Current Affairs Jan 5

National Metrology Conclave

Prime Minister said

  • India is not looking to fill the world with Indian products but ensure customer satisfaction across the globe.
  • Dedicating the national atomic timescale and Bhartiya Nirdeshak Dravya Pranali (Certified Indian Reference Material programme) to the nation and laying the foundation stone for National Environmental Standards Laboratory..
  • Indian scientists have successfully made two Covid-19 vaccines in India in this New Year and the world’s largest Covid vaccination programme is about to start here.
  • Speaking on the certified Indian reference materials programme of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, remarked the programme will help the industry make good quality products in sectors like heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and textiles by drafting a reference material system.
  • Industry is moving towards a consumer-oriented approach instead of the regulation centric-approach. With these new standards, there is a campaign to bring global identity to local products in districts across the country, which will be of particular benefit to our MSME sector.
  • This will also help the large foreign manufacturing companies coming to India to find a local supply chain.
  • Certified reference materials (CRM) are used for the calibration of measuring apparatus, for the evaluation of measurement procedures and for the internal or external quality control of measurements and laboratories. CSIR-NPL has initiated CRM production under “Make in India”.
  • With the atomic time scale, the Indian Standard Time achieve an accuracy level of 2.9 nanoseconds.
  • CSIR-NPL is now working on synchronising all the clocks in the nation to IST for securing digital infrastructure and reducing cybercrime. It is providing IST traceability to ISRO timing centres in Bengaluru and Lucknow for the NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) programme.
  • Now Indian Standard Time is matching the International Standard Time with the accuracy range of less than 3 nanoseconds. This will benefit organisations like Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), banking, railways, defence, health, telecom, weather forecast, disaster management and similar sectors.
  • Also laid the foundation stone for the National Environmental Standards Laboratory under CSIR.
  • India is moving towards a leading position in the field of environment. Still, for technology and tools for measuring air quality and emission, India is dependent on others. This achievement will lead to self-reliance in the field and will lead to creation of more effective and cheaper tools for pollution control.
  • This will also enhance India’s share in the global market for technologies related to air quality and emission technology.





Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica

Why in News?

  • India launched the 40th scientific expedition to Antarctica.
  • The 40th expedition journey will be flagged off from Goa.
  • The chartered ice-class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin will make this journey and will reach Antarctica in 30 days.
  • After leaving behind a team of 40 members, it would return to India in April 2021.


  • To support the ongoing scientific projects on climate change, geology, ocean observations, electric and magnetic flux measurements, environmental monitoring; resupplying of food, fuel, provisions and spare and accomplishing the return of the winter crew.

About Indian Antarctic expeditions

  • It began in 1981. The first trip comprised of a team of 21 scientists and support staff led by Dr SZ Qasim.
  • The Indian Antarctic programme has now credited to have built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica—named Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati.
  • As of today, India has two operational research stations in Antarctica named Maitri and Bharati.
  • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, manages the entire Indian Antarctic program.



Power Distribution System in Bengaluru

Why in News?

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $100 million loan to modernise and upgrade the power distribution system to enhance the quality and reliability of electricity supply in Bengaluru city in the state of Karnataka.

Other Pacts signed

  • Beside the $100 million sovereign loan, ADB will provide a $90 million without sovereign guarantee loan for the project to Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM), one of five state-owned distribution utilities in Karnataka.


  • Conversion of overhead distribution lines into underground cables will help build an energy-efficient distribution network, reduce technical and commercial losses and minimize electricity outage resulting from natural hazards such as cyclones and external disturbances to overhead lines.
  • The project demonstrates an innovative financing arrangement, the first of its kind for ADB, by combining sovereign and non-sovereign loans for a state government-owned enterprise.
  • This is intended to significantly reduce the sovereign exposure and help BESCOM move towards a market-based approach for raising funds for capital expenditure.




Sagarmala Seaplane Services (SSPS)

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways to initiate Seaplane services on select routes through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) involving airline operators.
  • The project execution and implementation will be through Sagarmala Development Company Ltd (SDCL), which is under the administrative control of the Ministry.



