Current Affairs Mar 12

Key Starting Materials (KSMs)/ Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs)

Why in News?

  • Department of Pharmaceuticals had launched a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for promotion of their domestic manufacturing by setting up Greenfield plants with minimum domestic value addition in four different Target Segments (In Two Fermentation based – at least 90% and in the Two Chemical Synthesis based – at least 70% ) with a total outlay of Rs. 6,940 cr. for the period 2020-21 to 2029-30.


  • To attain self-reliance and reduce import dependence in these critical Bulk Drugs – Key Starting Materials (KSMs)/ Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) in the country

Why needed?

  • The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the 3rd largest in the world by volume.
  • It has high market presence in several advanced economies such as the US and EU.
  • The industry is well known for its production of affordable medicines, particularly in the generics space.
  • However the country is significantly dependent on the import of basic raw materials, viz., Bulk Drugs that are used to produce medicines. In some specific bulk drugs, the import dependence is 80 to 100%.



Why in News?

  • INS Shardul, a ship of the First Training Squadron of the Indian Navy (IN) is visiting Port Louis, Mauritius from 10 to 13 March, 2021 as part of an overseas deployment to Southern Indian Ocean nations.
  • The ship will undertake EEZ surveillance of Mauritius, in coordination with Mauritian National Coast Guard as part of the deployment, and will also participate in the National Day celebrations of Mauritius on 12 March 2021 during the port call.
  • Highlights the close relations and strong friendship between the two countries and is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing maritime security cooperation between the two countries.

About INS Shardul

  • Indigenously built at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Kolkata and commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2007, INS Shardul is an amphibious warfare ship capable of carrying battle tanks, troops and an integral helicopter.



Metal rich environment for planets

Why in News?

  • Scientists studying exo-planets found that while a metal-rich environment of host stars is vital for the formation of Jupiter-type light, but giant planets; it is not necessary for the long orbit heavy giant planets.
  • This study which explores connections between the planet and host star properties, can help in understanding how planets form and evolve at large orbital distances.

How Study Proceed?

  • Stars are largely made of Hydrogen and Helium with a small fraction of other elements.
  • In astronomical lingo, elements heavier than Hydrogen and Helium are collectively called as metals.
  • Metal content is an important parameter of the star, and there is a consensus that planets (small or large) are more likely to occur around metal-rich stars.
  • While earlier, scientists studying the short-orbit exo-planets had found that a host star with a metal-rich environment provides the favourable condition for formation of Jupiter-type low-mass giant planets.
  • The new study suggests that this is not necessarily the case for the long orbit high-mass giant planets discovered by the direct imaging technique.
  • This finding seems consistent with an existing model called the core accretion model of planet formation.
  • For planet mass greater than mass of Jupiter, the large scatter in metallicity distribution suggests that metallicity might not play a significant role in the formation of these celestial objects.
  • This means there is no single dominating mechanism for planet formation at wider orbits.
  • Planets in remote orbits could form either by core accretion process or gravitational instability.




‘SERB – PRoject Information System & Management (SERB – PRISM)’

Why in News?

  • The portal called ‘SERB – PRoject Information System & Management (SERB – PRISM)’ developed by SERB, a Statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), was launched.
  • A portal that can help retrieve real-time information about research support provided by the Science and Engineering Board (SERB), the premier agency for planning, promoting, and funding of internationally competitive research in emerging areas.

What it do?

  • SERB-PRISM provides a platform which makes project details, research outcomes, facilities created, and their achievements originating from SERB funding accessible while allowing researchers to look at research trends, learn about cutting-edge science, locate critical equipment in their vicinity and help seek collaborations across disciplines.
  • This portal is designed to provide information regarding projects sanctioned by SERB from 2011 onwards, including funding details, status, research summary, and project output information such as publications and patents.
  • Search facilities enables retrieval of information about projects by Name of PI, institution, state, keywords, as well as year-wise listing and equipment that has been sanctioned by SERB in these projects.




India, Japan space agencies review cooperation

Why in News?

  • Indian and Japanese space agencies reviewed cooperation in earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation, and also agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in “space situational awareness and professional exchange programme”.
  • This was agreed during a bilateral meeting between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).


