Current Affairs Mar 10

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System

Why in News?

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has achieved an important milestone in the development of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System by proving the land-based prototype on 8 March 2021.
  • The plant was operated in endurance mode and max power mode as per the user requirements.
  • The system is being developed by Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) of DRDO.


  • AIP has a force multiplier effect on lethality of a diesel electric submarine as it enhances the submerged endurance of the boat, several folds. Fuel cell-based AIP has merits in performance compared to other technologies.
  • While there are different types of AIP systems being pursued internationally, fuel cell-based AIP of NMRL is unique as the hydrogen is generated onboard.




Swadesh Darshan scheme

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Tourism has launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme for Integrated Development of theme-based Tourist Circuits for development of tourism infrastructure.
  • Recognizing the potential of Village tourism in the country, the Ministry has identified Rural Circuit as one of fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under this scheme.

Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM)

  • One of the rural development schemes being implemented is Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) under Ministry of Rural Development.
  • SPMRM is a program focused on integrated development of Rural clusters by stimulating local economic development, enhancing basic services, and creating well planned Rurban clusters.
  • SPMRM follows the vision of “Development of a cluster of villages that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life with focus on equity and inclusiveness without compromising with the facilities perceived to be essentially urban in nature, thus creating a cluster of “Rurban Villages”.
  • Under SPMRM, 300 clusters are developed across 28 States and 6 Union Territories.
  • Tourism is one of the themes of Rurban cluster development.


  • Ministry – Ministry of Tourism
  • The scheme aims to promote, develop and harness the potential of tourism in India.
  • Launched in 2014-15 with an aim to develop theme based tourist circuits in the country.
  • These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Scheme Objectives 

  • To position tourism as a major engine of economic growth and job creation;
  • Develop circuits having tourist potential in a planned and prioritized manner;
  • Promote cultural and heritage value of the country to generate livelihoods in the identified regions;
  • Enhancing the tourist attractiveness in a sustainable manner by developing world class infrastructure in the circuit /destinations;
  • Follow community based development and pro-poor tourism approach;




Mobilising Electric Vehicle Financing in India

Why in News?

  • NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) India released a new report ‘Mobilising Electric Vehicle Financing in India’, which highlights the role of finance in the India’s transition to electric vehicles (EVs).
  • Analyses that the transition will require a cumulative capital investment of USD 266 billion (Rs 19.7 lakh crore) in EVs, charging infrastructure, and batteries over the next decade.
  • India’s EV ecosystem has thus far focused on overcoming adoption hurdles associated with technology cost, infrastructure availability, and consumer behaviour. Financing is the next critical barrier that needs to be addressed to accelerate India’s electric mobility transition.
  • End-users currently face several challenges, such as high interest rates, high insurance rates, and low loan-to-value ratios.

Report Recommendations

  • The 10 solutions recommended in the report include financial instruments such as priority-sector lending and interest-rate subvention.
  • Others are related to creating better partnerships between OEMs and financial institutions by providing product guarantees and warranties.
  • Furthermore, a developed and formal secondary market can improve the resale value of EVs and improve their bankability.




Quad Summit

Why in News?

  • The first ever summit of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Framework or ‘Quad’ will take place virtually on March 12.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the discussion which will also witness the participation of President Joe Biden of the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Discussions on?

  • The Leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
  • The summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security and climate change.
  • The summit is the first that the leaders of the four member countries of the Quad will participate in.
  • Ever since its launch in Manila in 2017, the Quad has remained mainly focused on ensuring enhanced cooperation among the member states across the Indo-Pacific region.




Colombo’s ‘compromise’ with New Delhi in Port project

Why in News?

  • In a recent Cabinet decision, Sri Lanka booted India and Japan out of a 2019 deal to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, as trade unions and sections of the Buddhist clergy vehemently opposed foreign involvement in the strategic national asset.
  • As an alternative, the Sri Lankan administration offered the West Container Terminal (WCT) at the Port to India and Japan for joint development on new terms, with higher stakes of 85 % for the foreign partners.

Are the ECT and WCT deals similar?

