Current Affairs Apr 12

AICTE Lilavati Awards 2020

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Education presented the AICTE Lilavati Awards 2020 on women empowerment to the winners.

Government initiatives for Women Empowerment

  • The govt has launched several welfare schemes for the overall development of girls and women in various fields, including Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao Yojana, etc.
  • Government launched Udaan scheme which aims to enable girls of weaker socio-economic status at school level to gain access to higher education.
  • Started Pragati Yojana to give young women opportunity to further their technical education.

About Award

  • Based on the theme ‘Women Empowerment’, AICTE finalized the winners from a total of 456 entries who competed across 6 sub themes, which include, Women’s Health, Self-Defense, Sanitation and Hygiene, Literacy, Women Entrepreneurship, and Legal Awareness.
  • SWEAT (Sona Women Entrepreneurship and Training) from Sona College of Technology, Tamil Nadu won the contest in the ‘ Women Entrepreneurship’ sub theme.
  • Under the ‘Digital Literacy’ sub theme, Bharatiya Vidyapeeth won the contest. Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship Development Pune won the award under the ‘Literacy’ sub theme.
  • WIT Women Health Coalition from Walchand Institute of Technology, Maharashtra won the award under the ‘Women’s Health’ sub theme.
  • Radiant Seetha from Thiagarajar Polytechnic College won the contest in the ‘Legal Awareness’ sub theme.
  • Finally, Paritrana from St. Joseph’s College of Engineering, Tamil Nadu won the award for the ‘Self Defense’ sub theme.




World Homeopathy Day

  • The world homeopathy day is celebrated each year on April 10.
  • This day is celebrated to honor the birth of the father of the Homeopathy system of medicines Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.
  • Born in Paris, France, he was a German physician, who was an acclaimed scientist, a great scholar, and linguist.
  • He discovered the way to heal through the use of homeopathy.
  • Theme: This year the theme of the day in India is, “Homeopathy- Roadmap for Integrative Medicine”.

What is Homeopathy?

  • The way to heal by the doctrine of ‘similia similibus curantur’ i.e likes are cured by likes.
  • In homoeopathy a person is usually cured by triggering their body’s own healing mechanisms. This important form of medicine is based on the theory the any type of sickness can be cured by inducing symptoms similar to it by using medicines made out of natural ingredients.




BAFTA Awards

  • Gig-economy Western “Nomadland” won four prizes including best picture at the British Academy Film Awards.
  • “Nomadland” filmmaker Chloe Zhao became only the second woman, and the first woman of color, to win the BAFTA for best director, and star Frances McDormand was named best actress. “Nomadland” also took the cinematography prize.
  • Emerald Fennell’s revenge comedy “Promising Young Woman” was named best British film, while the best actor trophy went to 83-year-old Anthony Hopkins for playing a man grappling with dementia in “The Father.”
  • The ceremony opened with a tribute to Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who was the academy’s first president in 1959.
  • The only previous female directing winner was Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker.”

Recent Controversy

  • The British film academy expanded its voting membership and shook up its rules last year in an attempt to address a glaring lack of diversity in the nominations.
  • In 2020, no women were nominated as best director for a seventh consecutive year, and all 20 nominees in the lead and supporting performer categories were white.
  • The British awards are usually held a week or two before the Academy Awards and have become an important awards-season staging post.
  • This year, both the BAFTAs and the Oscars were postponed from their usual February berths because of the coronavirus pandemic.




How do astronauts write in space?

  • During the height of the space race in the 1960s, NASA scientists figured that pens could not function in space. So, they spent millions of dollars developing a pen that could write in space, while their Soviet counterparts used the humble pencil.
  • This story has been floating around the Internet for way too long. However, it is just a myth.

The truth

  • According to NASA historians, NASA astronauts also used pencils.
  • In 1965, NASA ordered 34 mechanical pencils from Houston’s Tycam Engineering Manufacturing, Inc. at the rate of $128.89 per pencil.
  • When the public got to know about these rates, there was an outcry, and NASA had to find something much cheaper for its astronauts to use.

The pencil loses out

  • The pencil wasn’t an ideal choice for writing in space because its tip could flake and break off, drifting in microgravity with the potential to harm an astronaut or an equipment.
  • Apart from this, pencils are flammable, and NASA wanted to avoid anything flammable aboard a spacecraft.

And the pen?

