Current Affairs Jan 21

Ratle Hydro Power Project

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for the investment of Rs.5281.94 crore for 850 MW Ratle Hydro Electric (HE) Project.
  • Located on river Chenab, in Kishtwar district of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • By a new Joint Venture Company (JVC) to be incorporated between National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Ltd (JKSPDC) with equity contribution of 51% and 49% respectively.

Salient Features

  • The Ratle Hydro Electric Project shall be commissioned within a span of 60 months.
  • The Power generated from the Project will help in providing balancing of Grid and will improve the power supply position.

Implementation Strategy

  • Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, to make the Project viable, will extend exemption from levy of Water Usage Charges for 10 years after commissioning of the project, reimbursement of State’s share of GST (i.e. SGST) and waiver of free power to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in a decremental manner.
  • The free power to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be 1% in the 1st year after commissioning of the Project and rising @1% per year to 12% in the 12th year.


  • The construction activities of the Project will result in direct and indirect employment to around 4000 persons and will contribute in overall socio-economic development of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Further, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be benefitted by getting free power and through levy of Water Usage Charges worth Rs.9581 crore from Ratle Hydro Electric Project, during project life cycle of 40 years.


MoU between between India and Uzbekistan

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister was apprised of signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Uzbekistan for cooperation in the field of Solar Energy.
  • The main area of work under is to identify research/demonstration/pilot projects between the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, India and the International Solar Energy Institute (ISEI), Uzbekistan in the following mutually identified areas:
      • Solar Photovoltaic
      • Storage Technologies
      • Transfer of Technology
  • Based on mutual agreement, both parties would work for implementation and deployment of pilot project in International Solar Alliance (ISA) member countries.


Regulatory Compliance Portal

Why in News?

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has launched a regulatory compliance portal that will act as a bridge between citizens, industries and the government to minimize burdensome compliances.
  • It will also act as a first-of-its-kind central online repository of all central and state-level compliances.

How it works?

  • All central ministries/departments and states/UTs would examine laws/ regulations/rules under their purview and implement an action plan to rationalize and simplify all the processes and remove burdensome compliances, decriminalise laws and repeal redundant acts.
  • These details would be captured and tracked on the Regulatory Compliance Portal. I
  • Industry stakeholders from Trade bodies such as CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM would also be able to submit compliances and proposed recommendations.
  • This will be assessed by concerned Government authorities and suitable action would be undertaken to minimize the regulatory compliance burden.


DRDO inks framework MoU with MoRTH

Why in News?

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has entered into a framework memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) to strengthen collaboration in the field of technical exchange and co-operation on sustainable geohazard management.

As per the agreement

  • DRDO and MoRTH will co-operate in various mutually beneficial areas related to geohazard management.
  • The initiative will ensure safety against the adverse effects of landslides and other natural calamities on national highways in the country.

About DGRE

  • DRDO’s Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment (DGRE) is working for the development of critical technologies for enhancing combat effectiveness in various kinds of terrains and avalanches.
  • The expertise of DGRE in mapping, forecasting, control and mitigation of landslides and avalanches in Himalayan terrain will be utilized for designing national highways including tunnels.
  • Terrain and modelling simulation is an important asset with DGRE, which will play an important role in planning and building robust road infrastructure in difficult terrains.


About MoRTH

  • MoRTH is responsible for development & maintenance of National Highways across the country.
  • It has been agreed that the expertise of DRDO will be utilized in providing sustainable mitigation measures to damages caused by landslides, avalanche and other natural factors on various National Highways in the Country.
  • Some of the areas identified for collaboration include detailed investigation of the critical avalanches/geo hazards, planning, designing and formulation of sustainable mitigation measures for geo-hazards on national highways including tunnels, monitoring and supervision of mitigation measures etc.


“Netaji Express”

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Railways has rechristened the name of Train No. 12311/12312 Howrah-Kalka Mail as “Netaji Express”.
  • It is noteworthy that Howrah -Kalka Mail is a very popular and one of the oldest trains of Indian Railways.
  • The Howrah-Kalka Mail is running between Howrah (Eastern Railway) and Kalka (Northern Railway) via Delhi.