  • Both agencies signed an Implementing Arrangement for collaborative activities on rice crop area and air quality monitoring using satellite data.
  • India and Japan are already working on a joint lunar polar exploration (LUPEX) mission and the two space agencies have been working on the mission that aims to send a lander and rover to the Moon’s South Pole around 2024.
  • Recently, India and Italy decided to explore opportunities in earth observation, space science and robotic and human exploration.
  • Last month, India and Australia signed an amendment to the MoU which will build on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both countries are also in discussions for Australia to host vital tracking infrastructure to support the Gaganyaan manned space flight mission.




Warming Oceans

Why in News?

  • The warming of worldwide oceans from climate change means baby sharks are at risk of being born smaller and without the energy they need to survive, a group of scientists has found.
  • The scientists studied epaulette sharks, which live off Australia and New Guinea. They found that warmer conditions sped up the sharks’ growing process, and that meant they hatched from eggs earlier and were born exhausted.
  • They found that the sharks reared in the warmest temperatures weighed significantly less than those raised in average temperatures, and they exhibited reduced metabolic performance.

About Epaulette sharks

  • Epaulette sharks are small bottom-dwelling sharks that can grow to be about 3 feet (1 meter) long. Harmless to humans, they’re named for large spots above their pectoral fins that resemble military shoulder ornaments.
  • The sharks are listed as stable and a species of “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Worldwide abundance of oceanic sharks and rays dropped more than 70% between 1970 and 2018. Overfishing is a chief concern, and climate change and pollution also threaten sharks.





What is it & Why in News?

  • The world’s most powerful supercomputer Fugaku is now fully developed in Japan, and the machine is available for research use.
  • Japanese scientific research institute RIKEN and Fujitsu began development six years ago with an aim to make the device core of Japan’s computing infrastructure.
  • Fugaku has topped the Top500 list, a supercomputer benchmark index, for two consecutive years.
  • The computer has 100 times the application performance of K supercomputer and is developed to implement high-resolution, long-duration and large-scale simulations.
  • The computer is built not only for scientific researches but also to help build the “Society 5.0”. The initiative by Japanese government aims to make a society where all people live safe and comfortable lives.




Proposed Legalisation Of Recreational Marijuana Means For Mexico

Why in News?

  • The lower house of parliament in Mexico approved a bill that would decriminalise recreational, medical and scientific use of marijuana, potentially making the Latin American country one of the world’s largest regulated markets for the plant.
  • If the bill becomes law, Mexico will be the third country in the world after Uruguay and Canada to legalise the recreational use of marijuana across the nation.

What is in the proposed Mexican cannabis law

  • The law will essentially authorise the use of marijuana for recreational purposes by persons of legal age. The move to legislate on the topic follows a 2018 judgment by Mexico’s Supreme Court, which declared the prohibition on consumption unconstitutional.
  • Under current Mexican laws, it is illegal to carry more than five grams of marijuana.
  • When the new law comes into force, users would be allowed to carry 28g, or around 28 cannabis cigarettes.
  • Recreational users will also be permitted to grow up to 6 cannabis plants at home. If there is more than one user in the house, a maximum of 8 plants can be allowed.
  • The law will also allow the creation of non-profit cannabis associations of up to 20 members, which under a licence can cultivate plants for recreational consumption.

Significance of the law

  • President López Obrador has supported the law, saying that it can help the government deal with the country’s infamous drug cartels, which cause the deaths of thousands every year.




Bamiyan Buddhas

  • In March 2001, the Taliban began blowing up two monumental Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley.
  • Once among the tallest statues in the world, the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas were lost to the world forever.
  • Two decades later, on the anniversary of the annihilation, the Bamiyan Buddhas have been brought back to life in the form of 3D projections in an event called “A Night with Buddha”.

The legacy of the Bamiyan Buddhas

  • In their Roman draperies and with two different mudras, the Bamiyan Buddhas were great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles. They are said to date back to the 5th century AD and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
  • Salsal and Shamama, as they were called by the locals, rose to heights of 55 and 38 metres respectively, and were said to be male and female. Salsal means “light shines through the universe”; Shamama is “Queen Mother”.

