49th Statehood Day
Why in News?
- January 21, 2021 marks the 49th statehood day of northeastern states Manipur, Tripura, and Meghalaya.
- Tripura and Manipur, the former princely states were blended into the Indian Union in October 1949 and became full states on January 21, 1972.
- Meghalaya, which was part of Assam, also received its own full statehood under the North Eastern Region (Re-Organisation) Act, 1971.
- Before the northeastern region turned into seven sisters with statehood of Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, the regional composition of the North East comprised Assam plains from the old Assam Province, the hill districts, and the North Eastern Frontier Tracts (NEFT) of the North-Eastern borderland.
- Soon after independence in 1947, the princely states of Manipur and Tripura got their own statehood based on the tribal and ethnic population in the region.
- Manipur and Tripura states were granted the status of Union Territories in 1949.
- Meanwhile, Nagaland was granted statehood on December 1, 1963.
- Within Assam, Meghalaya was given the status of an autonomous state through the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act 1969, according to the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution.
- It was finally, in 1972 that Tripura, Meghalaya were granted full statehood by the North East Reorganisation Act of 1971.
- Tripura shares its border with Bangladesh to the north, south and west and borders the states of Assam and Mizoram to the east. The Hindu Bengali population form the ethno-linguistic majority in the state.
- Meghalaya is the wettest region of India and shares its border to the south by the Bangladesh divisions of Mymensingh and Sylhet.
- Manipur borders Nagaland in the north, Mizoram in the south, Assam in the west and Myanmar in the east. It is home to the Meitei, Kuki, Naga and Pangal ethnic peoples who speak Sino-Tibetan languages.
“Coal Minister’s Award”
Why in News?
- Union Minister of Coal & Mines presented “Coal Minister’s Award” to three coal companies of Coal India Ltd. – Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL), Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL) and Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL).
- The award has been instituted to promote best and sustainable practices for coal mining in the country.
Why this Award
- CIL arm NCL was conferred upon the award for outstanding performance in coal production & productivity, while its other arms CCL and WCL made it for adopting best safety practices and sustainable mining respectively.
- Also launched ‘Project Passion’–the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) of Coal India Ltd (CIL) which will help improve business performance and growth of the company with enhanced data integrity.
- Inaugurated a new Coal Handling Plant (CHP) at Krishnashila Coal Project of NCL.
Why in News?
- A large scale Joint Military exercise ‘Exercise Kavach’ involving assets of Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard is being conducted in the coming week under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the only Joint Forces Command of the country.
- The exercise involves synergised application of maritime surveillance assets, coordinated air and maritime strikes, air defence, submarine and landing operations.
- The joint force will execute multi-domain, high-intensity offensive and defensive manoeuvres in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
- The tri-services exercise aims to fine tune joint war-fighting capabilities and Standard Operating Procedures towards enhancing operational synergy.
AstroSat’s Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope
Why in News?
- AstroSat’s Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope spots rare ultraviolet-bright stars in a massive intriguing cosmic dinosaur in the Milky Way.
- Astronomers exploring the massive intriguing globular cluster in our Galaxy called NGC 2808 that is said to have at least five generations of stars have spotted rare hot UV-bright stars in it.
- These stars whose inner core is almost exposed, making them very hot, exist in the late stages of evolution of a Sun-like star.
- It is not clear how these stars end their lives as not many of them are detected in these fast-evolving phases, making their study crucial.
- Motivated by the fact that old globular clusters referred to as dinosaurs of the universe present excellent laboratories where astronomers can understand how stars evolve through various phases between their birth and death, scientists at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) looked out for NGC 2808.
- With spectacular ultraviolet images of the cluster from Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) onboard India’s first multi-wavelength space satellite, AstroSat, they distinguished the hot UV-bright stars from the relatively cooler red giant and main-sequence stars which appear dim in these images.
- The team of scientists combined the UVIT data with observations made using other space missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gaia telescope along with ground-based optical observations.
- About 34 UV-bright stars were found to be members of the globular cluster. From the data, the team derived the properties of these stars such as their surface temperatures, luminosities and radii.
- One of the UV-bright stars was found to be about 3000 times brighter than the Sun with a surface temperature of about 100,000 K.