  • The proposed origin-destination pairs under hub-and-spoke model include various islands of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep, Guwahati Riverfront and Umranso Reservoir in Assam, Yamuna Riverfront / Delhi (as Hub) to Ayodhaya, Tehri, Srinagar (Uttarakhand), Chandigarh and other tourist places of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh;
  • Mumbai (as Hub) to Shirdi, Lonavala, Ganpatipule;
  • Surat (as Hub) to Dwarka, Mandvi and Kandla;
  • Khindsi Dam, Nagpur and Erai Dam, Chandrapur (in Maharashtra) and/or any other hub and spoke suggested by the operator
  • One such Seaplane Service is already in operation between Kevadia and Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad.
  • The joint development and operation of “Sagarmala Seaplane Services (SSPS)” will be undertaken by forming a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with SDCL.



Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram

Why in News?

  • Continuing its mission to improve the livelihoods of the tribals(both forest dwellers and artisans) and work towards tribal empowerment,
  • TRIFED under Ministry of Tribal Affairs has decided to explore a convergence and build a partnership with Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, a pioneering organization that has been working for the welfare of tribals in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand since 1952.
  • In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was exchanged between the two organisations to work together for setting up of TRIFOOD Parks in 5 districts in Madhya Pradesh.


  • The two organisations will work together by undertaking various initiatives all aimed at improving the livelihood of tribal people and implementation of the Van Dhan Yojana
  • Through the mobilization of Self Help Groups (SHGs) / Van Dhan Vikas Kendra (VDVKs) / VPCs / TRIFOOD Parks.


  • With TRIFED as the mentoring organization, it has been agreed that Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram would form new Van Dhan Kendras in tribal areas by identifying SHGs, organize training, building infrastructure, provide machinery and equipment and other support.
  • Among other scope of activities, Kalyan Ashram will include other areas, viz agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry, handlooms, crafts to keep the operations running year-long and make the Van Dhan scheme all-inclusive and viable.



Can Spiders Weave Webs Without Gravity?

Why in News?

  • About 400 km above Earth, the International Space Station has housed not just humans but various critters including frogs, snails, ants, mice, swarms of flies, and over a million microbes.
  • Spiders were sent into space for the first time in July 1973.
  • Two European garden spiders (Araneus diadematus) were sent to the then U.S space station called Skylab to see if they could build webs in zero gravity. And they could.
  • The researchers found that the webs were irregularly shaped. But they couldn’t conclude if lack of gravity or lack of food and moisture made them build deformed webs.

Recent Study

  • The webs built by spiders in space were quite symmetric. But when the light was on, they built asymmetric webs with the centre near the light source.
  • Since in normal gravity, and no matter whether the lights were on or not, spiders consistently built asymmetric webs and consistently faced downwards…we conclude that gravity is the most relevant orientation guide for spiders.
  • Based on the observations of experiments, researchers further conclude that the visual stimulus of the direction of light can serve as an orientation guide in the absence of gravity.



COVID-19 Vaccine Dry Run

Why in News?

  • With two vaccine candidates — Covishield from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech — at final stages of emergency use authorisation (EUA) in India, several States and Union Territories conducted a dry run for a COVID-19 vaccination programme.
  • Four States — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Punjab — had done a pilot dry run and the Health Ministry said no major issues were observed in the operational aspects.

Why was it necessary?

  • Under India’s ‘Expanded Programme on Immunization’, which was initiated in 1978, the country has gathered experience in administering essential vaccines to children and pregnant women.
  • In 1985, the programme was renamed ‘Universal Immunisation Programme’, under which about 12 different vaccines are provided through the government health system.
  • Other than inoculation, there is a three-tier system at the district, State and national levels to monitor coverage and adverse events and to ensure that the vaccines adhere to quality norms.
  • Roughly 9 million immunisation sessions are conducted annually in India, according to the UNICEF. Despite that, only about 60% of eligible children are fully immunised, with wide variations among States.
  • India’s priority list of beneficiaries includes healthcare workers, municipal workers, police personnel, those over 50 years of age, and younger people with identified co-morbidities.
  • This, the government has calculated, works out to 300 million people, and given the pace of vaccine production and administration, it will be August till all on the priority list are inoculated.
  • With at least two vaccines on the EUA list, the whole exercise involves an unprecedented level of digitisation.
  • A Health Ministry document notes that the purpose of the dry run was to “assess operational feasibility of using the Co-WIN application in a field environment, to test the linkages between planning, implementation and to identify the challenges and guide the way forward prior to actual implementation. This is also expected to give confidence to programme managers at various levels”.

