Connecting Agri-Export through Direct Flights
Why in News?
- A shipment of vegetables having green peas and Ramnagar Bhanta (Round Green Brinjal) was flagged off to Sharjah by AirIndia Express.
- This consignment was flagged off at Lal Bahadur Shastri International airport, Varanasi.
- Eastern UP is a landlocked area, and the nearest sea ports are over a thousand of kilometres away.
- In such scenario, an option of export through airport is nothing less than a blessing for the Farmer Producer Organization (FPOs) and exporters in this region.
- Varanasi based mangoes and vegetables were linked to London, Dubai market.
- Ghazipur based green vegetables were linked to London, Dubai market.
- Chandauli based regional rice was linked to Qatar.
- After ice-breaking for direct exports from Varanasi Airport, the stage is set for more exports of Agri-products including GI products from the Varanasi region and nearby areas through Varanasi airport.
First India-EU IPR dialogue
Why in News?
- The 1st India-EU IPR dialogue was held recently between the EU Commission and Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
- To further strengthen the India-EU relation & facilitate enhanced cooperation in the field of Intellectual Property Rights.
The India Co-Chair provided
- An overview of various Intellectual property rights (IPR) developments, with an aim to meet the objectives set forth in the National IPR policy 2016.
- Also reiterated the importance of legislative reforms brought in by India to stimulate innovation and creativity among start-ups and MSMEs.
Representative from EU
- Provided an update on a recent directive on Copyright in the digital market keeping in pace with changing demands of the industry.
- On Trademark, they presented the details about the dual system available in the region which provides flexibility to the owners.
- There were discussions on plant proectual Property Rights section and farmer’s right and their importance for the Indian economy.
- It was emphasized that this dialogue is an effective platform to discuss key intellectual property issues that affect business entities and to identify areas for closer collaboration for the mutual benefit of both economies.
Why in News?
- In order to honour and remember Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selfless service to the nation, Government of India has decided to celebrate his birthday on the 23rd day of January every year as “PARAKRAM DIWAS”
- To inspire people of the country, especially the youth, to act with fortitude in the face of adversity as Netaji did, and to infuse in them a spirit of patriotic fervour.
- Government of India has decided to celebrate the 125th Birth Anniversary year of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in a befitting manner at national and international level, beginning from 23rd January 2021.
- A High Level Committee, headed by the Prime Minister has been constituted for deciding the programs, and to supervise and guide the commemoration.
Why in News?
- Indian Air Force and French Air and Space Force will conduct a bilateral Air exercise, Ex Desert Knight-21 at Air Force Station Jodhpur from 20 to 24 Jan 21.
- In which IAF is sending in the French Mirage 2000, Rafale, the Russian Su-30 MKI, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft, as well as the AWACS and AEW&C aircraft.
- From the French side Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), A-400M Tactical Transport aircraft and approximately 175 personnel are going to be part of Ex Desert Knight.
Who is hosting this?
- This Exercise is being hosted by the IAF and the French Air and Space Force .
- The French Forces which are currently deployed in Asia as part of their ‘Skyros Deployment’ will be participating in the drill while transiting through India.
What is the aim of this exercise?
- Besides providing operational exposure, it will also help in sharing practices towards enhancing combat capability. From both sides, there will be fighter, transport and tanker aircraft.
- This drill is in addition to the Ex Garuda in which the two Air Forces engage in.
What is unique about this exercise?
- For the first time ever the Indian skies will be hosting Rafale aircraft by both sides.
- And the two Air Forces will be exchanging ideas and best practices for enhancing interoperability and also putting into practice operational experience which they have gained across different terrains.
Quantum Computing Applications Lab
Why in News?
- The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in India will establish a Quantum Computing Applications Lab in the country, in collaboration with AWS.
- To accelerate quantum computing-led research and development and enable new scientific discoveries.
- It will provide quantum computing as a service to government ministries and departments, researchers, scientists, academia, and developers, to enable advances in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and aerospace engineering.