  • The Colombo Port has five terminals at present — South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT), Jaya International Terminal (JCT), Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), Unity Container Terminal, and the ECT.
  • The proposed WCT is to come up at the Port’s western end.
  • Although both the ECT and the WCT are located in the same Port, there are crucial differences in their proposed development.
  • The ECT is partially functional with a 600-metre quay wall, backyard, and gate complex.
  • It awaits further development to augment operations and cargo transfers, at an estimated cost of $ 700 -$800 million.
  • The WCT, on the other hand, exists only as an idea with no physical infrastructure, such that its development would require greater investment and take more time to be profitable.
  • In the ECT deal, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was to hold majority stakes of 51%, while Indian and Japanese investors were to hold 49% together.
  • The more recent WCT deal envisages 85% for the Indian and Japanese investors, for 35 years, while the SLPA would hold the remaining, minority stakes.




Joint Earth Observation Satellite Mission

Why in News?

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has completed development of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capable of producing extremely high-resolution images for a joint earth observation satellite mission with the U.S. space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) is a joint collaboration for a dual-frequency L and S-band SAR for earth observation.
  • NISAR will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in our planet’s surface less than a centimetre across.
  • The mission is targeted to launch in early 2022 from ISRO’s Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district.
  • NASA is providing the mission’s L-band SAR, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder and payload data subsystem.
  • ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the S-band radar, the launch vehicle and associated launch services for the mission, whose goal is to make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.
  • NISAR will observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces globally with 12-day regularity on ascending and descending passes, sampling Earth on average every six days for a baseline three-year mission.
  • This allows the mission to observe a wide range of Earth processes, from the flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets to the dynamics of earthquakes and volcanoes”.
  • NISAR uses a sophisticated information-processing technique known as SAR to produce extremely high-resolution images. Radar penetrates clouds and darkness, enabling NISAR to collect data day and night in any weather.




Neanderthals Disappeared From Europe Earlier Than Thought

  • Neanderthal fossils from a cave in Belgium believed to belong to the last survivors of their species ever discovered in Europe are thousands of years older than once thought.
  • Previous radiocarbon dating of the remains from the Spy Cave yielded ages as recent as approximately 24,000 years ago, but the new testing pushes the clock back to between 44,200 to 40,600 years ago.
  • Having a firm idea of when our closest human relatives disappeared is considered a key first step toward understanding more about their nature and capabilities, as well as why they eventually went extinct while our own ancestors prospered.
  • The new method still relies on radiocarbon dating, long considered the gold standard of archeological dating
  • All living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere and their food, including the radioactive form carbon-14, which decays over time.
  • Since plants and animals stop absorbing carbon-14 when they die, the amount that remains when they are dated tells us how long ago they lived.
  • When it comes to bones, scientists extract the part made up of collagen because it is organic.




Commercial Messages

Why in News?

  • Recently, around 40 crore SMSes sent by entities such as banks, government authorities, and e-commerce companies were not delivered to their intended recipients. These messages included confirmations of registration, one-time passwords (OTPs), transaction messages, etc.
  • On average, around 100 crore commercial messages are sent by companies to their customers every day.
  • However, recently, telecom operators put in force a 2018 regulation issued by the sectoral watchdog, preventing a bulk of these messages from reaching their customers.

What are commercial messages?

  • A commercial message comprises both solicited and unsolicited content.
  • While messages such as OTPs for conducting financial transactions, notifications of a financial transaction being conducted, confirmations for registrations or orders placed on e-commerce websites are solicited ones, many promotional messages under various categories such as those selling financial products, real estate deals, health products, etc may be seen as unsolicited commercial communications.
  • According to the existing rules, the purpose or intent of the communication may be inferred from its content and the manner in which the communication is presented. The issue of unsolicited “pesky” calls and messages have been troubling mobile phone consumers for years.

What has TRAI done so far to reduce spammy communication?