- The properties of these stars were then used to place them on what astronomers call the Hertzsprung-Russel (HR) diagram along with theoretical models to throw light on the characteristics of their parent stars and to predict their future evolution.
- Most of the stars were found to have evolved from a solar stage called the horizontal branch stars with hardly any outer envelope.
- Thus they were bound to skip the last major phase of life called the asymptotic giant phase and directly become dead remnants or white dwarfs.
- Such UV-bright stars are speculated to be the reason for the ultraviolet radiation coming from old stellar systems such as elliptical galaxies which are devoid of young blue stars.
- Hence, it is all the more important to observe more such stars to understand their properties.
Why in News?
- For the first time in its history, the Joynagar moa, a highly popular Bengali sweet that is available only during the winter months, is being exported.
- The first trial shipment reached Bahrain.
- The moa is a popped-rice ball held together with fresh date-palm jaggery, and since its manufacture is mostly confined to the town of Joynagar (near Kolkata), it has earned the Geographical Indication tag of Joynagar Moa.
- Since the sweet is highly perishable — it can hold its taste and texture for only 5-7 days under normal refrigeration.
- The moa is now among the very few agricultural GI-tagged items, such as basmati rice, Darjeeling tea and Alphonso mango, to be exported.
- There’s already demand from Italy, Canada and Dubai.
- The history of moa can be traced back to 1904 and it has always been synonymous with Joynagar even though many other adjoining settlements also specialise in it.
- The sweetmeat is made of aromatic khoi — popped rice — mixed with jaggery, sugar, cashew nuts and raisins.
10% Quota for Economically Weaker Sections
Why in News?
- Telangana Chief Minister announced the State government’s decision to implement 10%reservation for Economically Weaker Sections in education and employment.
- The quota will be implemented for EWS, without any change in the reservation already enjoyed by other sections
- The quota for EWS will take the reservations for various downtrodden sections in the State up to 60%. The State government was already implementing 50% reservations for SCs, STs and BCs.
Why in News?
- The company that manufactured famous scooters like Lambretta and Vijai Super will be shut down after the Cabinet gave its nod to a proposal to close the loss-making state-owned firm.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is believed to have given consent to shutting down of Lucknow-based Scooters India Ltd.
- The Scooters India brand name shall be sold separately as the company holds famous brands such as Lambretta, Vijai Super, Vikram and Lambro, shared an official.
- The company produces several types of three-wheelers under the Vikram brand.
- Scooters India was incorporated in 1972. It was engaged in designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing a broad spectrum of conventional and non-conventional fuel driven three-wheelers.
- In 1975, the company started commercial production of scooters under the Vijai Super brand for the domestic market and Lambretta for the overseas market.
- Later it also introduced three wheelers under the brand name of VIKRAM/LAMBRO.
- In 1975, it started commercial production of scooters under the brand name of Vijay Super for domestic market and Lambretta for overseas market.
- However, in 1997, the company strategically discontinued its two-wheeler production and concentrated only on manufacturing and marketing of three-wheelers.
South African Coronavirus Variant
Why in News?
- A lineage of the novel coronavirus, first reported to have emerged in South Africa, escapes neutralisation by antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients, says a new study which raises questions on the possibility of reinfection by this strain.
- According to the yet-to-be peer reviewed study, the novel lineage of the coronavirus — 501Y.V2 — has mutations in nine parts of its spike protein, which enables it to infect human cells.
According to the scientists,
- V2 shows “substantial or complete escape from neutralizing antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma.”
- The 501Y.V2 lineage, that contains nine spike mutations, and rapidly emerged in South Africa during the second half of 2020, is largely resistant to neutralizing antibodies elicited by infection with previously circulating lineages.
- The findings underscore the prospect of reinfection with such distinct variants of the virus carrying these mutations, and “may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”
- This variant can escape neutralising antibody responses largely due to the presence of two mutations in the spike (S) region — one in the 484th amino acid position and the other in the 417th molecule of the protein.
- The study also notes considerable binding to the 501Y.V2 virus by other non-neutralising antibodies, which the virologist believes can still offer some significant protection against this variant.