- AWS will provide hosting with technical and programmatic support for the Lab.
- Quantum computing is an emerging field that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to build powerful tools to process information.
- It has the potential to solve computational problems that are beyond the reach of classical computers, and lead to new breakthroughs that can transform chemical engineering, material science, drug discovery, financial portfolio optimization, machine learning, and much more.
- This lab, is the first of its kind initiative in the world, and aims to enable India’s talented researchers to explore the unchartered applications of quantum computing, and pave the way for new discoveries and disruptions.
- It will identify quantum computing problem statements for experimentation from among Central and State Governments, Research Institutions, and Academia.
- It will help government bodies and the scientific community to identify problems and opportunities rapidly, and test real-world challenges through experiments and prototypes in a low risk environment.
- Outcomes from these experiments will help researchers evolve the problem statements, proof-of-concepts, and prototypes that will lead to the development of new applications, models, and frameworks in quantum computing.
India Innovation Index 2020
Why in News?
- NITI Aayog will release the second edition of the India Innovation Index 2020.
- The release of the second edition of the index—the first was launched in October 2019—demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment towards transforming the country into an innovation-driven economy.
What it do?
- The India Innovation Index 2020 seeks to rank the states and union territories based on their relative performance of supporting innovation, and to empower them to improve their innovation polices by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.
- The states and union territories have been divided into 17 ‘Major States’, 10 ‘North-East and Hill States’, and 9 ‘City States and Union Territories’, for effectively comparing their performance.
- The states and union territories have been ranked on two broad categories: outcome and governance.
- Overall, the framework of India Innovation Index 2020 consists of 36 indicators, which include hard data (32 indicators) and four composite indicators.
- The framework has been updated to include globally considered parameters for measuring innovation (such as the percentage of gross domestic product spent on research and development), while also retaining the parameters specific to the Indian economy.
- By giving malaria-infected blood meals to mosquitoes, researchers have now identified a few compounds that can kill the disease-causing parasite (Plasmodium falciparum).
- The team studied 400 chemical compounds and were able to pinpoint a few that were able to kill the parasites circulating in the human blood and also within the mosquitoes that ate the infected blood meal.
- Many plants produce chemicals to protect themselves from being eaten.
- But how do they protect themselves from these chemicals?
- To understand this, researchers studied a chemical (diterpene glycosides) produced by wild tobacco plants.
- They found that these substances were stored in a non-toxic form inside the plant and when the insect feeds on it, the non-toxic molecule cleaves off and the chemical turns toxic.
History written in sands
- The beach sand on a remote island in eastern Papua New Guinea has stunned geologists.
- Tectonic processes usually move grains of sand from the surface of the Earth to the deep (about 120 km into the Earth) and then back to the surface.
- The garnet sand showed that this cycle of subduction and exhumation took place in less than about 10 million years on the island, which is an extremely short period for geologic processes.
- Our biological or circadian clock (sleep-wake cycle) is controlled by many factors including CRY-1.
- A new study that analysed human cancer data, saw that CRY-1 increased in late-stage prostate cancers.
- As we looked further into the role of CRY1, we unexpectedly found that the circadian factor was altering the way that cancer cells repair DNA.
- A biodegradable expandable stent has been developed which can be used to treat pediatric laryngotracheal stenosis, a condition in children that leads to narrowing of airways.
- Using commercial non-biodegradable metal or silicone-based tracheal stents has a risk of severe complications and doesn’t achieve optimal clinical outcomes, even in adults.
- Using advanced biomaterials could offer a less invasive, and more successful, treatment option.
Why in News?
- China became the third country ever to secure lunar samples when its unmanned Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical moon goddess, brought back 1.731 kg of samples last month, falling short of the 2 kg planned.
- The probe had estimated the lunar rocks to have a density of 1.6 grams per cubic millimetre, based on data from past missions by other countries.
China’s Vaccine Diplomacy
Why in News?
- China has signed deals with 20 countries, many of which are in Southeast Asia, to offer its home-developed COVID-19 vaccines.
