Current Affairs Feb 15

World Bank Report

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has said that considering the social cause, automobile manufacturers should provide basic safety in vehicles at a minimum affordable price.
  • Pointing to a recent study which states that if we succeed in preventing deaths in road accidents, we can save around Rs. 90 lakh per person.
  • Releasing the World Bank Report titled “Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on India Society”, prepared in association with the NGO – Save Life Foundation.

Broadly, the Report says that road accidents are a tremendous burden to society and the nation, and states:

      • Reducing road accident deaths and injuries can boost income growth
      • Large welfare gains can be achieved from proven cost effective road safety interventions
      • Road accident deaths and injuries strike down prime working age adults in low and middle income countries.
  • One of the key findings of the report is that number of accident deaths are double in poor families as compared to rich ones.
  • Recommendations of the report on safety of vulnerable road users, cashless treatment, improvement of civic and health infrastructures, penetration and compensation mechanism of insurance,post-crash response ecosystem and integration of stake-holders would help in revising the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019 and Motor Vehicle rules.




BL Lacertae

Why in News?

  • Indian Astronomers have reported one of the strongest flares from a feeding supermassive black hole or blazar called BL Lacertae.
  • Analysis of the flare from this blazar, one of the oldest astronomical objects, can help trace the mass of the black hole and the source of this emission.
  • Such analysis can provide a lead to probe into mysteries and trace events at different stages of evolution of the Universe.


  • Blazars or feeding supermassive black holes in the heart of distant galaxies receive a lot of attention from the astronomical community because of their complicated emission mechanism.
  • They emit jets of charged particles traveling nearly at the speed of light and are one of the most luminous and energetic objects in the Universe.
  • BL Lacertae blazar is 10 million light-years away and is among the 50 most prominent blazars that can be observed with the help of a relatively small telescope.
  • The data collected from the flare observed will help calculation of the black hole mass, size of emission region, and mechanism of the emission from one of the oldest astronomical objects known, hence opening a door to the origin and evolution of the Universe.




Women Excellence Award 2021

Why in News?

  • Four young women fellows of National Science Academies have been awarded for excelling in science and engineering on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021.
  • The SERB Women Excellence Award that has been conferred on them provides a grant of Rs. 15 lakhs for a period of three years to the awardees to pursue their research ideas.

About Award

  • The award given by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a Statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) supporting basic research in the frontier areas of science and engineering, was launched in the year 2013.
  • It is a one-time award given to women scientists below 40 years of age who have received recognition from any one or more of the National Academies such as Young Scientist Medal, Young Associateship, etc.




 Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF)

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship chaired a function ‘Transforming skilling through strategic partnerships under SANKALP’ and rolling out of the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) and other initiatives.
  • SANKALP (Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion) is a World Bank loan assisted programme to strengthen the district skill administration and the District Skill Committees (DSCs).
  • The two-year academic programme comes with an in-built component of on-ground practical experience with the district administration.
  • The fellows under MGNF will acquire academic expertise and technical competency in understanding the overall skill ecosystem along with being attached to DSCs and help them manage the skill development planning at district level through the mechanism of formulating District Skill Development Plans (DSDPs).
  • To further bolster the trainer ecosystem, the SANKALP programme will also support in Training of Trainer (ToT) system in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode that a collaborative approach between industry and the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) ecosystem.
  • Towards this, a ‘Cluster Approach’ is adopted to meet the objectives and GIZ-developed automotive cluster in Aurangabad has been selected for the pilot.
  • MSDE has instituted the “Awards for Excellence in District Skill Development Planning (DSDP Awards)” under SANKALP in 2018.
  • Breaking the silos that exist in skill development initiatives, MSDE continues to recognise the efforts and determination of districts through these Awards for Excellence with an aim to empower district officials through a bottom-up approach allowing them to play a crucial role in shaping policies in the future.
  • Launch of “Skill training on Gender Sensitisation and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) at the workplace” in partnership with Management and Entrepreneurship and Professional Skill Council (MEPSC) as the Implementation Agency for the project.