- The study also acknowledges that it cannot assess the impact of this virus variant on T-cell responses so some additional defense will arise from this, as well as other naturally existing innate components of the immune system in those infected in addition to any residual vaccine protection.
How the Male Mantis Avoids Being Decapitated After Mating
Why in News?
- Sexual cannibalism — when the female of a species consumes the male during or after mating — is also known among spiders and scorpions.
- 60% of sexual encounters between Springboks — one of nearly 2,000 mantis species across the globe — end in males being eaten as snack.
- Most will sneak up from behind or distract the female with a tasty morsel, the Springbok has an entirely different — and previously unreported — strategy for staying alive.
How it Happen?
- Under threat of cannibalistic attack, males try to subdue females by pinning them down in violent struggles.
- Males who win the lovers’ tussle are far more likely to succeed in consumating the relationship, “which suggests that wrestling is both a mating tactic and a survival tactic.
- The key to victory was striking first.
- If the male was quicker to the draw and grabbed the female with its serrated raptorial forelegs, he stood a 78% chance of escaping unscathed.
- And when, in addition, the male inflicted a serious but non-fatal wound to the abdomen, he kept his head every time.
- If the female grasped first, however, males were always killed and devoured.
- The bright green Springbok mantis, aka Miomantis caffra, is native to southern Africa, but has spread to New Zealand, southern Europe and California, probably through the pet trade.
- The nutrients gained when a female praying mantis eats her suitor benefit her offspring as they grow.
- Typically smaller males do what they can to avoid getting gobbled up, including playing dead.
- But female Springbok mantises have another trick up their spiky sleeve: the ability to reproduce asexually, or without any help from males.
- They can produce clones of themselves if they don’t mate.
China defends new village in Arunachal Pradesh
Why in News?
- China said its construction of a village across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh was “beyond reproach” because it had “never recognised” Arunachal.
- India’s Ministry of External Affairs said earlier that it was aware of the construction “along the LAC”.
- This followed a report showing satellite images of the village, built between November 2019 and November 2020 and located a couple of kilometres across the LAC, beyond what India sees as the border separating Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, on the banks of Tsari Chu river in Upper Subansiri district in Arunachal.
- This area has been under Chinese control since 1959. There are close to two dozen spots along the entire length of the LAC in all sectors where India and China do not agree on its alignment. Indian officials said China had earlier built a permanent construction of military barracks in this area.
- Zangnan [or South Tibet, as China refers to Arunachal].
The site of the village
- It is close to where China had attacked an Assam Rifles post in 1959, in what is known as the Longju incident.
- It is at least 2 km south of the McMahon Line, which China doesn’t recognise. After the 1962 war, India stopped patrolling the area.
- The construction appeared to be part of a programme by China to build what it calls “poverty alleviation” villages. Under the initiative, launched after a Tibet economic work conference in 2015, some 600 villages have been built, of which around 100 are in border areas.
- Another village built last year, called Pangda, was built 2-3 km inside what Bhutan sees as its territory, in another disputed area.
- The new village in Arunachal is around 30 km from another well-known border village called Yumai, which made headlines in China in 2017.
Concept for Airplanes to Combat Air Pollution
- Asthma, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular disorders have a common enemy –nitrogen oxides or NOx. The chemical, emitted by aeroplanes and motor vehicles, pollutes the air.
- Motor vehicles have an emission control system that washes out exhaust gas, limiting NOx in vehicular emission.
- This process could not be replicated in airplanes as the emission control system would interfere with the thrust required to lift off the aircraft.
- The noxious chemical waste from airplanes’ exhaust kills 16,000 people every year globally.
To combat the rising threat
- A team of researchers at MIT have developed a concept hybrid-electric aeroplane propulsion system.
- The team published the details of the design, including analyses of its potential fuel cost and health impacts
- In the hybrid electric system, the gas turbine drives a generator, producing electricity to power aircraft’s wing-mounted, electrically-driven propellers.
- To make this happen, they moved the power-generating gas turbine from the wings and integrated it with the plane’s cargo hold – where the generator is located.
- This design, the team claims, will clean the exhaust before releasing harmful chemical into the atmosphere as it ensures post-combustion emissions pass through the control system.