  • Back in 2012, when mobile companies tried to monetise the popularity of SMS messages by offering SMS packs in which users could send unlimited free messages after buying a special tariff voucher, the TRAI had observed that these vouchers were also being used by marketers to send spam messages.
  • Seeing this, TRAI had imposed a limit of 100 messages per day, after which users had to be charged at least 50 paise per message.
  • However, in June last year, the regulator did away with this regulation, citing the newer technology-based rules that can curb spam messages.
  • The regulator also issued the “do-not-disturb” rules.

How did the 2018 regulation aim to check these calls and messages?

  • In 2018, TRAI introduced The Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (TCCCPR), as per which it defined an architecture with checkpoints at three ends — the sender of the SMS, the telecom operator, and the customer.
  • To ensure that these checkpoints were effective, the regulator put in place certain technology-based requirements at each of the stages.
  • These included aspects such as scrubbing of messages to ensure they meet the requirements, a consent register with all relevant details of consent acquired by sender to send commercial communications, and a distributed ledger for entities having a record of all entities registered to carry out telemarketing-related functions with all relevant details.

What changes for entities sending the messages?

  • A sender of these messages, which would typically be a commercial entity, would have to register themselves.
  • This builds upon an older requirement, wherein a message or a call made from an unregistered phone number would end up in banning of the said number.
  • However, this time around, the entity would not only have to register themselves, but also the template in which their content was to be communicated.




Shyama Prasad Mukherjee opposed the United Bengal plan

Why in News?

  • In a recent election rally in Muchipara, West Bengal, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari spoke about the contributions of the party’s founding father, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Without Syama Prasad Mukherjee’s contribution, this country would have been an Islamic country and we would be living in Bangladesh.

How was the United Bengal plan conceived?

  • A most striking aspect of the Partition of Bengal was the fact that the same Bengali Hindus who had vociferously opposed the 1905 partition of the region by Lord Curzon, were the ones who demanded the division of the province on communal lines less than half a century later.
  • Bengal politics changed dramatically in 1932 with the introduction of the Communal Award.
  • It gave more seats in the Legislative Council to Muslims than Hindus. It also provided separate electorates for the Dalits. Consequently, Bengali Hindus ceased to be as significant and visible in provincial politics as they were before.
  • What further aggravated the situation was the communal violence in Calcutta in August 1946 and those in Noakhali just seven weeks later.
  • Consequently, in February 1947, the Hindu Mahasabha under Mukherjee put forward the demand for dividing Bengal on religious grounds.
  • Suhrawardy had realised that the Partition of Bengal would mean economic disaster for East Bengal since all jute mills, coal mines and industrial plants would go to the western part of the state.
  • “Suhrawardy argued strongly for a united Bengal because Bengal was indivisible in view of its ‘economic integrity, mutual reliance and the necessity of creating a strong workable state”.
  • Further, Suhrawardy argued that Bengal remained economically backward because of the presence of a large number of non-Bengali businessmen who exploited the people of the region for their own benefit.
  • Hence, if Bengal was to prosper economically, it had to stand independent and in charge of its own resources.

Why did Mukherjee oppose the united Bengal plan?

  • The Hindu Mahasabha under Mukherjee spearheaded a fierce attack against the united Bengal scheme, which he thought would force Hindus to live under Muslim domination.
  • Further defended the Partition to the Viceroy by drawing upon Jinnah’s two nation theory. He argued that since according to Jinnah Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and Muslims must have their own state, therefore Hindus in Bengal who constitute almost half of the region’s population may well demand that they must not be compelled to live under Muslim domination.
  • Finally, for Mukherjee the idea of a united Bengal was not appealing because he believed that a ‘sovereign undivided Bengal would be a virtual Pakistan’.




 Diphtheria Could Become a Major Global Threat

Why in News?

  • A team of researchers from India, the UK and Russia, has found that Diphtheria, which is a relatively easily-preventable infection, has started to become resistant to several classes of antibiotics and in future, it may even become immune to vaccination.
  • There was a possibility of the disease once more becoming a major threat across the globe because of the impact of COVID-19 on vaccination schedules in different parts of the world, coupled with a rise in the number of infections.