- With five vaccines being developed in China, Beijing is offering them both as donations and on a commercial basis.
- Among the countries that are ordering Chinese vaccines are Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, Brazil, Ukraine, and Serbia.
- Pakistan became the first country in South Asia to approve a Chinese vaccine, giving the green light for emergency use for Sinopharm’s vaccine.
- China earlier this month also offered its vaccines to Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as it held a multilateral dialogue with the four countries and Pakistan on anti-epidemic prevention, but so far hasn’t agreed orders.
- This was the third such multilateral dialogue with South Asian countries held with China, aimed at offering China’s technical expertise and vaccines as well as coordinating their economic agendas, reflecting a new multilateral Chinese approach to the region that brought together every country barring India, Bhutan and Maldives.
- A third Chinese vaccine CoronoVac, by the firm Sinovac, which is already being used fairly widely in China, has so far had the biggest takers overseas among the five Chinese vaccines
- Data from Brazil has, however, raised questions on the efficacy of Sinovac’s vaccine, with a wide range of results reported from its trials in different countries.
- Its efficacy rate was found to be 50.4% in all cases in the Brazil trial including very mild cases, rising to 78% for “mild to severe” cases. Turkey, however, put the figure at 91.25% while Indonesia said it was 65.3% effective.
Sikhs For Justice
Why in News?
- From actors to singers and farm activists to journalists, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has issued summons to over 40 persons in connection with a case registered against the US-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) in mid-December, inviting the ire of farm organisations who claim the government is targeting individuals opposing the three farm laws.
What is the case in which people backing the farm agitation are being summoned by the NIA?
- On December 15, the NIA registered a case in New Delhi under
- Section 120 B (Criminal Conspiracy),
- 124 A (Sedition),
- 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony),
- 153 B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) of Indian Penal Code and under sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
What is Sikhs for Justice?
- Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) formed in 2007, is a US-based group seeking a separate homeland for Sikhs — a “Khalistan” in Punjab.
- SFJ in its London Declaration (in August 2018) had announced to hold the first-ever non-binding referendum among the global Sikh community on the question of secession from India and re-establishing Punjab as an independent country.
What are NIA notices
- NIA has served notices under Section 16 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), meaning they have been summoned as witnesses.
1776 Commission report
Why in News?
- The White House released the 1776 Commission report, just days before president-elect Joe Biden would take his oath in office.
- The initiative, dubbed the ‘1776 Commission’, is an apparent counter to The 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of essays on African American history of the past four centuries, which explores the Black community.
What is The 1619 Project?
- The Project is a special initiative of The New York Times Magazine, launched in 2019 to mark the completion of 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in colonial Virginia’s Jamestown in August 1619.
- The project was initiated by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur Grant-winning journalist.
- The collection aims “to reframe US history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year”.
What is Trump’s 1776 Commission?
- When he set it up, Trump was lagging behind president-elect Biden in polls for the presidential race.
- With this move Trump sought to activate his right-wing supporters by doubling down on what he described as “cancel culture”, “critical race theory” and “revisionist history”.
Bird Flu Virus
Why in News?
- Two different subtypes of the bird flu virus or avian influenza, have been detected in Himachal Pradesh – the H5N1 avian influenza in migratory water birds at Pong Dam Lake and the H5N8 subtype in dead poultry birds found dumped near the Chandigarh-Solan highway.
How many different subtypes or strains of the flu A virus are out there?
- At least 131 different subtypes of influenza A virus have been detected in nature, all but two of which can infect birds.
- The influenza A virus has two proteins on its surface – hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) – both of which have 18 and 11 different subtypes respectively, leading to different combinations such as H3N2 and H7N9.
- There are some strains which only infect birds, while others can infect birds as well as mammals such as pigs, dogs, horses and also humans.
- Wild aquatic birds are the natural hosts for most of these subtypes, but the infection generally does not cause sickness in these birds. Poultry birds such as chickens are more adversely affected.
How many of these strains can infect humans?