E-Governance Awards 2020

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs bags the prestigious Award of Appreciation in the Project Category-Central Government Entity – in the 18th CSI SIG eGov Awards 2020 for their ‘Performance Dashboard Empowering Tribals Transforming India through various ICT initiatives”.
  • The Computer Society of India (CSI) has instituted a series of awards for recognizing the contributions made in the field of e-Governance in the country.
  • These awards have been conducted by CSI-SIG egov. The awards are given for recognizing the efforts made in the e-Governance area at the State, Department, District and Project level.
  • The Performance Dashboard is an interactive and dynamic online platform that showcases updated & real-time details of 11 schemes/initiatives of the Ministry for achieving these SDGs.
  • The Dashboard captures the performance of various schemes of the Ministry, States, 41 Ministries to ensure that the funds meant for ST welfare are being utilized properly.
  • The Ministry also recently received the prestigious 5 SKOCH awards for different project, including the prestigious SKOCH Challenger Award for its “Best Performance in eGovernance” as the Ministry has excelled in implementation of policy initiatives through e- governance realizing goal of digital India.




India’s first full-fledged international cruise terminal

Why in News?

  • PM Narendra Modi launches five developmental projects in Kerala
  • The PM inaugurated the Cochin Port Trust’s International Cruise Terminal and Cochin Shipyard’s Vigyan Sagar, a campus for Marine Engineering Training Institute.

PM Says

  • Propylene Derivatives Petrochemical complex of Kochi Refinery, will help strengthen journey towards being Atmanirbhar.
  • According to BPCL, the PDPP located close to its Kochi Refinery here will produce Acrylic Acid, Oxo-Alcohol and Acrylates, which are predominantly imported, at present.
  • These products have applications in paints and coatings, solvents, adhesives, water treatment chemicals, construction industry and super absorbent polymer among others.
  • The PM also inaugurated the Cochin Port Trust’s International Cruise Terminal and Cochin Shipyard’s Vigyan Sagar, a campus for Marine Engineering Training Institute.
  • “Vigyan Sagar is the new knowledge campus of the Cochin Shipyard.”
  • Situated at the Ernakulam Wharf on Willingdon Island, it is India’s first full-fledged international cruise terminal. It has state-of-the-art facilities.




Chittaura Lake

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of Maharaja Suheldev Memorial and development work of Chittaura Lake.
  • The event in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh marks the birth anniversary of Maharaja Suheldev.
  • The complete project will include installation of an equestrian statue of Maharaja Suheldev and development of various tourist amenities like cafeteria, guest house and a children’s park.
  • Maharaja Suheldev’s devotion and service to the country is a source of inspiration for all and with the development of this memorial site, the country will be able to get better acquainted with the heroic saga of Maharaja Suheldev.




LRSAM Missiles

Why in News?

  • Final production batch of Long Range Surface to Air Missiles (LRSAM), designed and developed by DRDO in collaboration with various industry partners and integrated by BDL, was flagged off.


  • LRSAM is jointly developed by DRDO and IAI Israel to equip latest ships of Indian Navy.
  • This LRSAM Missile system can provide point and area defence against various aerial targets including fighter aircraft, subsonic & supersonic cruise missiles.
  • The Missile is powered by indigenously developed dual-pulse rocket motor and dual control system to impart required manoeuvrability at the terminal phase.
  • This state of art weapon system is designed with active Radio Frequency (RF) seeker to identify, track, engage and destroy the target with high kill probability.




 UAE’s “Hope” probe

Why in News?

  • The UAE’s “Hope” probe sent back its first image of Mars.
  • The picture “captured the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, emerging into the early morning sunlight.
  • The image was taken from an altitude of 24,700 kilometres (15,300 miles) above the Martian surface.

About Mission

  • The mission is designed to reveal the secrets of Martian weather, but the UAE also wants it to serve as an inspiration for the region’s youth.
  • Hope became the first of three spacecraft to arrive at the Red Planet this month after China and the U.S. also launched missions in July, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.
  • The UAE’s venture is also timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the nation’s seven emirates.
  • “Hope” will orbit the Red Planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days, using three scientific instruments to monitor the Martian atmosphere.




Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary

Why in News?

  • Odisha has lost six elephants in two weeks following the death of one more jumbo in the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Kalahandi district.


  • Investigation results show it was case of Haemorrhage Septicaemia.
  • Haemorrhage septicaemia generally spread from domestic to wild animals.
  • Haemorrhagic septicaemia is one of the most economically important pasteurelloses. Haemorrhagic septicaemia in cattle and buffaloes was previously known to be associated with one of two serotypes of P. multocida: Asian B:2 and African E:2.
  • The disease occurs mainly in cattle and buffaloes, but has also been reported in goats, African buffalo, camels, horses and donkeys, in pigs infected by serogroup B, and in wild elephants.