The significance of Bamiyan

  • Bamiyan is situated in the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in the central highlands of Afghanistan. The valley, which is set along the line of the Bamiyan River, was once integral to the early days of the Silk Roads, providing passage for not just merchants, but also culture, religion and language.
  • When the Buddhist Kushan Empire spread, acting as a crucible of sorts, Bamiyan became a major trade, cultural and religious centre. As China, India and Rome sought passage through Bamiyan, the Kushans were able to develop a syncretic culture.




Withdraw ILP from Niti, Nelong valley

Why in News?

  • The Uttarakhand government, in a recent meeting with Union Home Minister had sought withdrawal of “inner-line permit” (ILP) system in Niti Valley of Chamoli district and Nelang Valley of Uttarkashi district for better border management and expansion of tourism and other economic activities in villages located there.
  • The ILP system restricts movement in areas close to the border for everyone other than those with a formal permission.
  • In Uttarakhand, tourists have to obtain ILP for locations near China border, at least in the three districts of Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh and Chamoli.
  • Uttarakhand shares a 350-km border with China and a 275-km boundary with Nepal.
  • Five of the state’s 13 districts are border districts. Chamoli and Uttarkashi share boundaries with China, whereas Udham Singh Nagar and Champawat have common boundaries with Nepal.
  • Pithoragarh is strategically more sensitive as it shares boundaries with both China and Nepal.




China Leads World’s Biggest Increase in Wind Power Capacity

  • China built more new windfarm capacity in 2020 than the whole world combined in the year before, leading to an annual record for windfarm installations despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • A study has revealed that China led the world’s biggest ever increase in wind power capacity as developers built almost 100GW worth of windfarms last year – enough to power almost three times the number of homes in the UK and a rise of nearly 60% on the previous year.
  • Most of the world’s new windfarms were built onshore, which more than offset a drop of 20% in the new wind power capacity built at sea.
  • China had also built almost two-thirds of the world’s operating coal power plants.
  • In the first six months of last year, China was the site of almost 90% of all coal plants under construction, and home to half the world’s operating coal-fired electricity capacity.
  • In Europe, new windfarms added 12.6GW of renewable energy capacity last year, including the 752MW Borssele windfarm in the Netherlands and a 539MW station at the East Anglia One project in the UK.
  • The surge in windfarm growth across China and the US also toppled Denmark’s Vestas from its place as the world’s biggest wind turbine maker for the first time in five years.

THE Guardian



 Mankidia Tribals

  • The Similipal Tiger Reserve has been on fire since February 11, 2021. Among the communities affected are two of the 13 particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) in Odisha — Mankidias and Khadias — that have lost their livelihoods to the inferno.
  • These tribals collect siali fibre and wild honey from the Similipal forest. “Wild honey and siali fibre are seasonal.
  • Hilly areas of Similipal are the original home of many ethnic groups such as Birhors, Hill Khadias and Mankidias. Among the other tribal communities found in Similipal are Santal, Kolha, Bathudi, Mahali, Bhuyan, etc.
  • Apart from Royal Bengal tiger, there are leopards, hyenas, foxes, sambars, chitals, elephants, bisons, baring deer, avifauna, herpeto-fauna and amphibians.




Observing the birth of a quasiparticle

  • Over the past decades, physicists worldwide have been trying to gain a better understanding of non-equilibrium dynamics in quantum many-body systems.
  • Some studies investigated what are known as quasiparticles, disturbances or entities in physical systems that exhibit behavior similar to that of particles.
  • Quasiparticles are extremely interesting, since they may consist of countless particles and their excitations.
  • The idea of quasiparticles was first introduced in the 1930s by physicist Lev Landau, who was trying to gain a better understanding of complex quantum systems.
  • The researchers were able to observe the birth of a unique class of quasiparticles, called Bose polarons, for the very first time.
  • While in the past several research groups detected signs of these quasiparticles in laboratory settings, so far observing their gradual formation over time proved highly challenging, mainly because the processes through which they are formed are exceedingly fast.
  • Using a gas of ultracold atoms, researchers were able to study quantum impurities in extremely pure and well-controlled environments.
  • Found that the impurities began to dynamically interact with the atoms of the medium and we measured this evolution using another short radio-frequency pulse”.
  • “This two-pulse scheme made it possible to observe the eventual quasiparticle formation of the polaron.”