How was it organised?

  • The dry run was carried out in one or two districts of the States and sessions were organised at district hospitals or medical colleges, community or primary healthcare centres, private health facilities, and at outreach sites in urban and rural areas.
  • The dry run tested all the key steps in the COVID-19 vaccination process in a field environment.
  • The programme involved State administrators generating a ‘user ID’.
  • These ‘IDs’ were sent as a phone message to 25 volunteers at each session site.
  • There are five such sites in each district.
  • Each site is manned by a medical officer, who is entrusted with ensuring that these groups of 25 people are inoculated.
  • Though no actual shots were administered, details of every person who is to get the jab are being punched into the Co-WIN application, which is part of the database that will keep track of every inoculation.



Republic Day parade

Why in News?

  • A 122 member triservice contingent of the Bangladesh armed forces will participate in the Republic Day parade this year.

Why Bangladesh?

  • This coincides with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh.
  • Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has requested the Bangladesh side to include personnel from the Army Units which took part in the Liberation War, in the visiting contingent.
  • India and Bangladesh have planned a series of events through the year to mark the 50th anniversary.
  • In 2018, the French Army became the first foreign contingent to take part in the Republic Day parade on Rajpath.


Negative Outlook on Aviation Sector

Why in News?

  • Indian carriers will continue to have a poor balance sheet in FY22 despite a likely year-on-year growth of 78% in domestic air passenger traffic and 164% growth in international traffic, ICRA said in a report.
  • If a vaccine is launched earlier [before H2 CY2021] with reasonable availability, domestic air passenger traffic could witness a further upside in FY2022, with an estimated growth of 93%, and international air passenger traffic could witness an estimated growth of 235%.
  • With an improvement in passenger traffic in FY2022, ICRA expects the Indian aviation industry to report a y-o-y growth of 57% in revenues, with the industry’s net loss reducing to ₹146 billion from an estimated net loss of ₹210 billion in FY 2021.


Coronavirus Vaccines

Why in News?

  • Both Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India (SII), which have received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India for manufacturing and distributing their COVID-19 vaccines,
  • Are expected to submit reports every 15 days on adverse events among those vaccinated, if any, for two months.
  • After this, they would have to submit such reports once a month.
  • Both companies have been given approvals for “restricted emergency use” though there are further caveats to Covaxin, the Bharat Biotech product, which restrict it to be provided only in “clinical trial mode”.

About Vaccines

  • SII’s vaccine, Covishield, is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus and developed at the Oxford University. U.K. trials showed a 70.4% efficacy with wide variation across subgroups.
  • Covaxin is a whole inactivated virus, the oldest technology in vaccine development, and current scientific reports suggests that it produced a strong immune response in animals but no data yet suggested its efficacy.
  • The government has justified the approval on the grounds that the vaccine employs a whole inactivated virus and therefore had a better probability of providing protection against mutated strains.
  • However, there is no scientific evidence that a such an approach would confer such wide protection.



Pong Dam Wetland

Why in News?

  • More than, 2,400 birds of different species have been found dead at Pong Lake over the past week.
  • With the number of migratory birds dying at the Pong Dam wetland in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district on the rise for a week.


  • The ICAR-National Institute of High Security Animal Disease has confirmed H5N1 virus as the cause of the fatalities.
  • Wildlife authorities had sent 17 samples to Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, and five samples to the High-Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal, to ascertain the cause of death.
  • Earlier, the initial sample reports received from Veterinary Lab, Palampur and Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Jalandhar also pointed out flu- like symptoms.


