Current Affairs Feb 23

Railway projects in West Bengal

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister inaugurated the extension of Metro Railway from Noapara to Dakshineswar in West Bengal and flagged off the first service on this stretch. He also inaugurated the third line between Kalaikunda and Jhargram.
  • Dedicated to the nation the doubling of Azimganj to Khargraghat Road section of Eastern Railway and the fourth line between Dankuni and Baruipara and the third line between Rasulpur and Magra.
  • The inauguration of extension of Metro Railway from Noapara to Dakshineswar, the travel time between both the destinations would be reduced from 90 mins to 25 min.




Awards for ‘Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals & Downstream Plastics Processing Industries”

  • Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers will present the 10th National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals & Downstream Plastics Processing Industry to the Awardees.
  • The National Awards for ‘Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals and Downstream Plastic Processing Industries’, an initiative by the Department is aimed to felicitate and recognize the innovative efforts of renowned scientists, researchers and industrialists in the broad areas of Polymer Science & Technologies.
  • The National Policy on Petrochemicals was announced in April 2007.
  • The policy envisions the development of value added, quality petrochemical products at globally competitive prices using eco-friendly processes and technologies as well as Innovation of newer application and products with focus on sustainable development.




VL-SRSAM Missile System

Why in News?

  • Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted two successful launches of Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM).
  • The launches were carried out today from a static vertical launcher from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur off the coast of Odisha.


  • Indigenously designed and developed by DRDO for Indian Navy, VL-SRSAM is meant for neutralizing various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets.
  • Once deployed, the VL-SRSAM system will prove to be a force multiplier for the Indian Navy.




Integration of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) with NPCDCS

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, launched the operational guidelines for Integration of NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) with NPCDCS (National Programme for Prevention & Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke).


  • NAFLD, the abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver in the absence of secondary causes of fatty liver.
  • Such as harmful alcohol use, viral hepatitis, or medications is a serious health concern as it encompasses a spectrum of liver abnormalities, from a simple non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL, simple fatty liver disease) to more advanced ones like non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
  • Over the last two decades global burden of NASH has more than doubled.
  • Globally, NASH caused 40 lakh prevalent cases of compensated cirrhosis in 1990, which increased to 94 lakh cases in 2017.
  • NAFLD is emerging as an important cause of liver disease in India.
  • Epidemiological studies suggest the prevalence of NAFLD is around 9% to 32% of the general population in India with a higher prevalence in those with overweight or obesity and those with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Researchers have found NAFLD in 40% to 80 % of people who have type 2 diabetes and in 30% to 90 % of people who are obese.
  • Studies also suggest that people with NAFLD have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in NAFLD.

The Government of India has realized that the existing NCD programme’s strategies can now be aligned to achieve the objectives to prevent and control NAFLD with:

(i) Behavior and lifestyle changes,

(ii) Early diagnosis and management of NAFLD,

(iii) Building of capacity at various levels of healthcare for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of NAFLD.




National Technology Awards 2020

Why in News?

  • A total of 12 companies have been selected for the National Technology Awards 2020 for commercialization of successful commercialization of innovative indigenous technologies.
  • They have been selected under three categories –indigenous technologies, MSME, and startups.
  • These awards conferred to various industries provides a platform of recognition to Indian industries and their technology provider, who have worked as a team, to bring innovation to the market and contributed to the vision of “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat”.

Given By

  • The awards were given by the Technology Development Board (TDB), a statutory body of Government of India functioning under Department of Science of Technology for the year 2019-20.

About Technology Development Board

  • The Technology Development Board is a statutory body of Government of India functioning under Department of Science of Technology which provides financial assistance to companies working for commercialization of indigenous technologies and adaptation of imported technologies for domestic applications.
  • TDB was established in 1996 with a novel aim of providing financial assistance to Indian companies for commercialization of innovative indigenous technologies.



SFURTI clusters

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for MSME & Road Transport & Highways inaugurated 50 artisan-based SFURTI clusters, spread over 18 States.


