schemes.
  • Most Central trade unions, however, have protested against the codes, terming them anti-worker.




Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Why in News?

  • In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists have assessed the influence of human activities on extreme fire weather risk, and found that greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution have distinct regional impacts on wildfire outbreaks.
  • The research, analysed the climate under various combinations of human influences since 1920, isolating individual effects and their impacts on extreme fire weather risk.

According to the researchers

  • Heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions are the dominant contributors to temperature increases around the globe.
  • By 2005, emissions raised the risk of extreme fire weather by 20% from preindustrial levels in western and eastern North America, the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and the Amazon.
  • By 2080, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to raise the risk of extreme wildfire by at least 50% in western North America, equatorial Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia, while doubling it in the Mediterranean, southern Africa, eastern North America and the Amazon.
  • Biomass burning and land-use changes have more regional impacts that amplify greenhouse gas-driven warming.
  • The study noted a 30% increase of extreme fire weather risk over the Amazon and western North America during the 20th century caused by biomass burning. Land use changes also amplified the risk of extreme fire weather in Western Australia and the Amazon.
  • Industrial aerosols block some of the solar radiation from reaching the ground and tend to have a cooling effect on the climate.
  • In Southeast Asia, “where aerosols emissions are expected to continue,” there may be a weakening of the annual monsoon, drier conditions and an increase in extreme fire weather risk.
  • “Southeast Asia relies on the monsoon, but aerosols cause so much cooling on land that it actually can suppress a monsoon”. “It’s not just whether you have aerosols or not, it’s the way the regional climate interacts with aerosols.”
  • The scientists hope that the current understanding of fire risk at a regional scale helps in mitigation and planning purposes.




Virgin Orbit

Why in News?

  • Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached space for the first time with a successful test of its air-launched rocket, delivering ten NASA satellites to orbit and achieving a key milestone after aborting the rocket’s first test launch last year.
  • The Long Beach, California-based company’s LauncherOne rocket was dropped mid-air from the underside of a modified Boeing 747 nicknamed Cosmic Girl some 35,000 feet over the Pacific.
  • Cosmic Girl carrier craft took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California.
  • The successful test and clean payload deployment was a needed double-win for Virgin Orbit, which last year failed its attempt to reach space when LauncherOne’s main engine shut down prematurely moments after releasing from its carrier aircraft.
  • Virgin Orbit’s government services subsidiary VOX Space LLC is selling launches using the system to the U.S. military, with a first mission slated for October under a $35 million U.S. Space Force contract for three missions.




Mega Moon Rocket Engines

Why in News?

  • NASA conducted a test firing of the engines for its giant Space Launch System (SLS) lunar rocket.

SLS Rocket

  • The SLS rocket is intended to launch the Artemis missions that will take U.S. astronauts back to the Moon.
  • Despite being cut short, NASA said the test of the RS-25 engines had provided valuable information for the planned missions.

NASAs Artemis Mission

  • NASA’s Artemis I mission to test the SLS and an unmanned Orion spacecraft is scheduled to take place before the end of 2021.
  • The following Artemis II mission in 2023 will take astronauts around the Moon but will not land.
  • Artemis III will send astronauts, including the first woman, to the Moon in 2024.
  • In its configuration for Artemis I, the SLS will stand 322 ft. (98 m) taller than the Statue of Liberty, and is more powerful than the Saturn V rockets used in the Apollo missions that sent the first astronauts to the Moon.
  • NASA’s eventual goal is to establish an Artemis Base Camp on the Moon before the end of the decade, an ambitious plan that would require tens of billions of dollars of funding and the green light from President-elect Joe Biden and the Congress.
  • A manned return to the Moon is the first part of the Artemis program to set up a long-term colony and test technologies for a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.




Do Plants Share Genetic Material With Each Other?

  • Genetic material of plants and animals are well protected in the nucleus of each cell and store all the information that forms an organism.
  • In addition, cells contain small organelles that contain their own genetic material.
  • These include chloroplasts in plants, which play a key role in photosynthesis, and mitochondria, which are found in all living organisms and represent the power plants of every cell.
  • Scientists have shown, through experimental approaches, (Science Advances) how the genetic material is not actually permanently stored within one cell but can migrate from cell to cell.
  • They conducted experiments with tobacco plants using grafting.
  • Two different tobacco plants were grafted on to each other and the cells of the junction were observed microscopically in real time.
  • They could observe that genome transfer from cell to cell occurs in both directions with high frequency at this site.
  • The researchers were able to observe structural changes in the cell walls in the wound tissue of the graft site.
  • Protrusions formed on the cell walls, thus creating junctions between the two partners.
  • The size of the created pores allowed the migration of an entire plastid.
  • “Therefore, the genome does not migrate freely, but encapsulated from cell to cell”.
  • However, to actually make this possible, the plastids have to shrink and become mobile.
  • These rod-shaped plastids grow back to normal size after transfer into the target tissue.
  • It now remains to be studied if mitochondria and the nuclear genome also use similar transfer mechanisms.