  • Most of the fatalities are being seen among bar-headed geese, the world’s highest-flying birds that migrate from far-off Siberia and Mongolia.
  • Birds from other species such as the common teal, shoveler, river tern and black-headed gull were also found dead.

About Pong Dam Wetland

  • The Pong Dam Wetland — an international Ramsar site — hosts more than 1 lakh migratory birds of 100 species that fly thousands of kilometres from Mongolia, Siberia, trans-Himalayan region and Central Asia in winter every year.
  • The Pong Dam Lake, constructed on the Beas River in 1960, was declared a bird sanctuary in 1983 and given the status of the wetland of national importance in 1994. In 2002, it got the status of a Ramsar site.
  • Last winter, 1.15 lakh birds of 114 species were spotted on the wetland. The bar-headed geese are most plentiful in Pong.
  • Other prominent avian visitors include the northern pintail, Eurasian coot, common teal, common pochard, northern shoveler, the great cormorant, Eurasian pigeon and the ruddy shelduck.
  • The fortnightly census conducted on December 15, 2020, recorded around 57,000 migratory birds. Since 1988, as many as 425 bird species have been sighted in Pong wetland.



Raining Over North India

Why in News?

  • North and Northwest India – which was reeling under a severe cold wave during the last ten days of 2020.
  • After such a biting cold, many places in the North welcomed the New Year’s first week with light rain in the plains, and heavy snowfall reported along the hills.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) identifies January and February as the winter months over the country. Except for the southern peninsular regions, winter is experienced over all the rest regions of the country starting mid-December.

How severe did the cold day and cold wave conditions get?

  • Cold day is declared when the maximum temperatures recorded over a place falls below 16 degrees, in the plains.
  • The IMD declares a cold wave, when the minimum temperatures show a departure of 5 to 6 degrees from normal. This also holds true, when the temperatures fall below 0 degrees, anywhere.
  • A fall in minimum temperature below 7 degrees from normal is declared as a severe cold wave condition.
  • A transition in the weather over North India began after December 20.
  • Two consecutive western disturbances crossed the extremely northern regions of India between December 24 – 29, leading to severe cold wave conditions.
  • Shift from extreme cold to wet weather was mainly due to the interaction between the south-westerly winds and the prevailing western disturbances.
  • Soon after the passing of the prevailing western disturbances, clear sky conditions would return and lead to normal solar heating. This will allow cold northerly winds to set in over North India, as a result, Rajasthan, Haryana Punjab are set to experience cold to severe cold wave conditions after January 7.



South Korea’s falling population

Why in News?

  • For the first time in history, the number of deaths recorded in South Korea over the past year exceeded births, causing the country’s population to decline.
  • In 2020, around 3.07 lakh people died in South Korea, and only 2.75 lakh babies were born. The number of new births fell by 10 per cent from 2019.

Why is South Korea’s population declining?

  • South Korea, a highly industrialised nation, already has the world’s lowest birth rate at 0.92 as of 2019; the number representing the average number of children a woman has.
  • This figure is substantially lower than the fertility rate of 2.1 required for replacement of the existing population.
  • Some of the reasons believed to be behind the low rate birth rate in South Korea include reluctance to opt for maternity leave, as well as high real estate prices, which dissuade young couples from buying a house and starting a family.

What is the government doing to address this?

  • In December, President Moon Jae-in announced policies such as giving cash incentives for families.
  • The scheme, which starts in 2022, will provide a one-off payment of 2 million won (around Rs 1.35 lakh) for each child born, to help cover parental costs.
  • Until the baby turns one, the government will pay an additional 300,000 won (around Rs 20,000) every month. After 2025, the incentive will be raised to 500,000 won (around Rs 34,000).

Is a dwindling population always undesirable?