  • Regular pens that work on Earth did not work in space because they rely on gravity for the flow of ink to the nib. This was understood quite early by scientists and hence astronauts used pencils.

The saviour

  • Around the time NASA was embroiled in the mechanical pencils controversy, Paul C. Fisher of the Fisher Pen Co. designed a ballpoint pen that could work in space.
  • His company invested one million dollars to fund, design, and patent the pen on its own.
  • Fisher’s pen operated seamlessly, not just in space, but also in a weightless environment, underwater, in other liquids, and in temperatures ranging from -50 F to +400 F.
  • The company offered the pen to NASA, but the space agency was hesitant to buy it due to the mechanical pencil controversy.
  • However, a few years later, after rigorous testing, NASA agreed to equip its astronauts with the space pen.




Indus and Ganges river dolphins

Why in News?

  • Detailed analysis of South Asian river dolphins has revealed that the Indus and Ganges River dolphins are not one, but two separate species.

Divergent species

  • Currently, they are classified as two subspecies under Platanista gangetica and this needs a revision. The study estimates that Indus and Ganges river dolphins may have diverged around 550,000 years ago.
  • The international team studied body growth, skull morphology, tooth counts, colouration and genetic makeup.

DNA analysis

  • To collect mitochondrial DNA, one would normally use skin samples or blood and hair.
  • But in this instance, researchers didn’t really have access to fresh tissue samples.
  • So they got ancient DNA out of skulls and skeletons, which were 20 to 30 to even 150 years old. Looking at the sequences in the DNA, it was quite clear that the Ganges dolphins and the Indus dolphins were quite different.
  • The Ganges dolphin is a Schedule I animal under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and has been included in Annexure – I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so one cannot transfer any tissue or sample to foreign countries without getting CITES permission from the Competent Authority of Government of India.”

Conservation status

  • The Indus and Ganges River dolphins are both classified as ‘Endangered’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Physical barriers such as dams and barrages created across the river reduced the gene flow to a great extent making the species vulnerable;
  • River flow is also declining very fast as river water is being diverted through the barrages and this has affected the dolphin habitats.
  • Previously fishermen used to hunt dolphins and use their oil as bait, but though that practice of directed killing has stopped and they are not being hunted intentionally they end up as accidental catches.
  • Also, before the 1990s, we had oar boats and country boats; but now mechanised boats are also causing accidental injury to the dolphins.”




How did ancient marine creatures breathe?

  • A major milestone in evolutionary history occurred about 370 million years ago – the water-to-land transition – when a certain fish species converted its fins to limbs and modified its respiratory organ for air-breathing.

So how did the creatures breathe when in water?

  • A new study (Science Advances) has found evidence of advanced breathing organs in 450-million-year-old sea creatures called Trilobites.
  • Fossil studies showed that trilobites used gill-like structures hanging off their thighs to breathe.
  • This went unnoticed for decades as scientists thought the upper branch of the leg was non-respiratory just like the upper branch seen in present-day crustaceans.
  • The gill structures were just 10 to 30 microns wide. For comparison, a human hair is about 100 microns thick.
  • The researchers write that blood would have filtered through chambers in these tiny structures and helped pick up oxygen. They note that this ancient gill is similar to those found in present-day crabs and lobsters.




Dolphin boom in Odisha’s Chilika lake

Why in News?

  • The population of dolphins in Chilika, India’s largest brackish water lake, and along the Odisha coast has doubled this year compared with last year.
  • Divided into 41 units, wildlife activists, academicians, Forest Department officials, NGO members, boat operators and researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, participated in the estimation exercise.
  • The population estimation exercise for dolphins and other cetacean species covered almost the entire coast of Odisha.


  • Three species were recorded during the census, with 544 Irrawaddy, bottle-nose and humpback dolphins sighted this year, compared with 233 last year.
  • The highest growth has been noticed in the case of humpback dolphins. Only two humpbacks were sighted in the Rajnagar mangrove in 2020. In 2021, however, this population grew astronomically to 281.
  • These humpback dolphins were not part of any riverine systems, so they cannot be identified as residential mammals.
  • The rise in the Irrawaddy [dolphin] population in Chilika can be attributed to the eviction of illegal fish enclosures.