  • In the 50 clusters inaugurated, over 42,000 artisans have been supported in the traditional segments of muslin, khadi, coir, handicraft, handlooms, wood craft, leather, pottery, carpet weaving, bamboo, agro processing, tea, etc.
  • The Ministry of MSME, Govt. of India has funded an amount of around Rs.85 crore for development of these 50 clusters.
  • The Ministry of MSME is implementing a Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI) with a view to organize traditional industries and artisans into clusters to make them competitive and increase their income.
  • These clusters have been inaugurated in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

About SFURTI Clusters

  • SFURTI clusters are of two types i.e., Regular Cluster (500 artisans) with Government assistance of up to Rs.2.5 crore and Major Cluster (more than 500 artisans) with Government assistance up to Rs.5 crore.
  • The artisans are organized into SPVs which can be (i) a Society registered under Societies (Registration) Act, 1860, (ii) a Co-operative Society under an appropriate statute, (iii) a Producer Company under Section 465 (1) of Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013), (iv) a Section 8 Company under the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013) or (v) a Trust.
  • Under the Scheme, the Ministry supports various interventions including setting up of infrastructure through Common Facility Centers (CFCs), procurement of new machineries, creating raw material banks, design intervention, improved packaging, improvement of marketing Infrastructure, improved skills and capacity development through training and exposure visits, etc.




India-EU Joint Committee on S&T Cooperation

Why in News?

  • The India-EU joint steering committee on science and technology has agreed to develop and adopt a long-term strategic perspective for India-EU collaboration in research and innovation at the 13th Joint Steering Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation meeting hosted by the European Commission recently.
  • The two sides appreciated the achievements under India –EU science, technology Innovation cooperation and decided to create an action-oriented agenda which can be implemented within the agreed timeline at the meeting.
  • Taking into account the Joint Statement and the ‘EU-India Strategic Partnership: A Roadmap to 2025’, adopted at the EU-India July Summit, both sides have shown keen interest for possible cooperation on ICT, in particular, cyber-physical-systems (ICPS), including artificial intelligence and robotics, circular economy and resource efficiency (waste-to-energy; plastics; etc.), electric mobility and sustainable agri-food processing and so on.
  • The important role of Mission Innovation to concentrate efforts on research and innovation to accelerate the clean energy transition, necessary for a carbon-neutral planet, was underlined, cooperation on health beyond Covid-19 pandemic areas through global fora was also reinforced.
  • Both sides also underlined the cooperation on polar sciences and discussed future cooperation under Horizon Europe at the virtual meeting.
  • The two sides reiterated their commitment to human capital development, including researchers’ training and mobility, based on mutual interests and reciprocal promotion of each other’s equivalent programmes, aiming at a more balanced flow of researchers between Europe and India.
  • Indian side presented the key elements of new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020), which aim to create a fit for purpose, accountable research ecosystem promoting translational as well as foundational research; indigenous development of technology, technology indigenization; facilitating open Science; equity and inclusion.
  • The Indian side proposed Implementation Arrangement (IA) for co-funding future joint projects under India-EU Science, Technology, and Innovation Cooperation to streamline the process of collaboration and to address certain issues on project evaluation, selection, funding, monitoring, and also IPR sharing/data sharing/materials/equipment transfer mechanism and so on.




Predicting tsunamis with the world’s fastest Supercomputer

  • When the tragic 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan a decade ago, causing a tsunami that flooded the eastern coast, the early warning system (EWS) relied on dart buoys in the Pacific Ocean to detect tsunami and alert the country.
  • That system had grossly underestimated the size of the wave to 3-metre high. But, the actual wave reached 50 metres in some places, claiming over 20,000 lives.
  • The mistaken forecast shows that accurate information is required to predict and mitigate such calamities efficiently. One way to better predict outcomes is by using artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Japan’s Fujitsu Laboratories has developed an AI model to predict tsunami flooding in coastal areas in real-time. The technology company used Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer, to develop the model.
  • A team of researchers generated training data for 20,000 possible tsunami scenarios based on high-resolution tsunami simulations, using the supercomputer. They created the AI model using these data sets.
  • In the event of an earthquake, inputting tsunami waveform data observed offshore into the model help predict flooding in coastal areas before the wave makes landfall.




PM to inaugurate virtual maritime summit

  • The Chennai Port Trust will sign more than 15 MoUs with various institutions ahead of the Virtual Maritime Summit 2021 being held from March 2 to 4.
  • One of the important MoUs would be for the formation of a special purpose vehicle between Chennai Port, the State government and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for a multi-modal logistics park at Mappedu.
  • Another important MoU included exploring the feasibility of running passenger ferry services between Chennai and Puducherry and Karaikal.