Gold Microstructure Substrate with Tunable Wettability

Why in News?

  • Scientists have developed a gold microstructure substrate with the ability to repel water as well as bubbles with tunable wettability, which can be used in designing microfluidic devices, biosensors and useful in water transportation and self-cleaning.


  • Wettability, or the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface, is an important property in surface and interface science.
  • Its influence is seen in many biochemical processes, sensing, microfluidics, water transportation, self-cleaning, industrial processes.
  • The tunable wettability results from tunability in surface energy of the substrate, which can be utilized to regulate the direction of flow in water transportation and self-cleaning applications.
  • According to the recent work published in ‘Journal of Applied Physics’, Dr. P. Viswanath and his group from the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), have developed a substrate exhibiting morphological gradient that helps one to tune the wettability because of surface energy change.
  • The morphological gradient in the substrate ranges from domes to elliptical holes.
  • Water and oil wetting studies at each position on the substrate revealed that wetting is tunable with morphology.
  • The substrate showed hydrophobic nature, which gets magnified when coated with a self-assembled monolayer of octadecane thiol – a water-soluble sulfur compound with a carbon alkyl chain.
  • The coating results in a reduction in surface energy, which in turn facilitates an enhancement in hydrophobic behaviour.
  • Underwater wettability investigations on the substrate showed that it mainly repelled bubbles and when functionalised with coating of octadecanethiol, it repels mainly oil.
  • These studies would be useful in designing microfluidic devices, biosensors, and water transportation.


Alternative Anti-cancer Therapy

Why in News?

  • Scientists are exploring an alternative anti-cancer therapy that involves targeting tumor generated the formation of new blood vessels which allow the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues, technically called angiogenesis.


  • It is critical in the growth of cancer because tumors need blood supply to grow.
  • Tumors trigger the growth of blood cells by giving off chemical signals that stimulate angiogenesis.
  • Deregulation of angiogenesis is the main reason for tumor growth and progression.
  • Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis has become a popular anti-cancer strategy after chemotherapy.
  • However, the clinically approved anti-angiogenic drugs are ineffective due to parallel activation of various compensatory mechanisms involving a cascade of molecules, which aids tumor angiogenesis and investigation of these mechanisms are essential for developing anti-angiogenic therapies.

Dr. Vimalraj Selvaraj

  • A recipient of the INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship, is exploring the role of compensatory angiogenesis signaling cues as key targets for cancer therapy.
  • He has already found that nitric oxide (NO) plays a key role in switching off angiogenesis under tumor microenvironment and that the melatonin hormone suppresses tumor angiogenesis.
  • The research published has shown that compensatory mechanisms could be a potential therapeutic target for developing effective anti-cancer treatment regimes.
  • Researcher team is further working to develop transgenic zebrafish (which have exogenous genes added to their genome) model by use of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool to further study the compensatory angiogenesis mechanism in tumor microenvironment.
  • Differential expression of biomolecules between two types of angiogenesis (sprouting angiogenesis and intussusceptive angiogenesis ) and their molecular mechanism will be analysed using transgenic zebrafish models in tumor microenvironment.
  • The transgenic zebrafish model has been selected for the intussusceptive angiogenesis study because of its rapid development, optically transparent, high yield in offspring, and easy techniques for forward and reverse gene manipulation.
  • The CRISPR/Cas9 edited zebrafish platform will also be used for studying the efficacy of a drug as anti or pro-angiogenesis in the next phase of the project.




‘Chintan Baithak’

Why in News?

  • Minister of Ports,Shipping and Waterways (I/C) will chair three-day Ports Review Meeting named ‘Chintan Baithak’ at Dhordo, Kutch,Gujarat.

What it Includes?

  • The Chintan Baithak will include sessions on exploring new vistas of urban transportation, effective implementation of SAROD-Ports and issues related to International Arbitrations.
  • The future action plan for development of satellite ports by all major ports will be deliberated upon.