  • Crystals are normally rigid, stiff structures, but researchers from University of Hyderabad have shown how crystals can be sliced and even bent using atomic force microscopy.
  • Manipulating them with precision and control comes in very useful in the field of nanophotonics, a qualitative, emerging field where the aim is to go beyond electronics and build up circuits driven entirely by photons (light).
  • If the technique can be successfully developed, this can achieve an unprecedented level of miniaturisation and pave the way to all-optical-technology such as pliable, wearable devices operated by light entirely.

Bending light path

  • Light, when left to itself moves along straight paths, so it is crucial to develop materials and technology that can cause its path to bend along what is required in the circuits.
  • This is like using fibre optics, but at the nanoscale level using organic crystals.
  • The Hyderabad group has demonstrated how such crystals can be lifted, bent, moved, transferred and sliced using atomic force microscopy.
  • They add a crucial piece to the jigsaw puzzle of building an “organic photonic integrated circuit” or OPIC.
  • Generally, millimetre- to centimetre-long crystals were bent using hand-held tweezers.
  • This method lacks precision and control.
  • In 2014, for the first time, the group demonstrated that tiny crystals could be lifted and moved with precision and control using atomic force microscopy.
  • They figured out that the atomic force microscopy (AFM) cantilever tip could be used to lift a crystal, as crystals tend to stick to the tip due to tip–crystal attractive forces.


  • Recently, the group has extended the atomic force microscopy technique to deliberately move, bend, slice or cleave and transfer (from one substrate to another) micro-sized waveguiding crystals.
  • Not stopping with this, they have also shown how other crucial elements needed for nanophotonics can be developed using this technique.
  • Not only crystals but also polymer microcavities or microresonators (light-trapping elements) can be precisely manipulated to create photonic structures.
  • The researchers have named this technique “mechanophotonics” as this method can be used to generate the basic elements needed to build up a photonic integrated circuit.
  • Usually photonic integrated circuits are made using silicon, silicon-based and metallic materials using electron beam lithography.
  • This group on the other hand uses organic materials and atomic force microscopy to manipulate them.
  • The research collaboration extends to several countries: Germany, UAE, Spain and India.
  • The group next plans to fabricate high-density photonic circuits using organic passive, active and energy-transfer mechanisms.




Detailed Genome Map of Malaria Vector

Why in News?

  • Scientists have unveiled the detailed genome of the malaria mosquito vector, revealing thousands of new genes vital for the development of genetic control strategies of disease transmission.
  • The researchers included those from Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS), and Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, both in Bengaluru.
  • In order to engineer advanced forms of defence against malaria transmission, including targeted CRISPR and gene drive–based strategies, scientists require intricate knowledge of the genomes of vector mosquitoes.
  • CRISPR technology is a gene-editing tool which allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
  • With the newly upgraded Anopheles stephensi genome, the team unearthed more than 3,000 genes that previously evaded scrutiny and which offer fresh gene-drive targets, play key roles in blood feeding and the metabolism of ingested blood meal, reproduction and immunity against microbial parasites.
  • The discoveries include 29 formerly undetected genes that play crucial roles in resistance to chemical insecticides, a development that can help address the growing Asian and African An. stephensi populations with insecticide-resistant mutations.




Andhra-Odisha dispute over 21 border villages

Why in News?

  • Recently, Andhra Pradesh held panchayat elections in three villages in the Kotia cluster, which is at the centre of a dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
  • THE VILLAGES: These villages, with a population of nearly 5,000, are located on a remote hilltop on the inter-state border and are inhabited by Kondh tribals. The region, once a Maoist hotbed which still reports sporadic incidents of violence, is also rich in mineral resources like gold, platinum, manganese, bauxite, graphite and limestone.
  • THE DISPUTE: Prior to April 1, 1936, villages under Kotia panchayat were part of Jeypore Estate. In the Constitution of Orrisa Order, 1936, published in the Gazette of India on March 19 that year, the Government of India demarcated Odisha from the erstwhile Madras Presidency with the latter including the present-day Andhra Pradesh.
  • In 1942, the Madras government contested the boundary and ordered re-demarcation of the two states. In a joint survey of Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, seven villages of Kotia gram panchayat were recorded as revenue villages and revenue was collected by the Odisha government, but the exercise left out the 21 villages now under dispute.
  • When the state of Andhra Pradesh was created in 1955, the villages were not surveyed by the Andhra Pradesh government either.
  • IN BOTH WORLDS: This is the first time Andhra has held panchayat polls in any of these villages. But the villages participate in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections for both states. The villagers enjoy benefits from both states under various schemes.
  • CURRENT STATUS: In the early 1980s, Odisha filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding right and possession of jurisdiction over the 21 villages. In 2006 however, the court ruled that since disputes belonging to the state boundaries are not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the matter can only be resolved by Parliament and passed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.