- Mostly, humans have only experienced infections by three different H types (H1, H2 and H3), and two different N types (N1 and N2).
- Presently, two subtypes, H1N1 and H3N2, circulate among human beings, causing the seasonal flu epidemics. Since these strains are well adapted to humans, they are referred to as human flu rather than bird flu.
- Whenever a new flu A virus establishes itself in humans, it can cause a pandemic, and four such pandemics have occurred since 1918, including the Spanish flu (H1N1), the 1957-58 Asian flu (H2N2), the 1968 Hong Kong flu (H3N2) and the 2009 swine flu (caused by a newer version of the H1N1).
- Other flu A virus strains typically affect wild birds and poultry, but occasionally infect humans as well, such as the H5N1 strain which has killed hundreds of people in various countries since 1997.
- But it is not known to transmit from human to human, and is primarily is a bird flu virus.
- According to the CDC, the most frequently identified subtypes of bird flu which have caused human infections are those with H5, H7 and H9 proteins, but none of them has so far established a stable lineage among humans.
Why does the flu A virus have so many strains?
- Influenza A virus mutates constantly.
- This is because firstly, it is an RNA virus with a segmented genome, i.e. it has eight separate strands, which makes its copying prone to errors or mutations.
- This ‘antigenic drift’ results in slight but continuous mutations in the surface proteins, which is the reason why flu vaccines have to be updated regularly.
‘Davos Agenda Summit 2021’
Why in News?
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will be among the top world leaders to participate in a five-day online Davos Agenda Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
- The Geneva-based organisation is hosting an online event, named ‘Davos Agenda Summit’ from January 25-29.
- This online summit will witness several heads of state and government deliver special addresses and engage in dialogue with business leaders at the start of a ‘crucial year to rebuild trust’.
- The ‘Davos Agenda’ will also mark the launch of WEF’s ‘Great Reset Initiative” and begin the preparation of the special Annual Meeting in the spring.
- While the WEF annual meeting for 2021 will be held during May 13-16 in Singapore, the high-profile summit will return to Davos in 2022.
- Davos Agenda 2021 will convene under the theme ‘A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust’.
Why in News?
- Flight lieutenant Bhawana Kanth will be a part of the Republic Day parade this year to become the first woman fighter pilot to take part in India’s biggest ceremonial event on January 26.
- Kanth is also one of the first women fighter pilots in the IAF.
- She, along with Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh, was inducted into the IAF as the first women fighter pilots in 2016.
- Ten women have been commissioned as fighter pilots after an experimental scheme for their induction into the IAF’s combat stream was introduced in 2015.
- This year, Rafale fighter jet will also take part in the Republic Day parade for the first time.
- The Indian Air Force has inducted 11 of the 36 Rafale jets ordered by New Delhi at a cost of ₹59,000 crore.
- Seven more fighters have been handed over to India by Dassault but these are being used for training IAF pilots in France. The third batch of three fighter jets is scheduled to land on January 27.
First bird fest at Mahananda
Why in News?
- In a first, a bird festival is being organised at the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary in West Bengal to provide an opportunity to enthusiasts to explore the forest and watch different birds.
- Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is rich in fauna and has more than 300 species of birds.
- The sanctuary has been designated as an ‘important bird area’ due to its critical role in the conservation of birds and their habitat.
Why in News?
- A geographical indication (GI) tag has been sought for one of the costliest mushrooms in the world that grows in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district.
- Locally called Gucchi, or Morel, the mushroom, priced at over ₹20,000 a kg, is a forest produce collected by local farmers and tribals. Last June, saffron from the State had been granted a GI tag.
- The spongy, edible fungus that is said to have medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties is found in the temperate forests of the Doda district.
- The GI recognition could help local farmers get higher prices for their efforts.
- Rajma beans, Gucchi mushrooms and lavender plants grow well in Doda valley due to its climate. The mushroom are collected in March after the snow melts.
- The mushrooms are cherished for their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. They are also considered a rich source of protein;