  • The basic purpose of holding this Chintan Baithak is to evolve out of the box ideas for improving the performance and efficiency of our Major Ports, setting up of world-class infrastructure facilities at ports by adopting global benchmarks for reducing logistics costs, enhancing connectivity and Ease Of Doing Business.


India Innovation Index

Why in News?

  • NITI Aayog, along with the Institute for Competitiveness, released the second edition of the India Innovation Index.
  • The report examines the innovation capabilities and performance of the states and union territories. The first edition of the index was launched in October 2019.


  • Karnataka has maintained its top position among the major states category.
  • Maharashtra has leapfrogged over Tamil Nadu to occupy the second place followed by Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
  • Overall, Delhi retained its first rank, while Chandigarh made a big leap since 2019 and landed in the second place this year.
  • Under the ‘North-Eastern/Hill States’ category, Himachal Pradesh moved up from the second position to emerge as the top ranker this year, while 2019’s top performer (in this category), Sikkim, slipped down to the fourth position.
  • The second edition of the index will allow states to continue to evaluate their innovation environment and assess their progress.
  • The division of innovation into two dimensions, namely innovation capabilities (Enablers) and innovation outcomes (Performance) will give the states a better perspective for identifying the critical focus areas.


  • The innovation inputs were measured through five enabler parameters, and the output through two performance parameters.
  • While ‘Human Capital’, ‘Investment’, ‘Knowledge Workers’, ‘Business Environment’, ‘Safety and Legal Environment’ were identified as enabler parameters, ‘Knowledge Output’ and ‘Knowledge Diffusion’ were chosen as the performance parameters.


India, Singapore sign pact

Why in News?

  • India and Singapore signed the implementing agreement on submarine rescue support and cooperation between the two Navies. This was signed at the 5th Defence Ministers dialogue.
  • Both sides reviewed the progress of various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives being pursued over the last year and expressed commitment to further elevate the scale of engagements between the armed forces as well as in areas of defence technology and industry.
  • The two Ministers also discussed the efforts of both countries in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of the Armed Forces in the mitigation measures.


Rice Attributes that Improve Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Why in News?

  • A team of scientists reports physical attributes and genes that help identify which types of rice use nitrogen efficiently.


  • Such knowledge could help farmers use nitrogenous fertilizers efficiently, save costs, as well as limit nitrogen-linked pollution, which contributes to climate change.


  • N-use-efficient (NUE) cultivars tend to be slow in germination and flowering, grow tall and deep with higher biomass and take longer duration to harvest but yield more with lesser N input. They also reported 34 genes associated with NUE for potential crop improvement.
  • Findings in rice will also be relevant to other cereals and possibly other crops, though they need to be validated.
  • The Indian government’s subsidy on N-fertilizer (mainly urea) is over ₹ 50,000 crore per annum. The farmer pays only a quarter of the market price of urea and harvests a similar proportion of it into grain, at a NUE of 25-30%. The rest of it is lost as N-pollution.
  • According to the Indian Nitrogen Assessment (2017), agriculture accounts for over 70% of all nitrous oxide emission in the Indian environment, out of which 77% is contributed by fertilizers, mostly urea. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It has replaced methane as the second largest GHG emission from Indian agriculture over the last 15 years. Cereals account for over 69% of the total consumption of N fertilizers in India, with rice topping the list at 37%, followed by wheat (24%). Hence their importance as target crop for NUE in India and in many parts of the world.

Indian Govt

  • The Indian government’s subsidy on N-fertilizer (mainly urea) is over ₹ 50,000 crore per annum. The farmer pays only a quarter of the market price of urea and harvests a similar proportion of it into grain, at a NUE of 25-30%. The rest of it is lost as N-pollution.