- The team estimates that the concept would eliminate 95% of aviation’s NOx emissions, and thereby reducing premature deaths by 92%.
- They also calculated that if such a hybrid electric system were to be implemented in a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 aircraft, the extra weight would require about 0.6% more fuel to fly the plane.
SC upholds IBC’s Section 32A
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court recently held that the successful bidders for a corporate debtor under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) would be immune from any investigations being conducted either by any investigating agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or other statutory bodies such as Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
What did the Supreme Court say in its judgment?
- In its judgment, the apex court, while upholding the validity of Section 32 A of IBC, said it was important for the IBC to attract bidders who would offer reasonable and fair value for the corporate debtor to ensure the timely completion of corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP).
- Such bidders, however, must also be granted protection from any misdeeds of the past since they had nothing to do with it.
- Such protection, must also extend to the assets of a corporate debtor, which form a crucial attraction for potential bidders and helps them in assessing and placing a fair bid for the company, which, in turn, will help banks clean up their books of bad loans.
- The protection to successful bidders and the assets of a corporate debtor are provided by the rules under Section 32A of the IBC.
- The apex court has, however, also said that such immunity would be applicable only if there is an approved resolution plan, and a change in the management control of the corporate debtor.
- The new management cannot be the disguised avatar of the old management. It cannot even be the related party of the corporate debtor.
Why is the SC upholding Section 32A important?
- Since the IBC came into being in 2016, the implementation of resolution plan of several big ticket cases has been delayed because of various challenges mounted by its own agencies and regulators.
- With the Supreme Court upholding the validity of Section 32 A, the cases such as that of Bhushan Power are expected to be completed soon.
- Experts also said that this will give confidence to other bidders to proceed with confidence while bidding on such disputed companies and their assets.
Why in News?
- Tripura Chief Minister has of late made it his style statement to sport the Risa, a customary handwoven cloth used by Tripura’s indigenous tribal communities
What is a Risa, and why is it important?
- Risa is one of the three parts of a customary Tripuri female attire, the other two being the Rignai and Rikutu.
- The Risa, which is essentially a customary handwoven cloth, is used as a head gear, stole, female upper cloth or presented to honour a distinguished recipient.
- The Rignai is primarily used to cover lower part of the body and literally translates into ‘to wear’.
- The Rituku covers the upper half of the body, wrapping it all around. However, it is also used like a ‘chunri’ or a ‘pallu’ of the Indian saree. It is also used to cover the head of newly married Tripuri women.
- The Risa plays a host of crucial social utilities.
- Adolescent Tripuri girls are first given risa to wear when she reaches 12-14 years in an event called Risa Sormani.
- The event involves prayers to a Lampra god, where her elder women pray for her wellbeing throughout her life.
- Risa is primarily used as a breast cloth and is wove in different colourful designs.
- However, it is also used in religious festivals like the Garia Puja, a customary festival of the tribal communities, or as a head turban by male folks during weddings and festivals, as a cummerbund over dhoti, head scarf by young girls and boys, muffler during winters.
- The cloth is even used as a makeshift baby carrier on the mother’s back.
- The complete Tripuri attire is claimed to have originated even before the Manikya kings’ rule.
- In the ancient days, they used to judge a woman’s intelligence in these communities by her woven Rignai and Risa designs.
- Though the history is contested, Maharaj Trilochana, aka Subhrai Raja — one of the early Manikya kings — is said to have invented nearly 250 designs of Rignai during his time for his 250 wives. Hundreds of years down the line, the fabric is undergoing rapid changes now, especially due to the fierce competition with power-loom manufactured products available at cheaper rates in the market.
- Risa comes in vivid, multi-coloured designs and the skill is handed down through generations as visual lessons. However, most of the designs were lost with the passage of time and only a few remain now.
Why in News?
- HUGE GAPS in compliance of electronic waste-management rules show authorities’ lack of concern for health of the citizens, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said in a recent order.
- Stating there was a clear governance deficit on the subject, the principal bench of the NGT ordered that scientific disposal of e-waste should be ensured as per rules. The direction was issued to central and all state pollution control boards.