Somnath Temple trust

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unanimously chosen as the new chairman of the trust which manages the world famous Somnath Temple at Prabhas Patan town in Gujarat’s Gir-Somnath district, becoming the second PM to hold the post.
  • After former PM Morarji Desai, Modi is the second Prime Minister who has been appointed the chairman of the temple trust. As per trust records, Mr. Modi has become the eighth chairman of the trust.




Bad Bank

Why in News?

  • The idea of setting up a bad bank to resolve the growing problem of non-performing assets (NPAs), or loans on which borrowers have defaulted, is back on the table.
  • With commercial banks set to witness a spike in NPAs, or bad loans, in the wake of the contraction in the economy as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das recently agreed to look at the proposal for the creation of a bad bank.

Whats a bad bank and how does it work?

  • A bad bank is an asset reconstruction company (ARC) or an asset management company that takes over the bad loans of commercial banks, manages them and finally recovers the money over a period of time.
  • The bad bank is not involved in lending and taking deposits, but helps commercial banks clean up their balance sheets and resolve bad loans.
  • The takeover of bad loans is normally below the book value of the loan and the bad bank tries to recover as much as possible subsequently.
  • Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had opposed the idea of setting up a bad bank in which banks hold a majority stake.
  • US-based Mellon Bank created the first bad bank in 1988, after which the concept has been implemented in other countries including Sweden, Finland, France and Germany.
  • However, resolution agencies or ARCs set up as banks, which originate or guarantee lending, have ended up turning into reckless lenders in some countries.

Do we need a bad bank?

  • The idea gained currency during Rajan’s tenure as RBI Governor.
  • The RBI had then initiated an asset quality review (AQR) of banks and found that several banks had suppressed or hidden bad loans to show a healthy balance sheet.
  • However, the idea remained on paper amid lack of consensus on the efficacy of such an institution. ARCs have not made any impact in resolving bad loans due to many procedural issues.
  • Now, with the pandemic hitting the banking sector, the RBI fears a spike in bad loans in the wake of a six-month moratorium it has announced to tackle the economic slowdown.

What is the stand of the RBI and government on a bad bank?

  • Last week, Governor Das indicated that the RBI can consider the idea of a bad bank to tackle bad loans. In recent months, the Finance Ministry too has been receptive to the idea.
  • Viral Acharya, when he was the RBI Deputy Governor, suggested two models to solve the problem of stressed assets.
  • The first is a private asset management company (PAMC), which is said to be suitable for stressed sectors where the assets are likely to have an economic value in the short run, with moderate levels of debt forgiveness.
  • The second model is the National Asset Management Company (NAMC), which would be necessary for sectors where the problem is not just one of excess capacity but possibly also of economically unviable assets in the short to medium terms.

Will a bad bank solve the problem of NPAs?

  • Despite a series of measures by the RBI for better recognition and provisioning against NPAs, as well as massive doses of capitalisation of public sector banks by the government, the problem of NPAs continues in the banking sector, especially among the weaker banks.
  • The bad bank concept is in some ways similar to an ARC but is funded by the government initially, with banks and other investors co-investing in due course.
  • The presence of the government is seen as a means to speed up the clean-up process.
  • Many other countries had set up institutional mechanisms such as the Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP) in the US to deal with a problem of stress in the financial system.





Why in News?

  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought inputs from telcos and other industry experts on the sale and use of radio frequency spectrum over the next 10 years, including the 5G bands.

What is 5G technology and how is it different?

  • 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.
  • While the low band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange, the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • The mid-band spectrum, on the other hand, offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals.
  • The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength.
  • Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (giga bits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.




Rapid Blood Test

Why Needed?

  • For doctors, it is a difficult to predict which Covid-19 patients will go on to develop severe disease, including complications that require the insertion of a breathing tube, kidney dialysis or other intensive care.
  • Knowledge of a patient’s age and underlying medical conditions can help predict such outcomes.

What is it

  • Now, scientists have published a paper showing that a relatively simple and rapid blood test can predict — within a day of a hospital admission — which Covid-19 patients are at highest risk of severe complications or death.
  • The blood test measures levels of mitochondrial DNA, a unique type of DNA molecule that normally resides inside the energy factories of cells.
  • Mitochondrial DNA spilling out of cells and into the bloodstream is a sign that a particular type of violent cell death is taking place in the body.
  • On average, mitochondrial DNA levels were about tenfold higher in Covid patients who developed severe lung dysfunction or eventually died.
  • Those with elevated levels were almost six times more likely to be intubated, three times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and almost twice as likely to die compared with those with lower levels.



Combining Solar Energy and Agriculture To Mitigate Climate Change

  • Co-developing land for both solar photovoltaic power and agriculture could provide 20% of total electricity generation in the United States with an investment of less than 1% of the annual U.S. budget.
  • Wide-scale installation of agrivoltaic systems could lead to an annual reduction of 330,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S—the equivalent of 75,000 cars off the road per year.
  • Agrivoltaics provide a rare chance for true synergy: more food, more energy, lower water demand, lower carbon emissions, and more prosperous rural communities.
  • Agrivoltaics also align with the goals of the Green New Deal, a package of federal legislation that seeks to address climate change and economic inequalities.

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