India signs defence and trade agreements with Mauritius

  • India and Mauritius signed a $100 million Defence Line of Credit agreement.
  • t was a part of several understandings, including the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) that was signed between the two countries during the ongoing visit by External Affairs Minister.
  • The signing of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement, India’s first such agreement with an African country.
  • Using the new framework under the CECPA, India and Mauritius would provide preferential access to a number of items like surgical equipment, medicine, and textile products that would cater to market requirements on both sides.
  • Mauritius will get preferential access for export of 40,000 tonnes of sugar into India at an early time frame.
  • Also announced a $100 million Defence Line of Credit for Mauritius. This would “enable the procurement of defence assets from India” according to the requirements of the country which was emerging as an important maritime entity in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Mauritius would get a Dornier aircraft and an Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv on lease which would build its maritime security capabilities.
  • The two sides also discussed the Chagos Archipelago dispute, which was an issue of sovereignty and sustainable development before the United Nations.
  • In 2019, India voted at the U.N. General Assembly in support of the Mauritian position on the issue. India was one of the 116 countries that voted demanding that the U.K. end its “colonial administration” from the group of islands.




Magnetic effect without a magnet

  • Electric current is deflected by a magnetic field—in conducting materials, this leads to the so-called Hall Effect. This effect is often used to measure magnetic fields.
  • An exotic metal made of cerium, bismuth and palladium was examined and a giant Hall Effect was found to be produced by the material, in the total absence of any magnetic field.
  • The reason for this unexpected result lies in the unusual properties of the electrons: They behave as if magnetic monopoles were present in the material.

A voltage perpendicular to the current

  • When an electric current flows through a metal strip, electrons move from one side to the other.
  • If a magnet is placed next to this strip, a force acts on the electrons—the so-called Lorentz force.
  • The path of the electrons through the metal strip is no longer straight, it is bent a little. Therefore, there are now more electrons on one side of the metal strip than on the other, and this creates a voltage—perpendicular to the direction in which the current flows. This is the classic Hall Effect.
  • The measurement revealed that the material exhibits a Hall Effect even without an external magnetic field—and not just a normal Hall Effect, but a huge one.



Potentially harmful chemicals found in plastic toys

  • Researchers have analyzed data on chemical functions and amounts found in plastic toys, and quantified related children exposure and potential health risks.
  • They ranked the chemicals according to their health risk and compared these results with existing priority substances lists from around the world.
  • Out of 419 chemicals found in hard, soft and foam plastic materials used in children toys, researchers identified 126 substances that can potentially harm children’s health either via cancer or non-cancer effects, including 31 plasticizers, 18 flame retardants, and 8 fragrances.
  • These substances should be prioritized for phase-out in toy materials and replaced with safer and more sustainable alternatives.
  • Chemicals that the researchers identified to be of possible concern for children’s health include, for example, widely known phthalates and brominated flame retardants but also the two plasticizers butyrate TXIB and citrate ATBC, which are used as alternatives to some regulated phthalates.
  • Soft plastics cause higher exposure to certain harmful chemicals, and inhalation exposure dominates overall children exposure, because children potentially inhale chemicals diffusing out of all toys in the room, while usually only touching one toy at the time.



Carpets of moss help stop erosion

  • Every year, billions of tons of valuable soil are lost worldwide through erosion, much of it deposited in bodies of water that fill with sand or silt as a result.
  • Natural “carpets” of bacteria, mosses, lichens, fungi and other organisms bind soil particles into coherent layers, or crusts.
  • Biocrusts are only a few millimeters thick, but they stabilize the soil surface and protect it from erosion by rain and wind.
  • So far, they have been studied mainly in dry regions, where they are particularly important because they store water and serve as protection against wind erosion and dust trapping.
  • Although they cause disturbance to the forest floor, they have the advantage of concentrating forestry operations on predetermined routes and protecting the forest areas in between.
  • In general, the greater the diversity of species involved, the better the erosion protection provided by the biocrusts.
  • They were also found to provide a foundation for further plant growth. During the summer months, many biocrusts on the trails were replaced by taller vegetation such as rushes, grasses, or tree seedlings, which also provided good erosion control.