  • When the young population in a country declines, it creates labour shortages, which have a major detrimental impact on the economy.
  • More older people also means that demands for healthcare and pensions can soar, burdening the country’s social spending system further when fewer people are working and contributing to it.
  • On the flip side, low birth rates can improve the standard of living in low-income countries. In such countries, fewer children being born would mean they would enjoy greater access to already deficient public services such as health and education.
  • Also, an increasing number of experts are dismissing the notion that more number of aged people would cause healthcare costs to shoot up. This is because, around the world, not just life expectancy, but “healthy life expectancy” has risen.
  • This means that on average, people would be spending more years in good health than ever before.
  • Another effect of a declining population is that it would provide an impetus to migration.
  • As nations with falling numbers of young people would experience labour shortages, they would have to open up borders and allow more immigrants to come in and work, thus causing their society to become more cosmopolitan.

Is the world’s population expected to fall?

  • In July 2020, a Lancet analysis said that the world population will peak at 973 crore people in 2064, and will decline from this peak to 879 crore in 2100.
  • In India, the population is expected to reach a peak of 160 crore in 2048, up from 138 crore in 2017, and will decline by 32 per cent to 109 crore in 2100.
  • In the study, the global total fertility rate (TFR) is predicted to steadily decline from 2.37 in 2017 to 1.66 in 2100. The TFR is projected to fall below 2.1 in 183 countries.
  • In 23 countries including Japan, Thailand, Italy and Spain, it is projected to shrink by more than 50%.
  • In India, the TFR is projected to continue a steep decline until about 2040, reaching 1.29 in 2100.


UK in Space Sector

  • In 1969, a British engineer Francis Thomas Bacon invited to USA and he had developed the fuel cells used on Apollo 11.
  • Known now as Bacon fuel cells, these power sources consume hydrogen and oxygen to produce water, heat and, in theory, a continuous supply of electricity.
  • The UK was the world’s third ever space-faring nation, after the USSR and US.
  • While the UK has much expertise in developing and producing satellites, it has less experience launching them. Britain has not independently launched a satellite of its own since 1971. Only 5% of the 2,600 satellites in orbit today are registered to the UK.
  • Yet over the last decade, space has proved to be one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors. It has trebled in size since 2010.
  • The UK’s ongoing membership of the European Space Agency (Esa) will not be affected by Brexit. Esa is not an EU institution.
  • But the UK’s departure from the EU will impact to varying degrees the UK’s involvement in European space programmes. These include the satellite navigation programme Galileo, Copernicus Earth Observation and the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme.
  • Recently, the government gave the green light for Lockheed Martin to transfer its small satellite launch operations to the Shetland Space Centre on the Scottish island of Unst.
  • The Shetlands have a number of qualities that make them ideal for getting to space.
  • Their northern latitude provides easy access to polar orbits, good for low earth, small satellites. And their remoteness allows launches to be directed over the sea, away from heavily populated areas.


Falling Humidity in Global Cities

Why in News?

  • Urban regions around the world are likely to see a near-universal decrease in humidity as the climate changes, a study has found.


  • The research suggests that building green infrastructure and increasing urban vegetation might be a safe bet for cities looking to mitigate against rising temperatures.
  • Half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, but cities only account for about 3% of global land surface.
  • Although cities occupy such a small area, that’s where a lot of the human impact [of global warming] takes place.
  • So we closed this gap by providing multi-model climate projections which are specific to urban areas.
  • Scientists and urban planners have known for a long time that temperatures in cities are higher than in rural areas.
  • Infrastructure such as dark asphalt and concrete surfaces absorb more solar radiation, while reduced tree coverage contributes to what is called the “urban heat island effect”.
  • This means that temperatures in cities can be up to 5C (9F) warmer than in the surrounding rural areas.

Urban and rural climates differ in more ways

  • The urban heat island is one of the reasons why urban warming signal is different from other landscapes.
  • But it’s not just temperature, it is also humidity. A lot of urban climate variables are different from other landscapes.
  • The model predicts that green infrastructure would be a good investment for nearly all cities.
  • Trees and vegetation help to reduce temperature by releasing water into the atmosphere, which cools down the air. This was seen as having a limited effect in places which are already humid, but the new model predicts that air in most non-coastal cities will become drier in the next century.
  • This would make surface evaporation more efficient, meaning increased levels of urban vegetation would be more effective at fighting global heating.

The Guardian

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