According to the Indian Nitrogen Assessment (2017)

  • Agriculture accounts for over 70% of all nitrous oxide emission in the Indian environment, out of which 77% is contributed by fertilizers, mostly urea.
  • Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
  • It has replaced methane as the second largest GHG emission from Indian agriculture over the last 15 years.
  • Cereals account for over 69% of the total consumption of N fertilizers in India, with rice topping the list at 37%, followed by wheat (24%).
  • Hence their importance as target crop for NUE in India and in many parts of the world.


American Dragon Fruit

Why in News?

  • Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the state government has proposed to rename dragon fruit as ‘Kamalam’ and patent it.
  • As it has the shape of the lotus flower.

Where is dragon fruit cultivated in India?

  • Dragon fruit is a wild fruit-bearing cactus species native to the Americas where it is called pitahaya.
  • The pulpy fruits, which come in varieties like pink and yellow, was introduced to India in 1990s and has been growing in popularity due to its taste and nutrition value.
  • Also, dragon fruit cultivation requires least irrigation and the crop can be grown in almost all types of land.
  • Therefore, farmers in states like Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh as well as Andaman and Nicobar have taken up large scale cultivation.
  • However, India still imports the fruit from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka etc to meet its domestic demand.

What is the controversy surrounding the name?

  • Kamalam, coincidentally, is also the name of headquarters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Koba in Gandhinagar.



Trans Europe Express

Why in News?

  • The resurrection of a 1960s network of direct rail routes between major European capitals known as the Trans Europe Express is key to achieving carbon neutrality in the EU by 2050, according to a report funded by the German government.
  • Due in large part to the growth of short-haul flights, 149 of the 365 cross-border rail links that once existed in Europe were non-operational in 2018, with rail now accounting for only 8% of all passenger travel in EU member states.
  • The joint report from environmental organisations in Germany, Poland, Spain and France, and financed by the German environment ministry, says direct connections between capitals such as Paris and Berlin could make a major contribution to reducing carbon emissions.


Batteries with Five-minute Charging Times

Why in News?

  • Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced in a factory for the first time, marking a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles.
  • Electric vehicles are a vital part of action to tackle the climate crisis but running out of charge during a journey is a worry for drivers. The new lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines.
  • Using available charging infrastructure, StoreDot is aiming to deliver 100 miles of charge to a car battery in five minutes in 2025.


  • Existing Li-ion batteries use graphite as one electrode, into which the lithium ions are pushed to store charge. But when these are rapidly charged, the ions get congested and can turn into metal and short circuit the battery.
  • The StoreDot battery replaces graphite with semiconductor nanoparticles into which ions can pass more quickly and easily.
  • These nanoparticles are currently based on germanium, which is water soluble and easier to handle in manufacturing.
  • But StoreDot’s plan is to use silicon, which is much cheaper, and it expects these prototypes later this year.


Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs)

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has retained State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as domestic systemically important banks (D-SIBs) or banks that are considered as “too big to fail”.
  • The D-SIB framework requires the Reserve Bank to disclose the names of banks designated as D-SIBs starting from 2015 and place these banks in appropriate buckets depending upon their systemic importance scores (SISs).
  • “Based on the bucket in which a D-SIB is placed, an additional common equity requirement has to be applied to it.
  • In case a foreign bank having branch presence in India is a global systemically important bank (G-SIB), it has to maintain additional Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital surcharge in India as applicable to it as a G-SIB,
      • proportionate to its risk weighted assets (RWAs) in India —
      • Additional CET1 buffer prescribed by the home regulator multiplied by India RWA as per consolidated global group books divided by total consolidated global group RWA.


Monarch butterfly

Why in News?

  • The number of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast has plummeted precipitously to a record low, putting the orange-and-black insects closer to extinction.

Massive Decline

  • An annual winter count by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decline from the tens of thousands tallied in recent years and the millions that clustered in trees from Northern California’s Marin County to San Diego County in the south in the 1980s.