Arjun Main Battle Tank MK-1A

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister handed over the indigenously developed Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A) to the Indian Army at a ceremony in Chennai.
  • The army will get 118 units of the Main Battle Tank, indigenously designed, developed and manufactured by CVRDE and DRDO along with 15 academic institutions, eight labs and several MSMEs.

What is the Arjun Main Battle Tank?

  • The Arjun Main Battle Tank project was initiated by DRDO in 1972 with the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) as its lead laboratory.
  • The objective was to create a “state-of-the-art tank with superior fire power, high mobility, and excellent protection”.
  • During the development, the CVRDE achieved breakthroughs in the engine, transmission, hydropneumatic suspension, hull and turret as well as the gun control system.
  • Mass production began in 1996 at the Indian Ordnance Factory’s production facility in Avadi, Tamil Nadu.

What are the features of the Arjun tank?

  • The Arjun tanks stand out for their ‘Fin Stabilised Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS)’ ammunition and 120-mm calibre rifled gun.
  • It also has a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with stabilised sighting that works in all lighting conditions.
  • The secondary weapons include a co-axial 7.62-mm machine gun for anti-personnel and a 12.7-mm machine gun for anti-aircraft and ground targets.

How is the Mk-1A different?

  • The Mk-1A version has 14 major upgrades on the earlier version.
  • It is also supposed to have missile firing capability as per the design, but this feature will be added later as final testing of the capability is still on.
  • However, the biggest achievement with the latest version is 54.3 per cent indeginous content against the 41 per cent in the earlier model.




Mandarin Duck

Why in News?

  • Floating in the Maguri-Motapung beel (or wetland) in Assam’s Tinsukia district for over a week is the spectacular and rare Mandarin duck.
  • The bird was last sighted in this part of Assam more than a century ago, in 1902.

What is the Mandarin duck and why is it exciting?

  • Considered the most beautiful duck in the world, the Mandarin duck, or the (Aix galericulata) was first identified by Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
  • The eBird website, a platform that documents birds world over, describes it as a “small-exotic looking bird” native to East Asia.
  • In this species, the males are more colourful than the females.
  • The migratory duck breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan and northeastern parts of China.
  • It now has established populations in Western Europe and America too.
  • The duck, however, rarely visits India as it does not fall in its usual migratory route.
  • The duck is not a globally threatened species, spotting one is always considered significant because they only make “rare appearances.

What is the Maguri beel, why is it important?

  • The Maguri Motapung wetland — an Important Bird Area as declared by the Bombay Natural History Society — is located close to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Upper Assam.
  • The entire ecosystem (grassland and wetland) is very important as it is home to at least 304 bird species, including a number of endemic ones like Black-breasted parrotbill and Marsh babbler.
  • In May 2020, the beel was adversely affected by a blowout and fire at an Oil India Limited-owned gas well.
  • The resulting oil spill killed a number of fish, snakes as well as an endangered Gangetic dolphin, and the fire had burnt a large portion of the grassland.




World Radio Day

  • World Radio Day is observed on February 13 every year to celebrate one of the oldest and most widely consumed mediums of communication.

What is the history of World Radio Day?

  • First proclaimed by the member states of UNESCO in 2011 and later adopted internationally by the UN General Assembly in 2012, the objective of World Radio Day is to promote the medium, increase accessibility, and encourage more people to use it.
  • In India, the history of radio broadcasting traces back to August, 1920 when one of the first radio broadcasts was transmitted from the roof of a building. Three years later, the first radio programme was aired by the Radio Club of Bombay.

What is the theme of World Radio Day this year?

  • This year, UNESCO is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the global event and more than 110 years of radio. The 2021 edition of WRD is divided into three main sub-themes.

— Evolution: The world changes, radio evolves.

  • This sub-theme refers to the resilience of the radio, and its sustainability;

— Innovation: The world changes, radio adapts and innovates.

  • Radio has had to adapt to new technologies to remain the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone;

— Connection: The world changes, radio connects.

  • This sub-theme highlights radio’s services to our society during times of trouble, such as natural disasters, socio-economic crises, and epidemics.