- Environmental crimes are as serious, if not more, as cases of assaults but there is no adequate action… Unfortunately, it appears that violation of environmental law is not the priority. Such neglect can prove very costly.
- In 2018, the environment ministry had told the tribunal that 95 per cent of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector and scrap dealers unscientifically dispose it by burning or dissolving it in acids.
- Data shared by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with the NGT shows India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. Against this, the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 7.82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.
- Gaps in collection targets, as the amount of e-waste collected in 2017-18 was over 25,000 tonnes against a target of 35,000 tonnes. In the following year, the target was 1.54 lakh tonnes against which 78,000 tonnes was collected.
Why in News?
- Pakistan has successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile which can strike targets up to 2,750 km.
- The launch of Shaheen-III missile was “aimed at revalidating various design and technical parameters of weapon system”.
Enrichment Of Light-absorbing Impurities in Snow
Why in News?
- Light-absorbing impurities (LAIs) (such as black carbon, organic carbon, mineral dust, etc.) deposited onto the snow surface can darken the snow and cause decrease in snow surface albedo, resulting in increasing the absorption of solar energy, thereby accelerating snowmelt, shrinking snow cover duration and impacting hydrological cycle.
- However, there is still a lack of understanding of the LAIs concentration, elution and enrichment process in snow cover in the northern Xinjiang.
- Besides, the post-depositional enrichment processes of LAIs in seasonal snow cover and their potential impacts on snow across the northern Xinjiang are still unclear.
- Recently, a research team carried out continuously sampling during two years to investigate the concentrations, impacts and potential sources of LAIs in snow cover at Kuwei Station in the southern Altai Mountains.
- The researchers found that the average concentrations of black carbon, organic carbon and mineral dust in the surface snow dramatically increased along with snowmelt intensified, reflecting a significant enrichment process of LAIs at the snow surface.
- With the simulation of the Snow Ice Aerosol Radiative model, black carbon was the main dominant factor in reducing snow albedo and radiative forcing (RF), its impact was more remarkable during the snowmelt period.
- The average contribution rates of black carbon to snow albedo reduction increased in spring compared with that in winter; meanwhile, the corresponding average RFs also increased.
- Besides, decrease in the number of snowmelt days caused by black carbon and mineral dust together was 3~8 days.
- It indicated that surface enrichment of LAIs during snow melting might accelerate snowmelt further.
- The resident emission was the main potential source of black carbon and organic carbon in snow.
- This implied that the mitigation of accelerating snowmelt needs to mainly reduce resident emission of LAIs in the future.
1.9 billion in Asia-Pacific cannot afford healthy diet
Why in News?
- Around 3 billion people across the world cannot afford a healthy diet and 1.9 billion of them are in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a recent United Nations agencies report.
- The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and surging prices of fruits, vegetables and dairy products have aggravated the crisis for many.
- Of the 1.9 billion people, 1.3 billion live in southern Asia, 230 million in eastern Asia, 325.5 million in south-east Asia and 0.5 million in Oceania.
- A nutritionally adequate diet tends to cost $2 to $3 (Rs 145-220) per day in most countries, rich or poor, but is more expensive in Japan and South Korea.
- The report titled Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020: Maternal and Child Diets at the Heart of Improving Nutrition.
- As a result, progress on food security and nutrition, one of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2030, has slowed.
- More than 350 million people in Asia-Pacific were undernourished in 2019, which is half of the global total.
- About 74.5 million children under-five were stunted (too short for their age) and 31.5 million suffered from wasting (too thin for their height). The majority of these children (55.9 million stunted and 25.2 million wasted) live in southern Asia.
- At the same time, the number of overweight and obesity children increased rapidly, especially in South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific. An estimated 14.5 million children under five were overweight or obese, the study found.
- The study has been jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
- In India, just 42 per cent of children aged 6-23 months are fed the required number of times per day.
- Anaemia in children under five remains a public health challenge in many countries across Asia and the Pacific, despite significant improvements in anaemia status (more than 10 percentage points) in Bhutan, India, Iran, the Maldives, Nepal, Philippines and Vanuatu.
- Often packed with sugar and unhealthy fats, such food items lack the vitamins and minerals required for growth and development and also increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.