About Diphtheria

  • Diphtheria is a highly contagious infection. It can affect the nose and throat and sometimes the skin. If left untreated it can prove fatal.
  • In high-income countries, all babies are vaccinated against the infection.
  • However, in low- and middle-income countries, the disease can still cause sporadic infections or outbreaks in unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated communities.
  • The number of diphtheria cases reported globally has been increasing gradually. In 2018, there were 16,651 reported cases, more than double the yearly average for 1996-2017 (8,105 cases).
  • Diphtheria is primarily caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae and is mainly spread by coughs and sneezes, or through close contact with someone infected.
  • The main disease-causing component of C. diphtheriae is the diphtheria toxin, which is encoded by the `tox’ gene.
  • It is this component that is targeted by vaccines. In total, the researchers found 18 different variants of the `tox’ gene, of which several had the potential to change the structure of the toxin.
  • Diphtheria infections can usually be treated with several classes of antibiotics. While C. diphtheriae’s resistance to antibiotics have been reported, the extent of such resistance remains largely unknown.




Fourth Parliamentarian in Sub-saharan Africa Was A Woman

  • Every fourth parliamentarian in sub-Saharan Africa last year was a woman, according to a recent report.
  • The region ranked at third position after the Americas and Europe with an increase by 0.6 points since 2019.
  • Burundi (bicameral), Tanzania (unicameral) and Cameroon (lower chamber) topped the list in the region yet again, with 30 per cent or more women parliamentarians.
  • Burundi has 38.2 per cent of women parliamentarians in the lower house (the National Assembly) and 41 per cent in the upper house (The Senate). This has been due to the implementation of gender quotas in the country in 2005.
  • The country’s new constitution in 2018 provides for maintaining a minimum 30 per cent gender quota for women’s representation in the legislature and the executive branch and extends it to the judiciary.
  • In Liberia, Madagascar and Ghana, less than 15 per cent of parliamentarians were women.
  • The Comoros, Niger and Mali performed exceptionally well. With less than 15 per cent of women parliamentarians, these countries recorded double-digit increases in women’s representation in their parliaments.
  • Women’s representation in Mali had been slowly decreasing since the late 1990s. It had remained less than 10 per cent for over a decade.
  • But Mali saw the largest progress in terms of the number of seats held by women among all countries holding parliamentary elections in 2020.




Similipal Fires

Probable Reason for Fire

  • Eucalyptus trees planted recently in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) and other forests in Odisha may be among the reasons the reserve continues to be on fire 15 days after the first reported incident, according to experts.
  • Eucalyptus trees, which are prone to fire, were planted in large tracts of the forest by clearing medicinal plants and other native trees.
  • The leaves of these contain a highly inflammatory oil that ignites easily. The trees catch fire as the ground beneath the trees is usually littered with leaves.
  • It is illegal for the forest department to plant eucalyptus trees instead of native ones such as sal, mahuli, asan, karang, arjun, jack-fruits and other trees for which the forest fire is spreading.
  • The state government sought the help of Forest Research  Institute (FRI), Dehradun;
  • The Indian Council of Forestry Research Institute (ICFRE), Dehradun; National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad; Odisha Space Applications Centre (ORSAC), Bhubaneshwar and other agencies to provide assistance in containing the situation.




Efforts to Reduce Breast Cancer Mortality

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recently introduced a Global Breast Cancer Initiative to reduce global breast mortality by 2.5 per cent by 2040.
  • The aim is to reduce 2.5 million global deaths, particularly in low-income countries, where the progress to tackle the disease has been relatively slow.
  • Breast cancer survival five years after diagnosis exceeds 80 per cent in most high-income countries.
  • It is 66 per cent in India and 40 per cent in South Africa. It is responsible for one in six cancer deaths among women, and has overtaken lung cancer as the world’s mostly commonly diagnosed cancer.
  • An evidence-based technical package will be provided to countries as part of the initiative. It will be linked to online learning platforms and other types of support and will be rolled out over the next year.
  • The package will incorporate existing WHO cancer tools and products to promote an integrated approach across cancers and to strengthen health systems more broadly.