  • Western monarch butterflies head south from the Pacific Northwest to California each winter, returning to the same places and even the same trees, where they cluster to keep warm.
  • The monarchs generally arrive in California at the beginning of November and spread across the country once warmer weather arrives in March.
  • On the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, another monarch population travels from southern Canada and the northeastern United States across thousands of miles to spend the winter in central Mexico.
  • Scientists estimate the monarch population in the eastern U.S. has fallen about 80 percent since the mid-1990s, but the drop-off in the western U.S. has been even steeper.

The Xerces Society

  • A nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey last winter.
  • That was not much different than the tally the winter before, when an all-time low of 27,000 monarchs were counted.

Reason for Population Decline

  • Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in western states because of destruction to their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases.
  • Along with farming, climate change is one of the main drivers of the monarch’s threatened extinction, disrupting an annual 3,000-mile (4,828-kilometer) migration synched to springtime and the blossoming of wildflowers.
  • Massive wildfires throughout the U.S. West last year may have influenced their breeding and migration

Why PFAS Chemicals Resist Remediation

Why in News?

  • New research suggests why these ‘forever chemicals’—so called because they can persist in the environment for decades—are so difficult to permanently remove and offers new avenues for better remediation practices.

About PFAS

  • The synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found in soil and groundwater where they have accumulated, posing risks to human health ranging from respiratory problems to cancer.
  • The work focused on the interactions sparked when firefighters use firefighting foam, which contains PFAS, to combat fires involving jet fuel, diesel or other hydrocarbon-based fuels. Firefighter training sites are well-documented sources of PFAS pollution.
  • The interactions form a viscous water-in-oil microemulsion, which chemical analysis determined retains a high level of the PFAS.
  • Unlike many emulsions of oil and liquid, which separate into their component parts over time, these microemulsions—comprised of liquids from the firefighting foam and the hydrocarbon-based fuel—retain their composition.
  • It behaves like a separate phase: the water phase, oil phase and the microemulsion phase. And the microemulsion phase encapsulates these PFAS.
  • Produced during the post-World War II chemical boom, PFAS are found in consumer products ranging from anti-stain treatments to Teflon and microwave popcorn bags, in addition to firefighting foam.
  • They were prized because they resist heat, oil and water—traditional methods of removing or breaking down chemicals—as a result of the strong bond between the carbon and fluorine atoms that make up PFAS molecules.


Seagrass ‘Neptune Balls’ Bundle Plastic Waste

  • Every year, an estimated eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans, threatening the lives of fish, seabirds and marine mammals.
  • Now, a new study suggests that the key to clearing our oceans of plastic may lie in seagrass.
  • Seagrass forms so-called ‘Neptune balls’ – oval orbs made from the base of leaves that have been shredded and intertwine into a ball.
  • These Neptune balls collect plastic as they form, before carrying the rubbish to shore.
  • The new study estimates that Neptune balls sieve over 867 million pieces of plastic from the oceans every year.
  • Global losses of the plant – due to development, pollution and invasive species – are estimated at seven per cent a year since 1990.
  • There is also evidence that part of the plastics lying on the shallow seafloor are washed up back to the shoreline.
  • Seagrass meadows promote plastic debris trapping and aggregation with natural fibres, which are then ejected and escape the coastal ocean.
  • ‘Seagrasses, one of the key ecosystems on Earth in terms of provision of goods and services, also counteract marine plastic pollution.
  • They were found to hold sand and sediment in place around the Caribbean Sea and Mexico.
  • They provide important ecosystem services and benefits, such as water quality improvement, CO2 absorption, climate change mitigation, sediment production for seafloor and beach stabilisation, coastal protection, nursery and refuge areas for many species and support in fisheries production.’
  • Seagrass areas in the Mediterranean Sea have decreased by 13 to 50 per cent since 1960.

Daily Mail

Right to Vote in UNGA

Why in News?

  • Iran and six other nations lost their right to vote in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) because they have not paid their dues.
  • The other countries losing their UNGA voting rights are Niger, Libya, the Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.
  • Three more countries – Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia – will be allowed to continue to vote despite missing dues payments, because they sufficiently demonstrated that they are incapable of paying.
  • Under the article, a member-state in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions of two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly.

Business Standard

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