Personal Data Protection Bill

  • The pandemic has forced more people to participate in the digital economy.
  • More people have taken to digital channels to fulfill a variety of needs like purchasing groceries and accessing health services.
  • Unfortunately, the number of personal data breaches from major digital service providers has increased worryingly in the same period.
  • Robust data protection regimes are necessary to prevent such events and protect users’ interests. Unfortunately, the existing data protection regime in India does not meet this standard.
  • However, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, now under scrutiny by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, could play a big role in providing robust protections to users and their personal data.

No effective protection

  • How different entities collect and process users’ personal data in India is mainly governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000, and various other sectoral regulations.
  • However, this data protection regime falls short of providing effective protection to users and their personal data.
  • For instance, entities could override the protections in the regime by taking users’ consent to processing personal data under broad terms and conditions.
  • The frameworks emphasise data security but do not place enough emphasis on data privacy.
  • The data protection provisions under the IT Act also do not apply to government agencies.
  • This creates a large vacuum for data protection when governments are collecting and processing large amounts of personal data.
  • Finally, the regime seems to have become antiquated and inadequate in addressing risks emerging from new developments in data processing technology.
  • The need for a more robust data protection legislation came to the fore in 2017 post the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union of India that established the right to privacy as a fundamental right.
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology formed a Committee of Experts under the Chairmanship of Justice (Retd) B.N. Srikrishna to suggest a draft data protection law. The Bill, in its current form, is a revised version of the draft legislative document proposed by the Committee.

The upcoming regime

  • The proposed regime under the Bill seeks to be different from the existing regime in some prominent ways.
  • First, the Bill seeks to apply the data protection regime to both government and private entities across all sectors.
  • Second, the Bill seeks to emphasise data security and data privacy. While entities will have to maintain security safeguards to protect personal data, they will also have to fulfill a set of data protection obligations and transparency and accountability measures that govern how entities can process personal data to uphold users’ privacy and interests.
  • Third, the Bill seeks to give users a set of rights over their personal data and means to exercise those rights. For instance, a user will be able to obtain information about the different kinds of personal data that an entity has about them and how the entity is processing that data.
  • Fourth, the Bill seeks to create an independent and powerful regulator known as the Data Protection Authority (DPA). The DPA will monitor and regulate data processing activities to ensure their compliance with the regime. More importantly, the DPA will give users a channel to seek redress when entities do not comply with their obligations under the regime.
  • Several provisions in the Bill create cause for concern about the regime’s effectiveness. These provisions could contradict the objectives of the Bill by giving wide exemptions to government agencies and diluting user protection safeguards.
  • For instance, under clause 35, the Central government can exempt any government agency from complying with the Bill. Government agencies will then be able to process personal data without following any safeguard under the Bill. This could create severe privacy risks for users.
  • Similarly, users could find it difficult to enforce various user protection safeguards (such as rights and remedies) in the Bill.
  • For instance, the Bill threatens legal consequences for users who withdraw their consent for a data processing activity. In practice, this could discourage users from withdrawing consent for processing activities they want to opt out of.





Why in News?

  • AMID a surge in Covid-19 cases, Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have started reporting a shortage of the anti-viral remdesivir.
  • Recently, the Directorate of Foreign Trade in Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued an order prohibiting export of remdesivir and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) required in its production until further notice.
  • Remdesivir is an injectable anti-viral that aims to prevent replication of the virus.
  • It was manufactured in 2014 to treat Ebola, and has since been used to treat SARS and MERS.
  • In 2020, it was repurposed for Covid treatment. Clinical experience has shown it works best in mildly ill patients, and in early stages of hospitalisation; late use has little effect.




Discovery of a 3000-year-old ‘lost Golden City’ in Egypt

Why in News?

  • Egypt recently announced the discovery of what is being touted as the most important find since the unearthing of King Tutankhamun’s tomb almost 100 years ago.
  • A three-millennia-old “lost golden city” from the era of 18th-dynasty king Amenhotep III, who ruled ancient Egypt from 1391 to 1353 B.C., was found in the southern province of Luxor.
  • With mud-brick houses, artefacts, and tools discovered from the reign of the Pharaohs, some are even calling the find an “ancient Egyptian Pompeii”.

What have archaeologists in Egypt discovered?

  • The newly discovered city is located on the west bank of the Nile river, close to the Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum, or mortuary temple of King Ramses II, all of which are popular tourist destinations.
  • Last year in September, archaeologists had been excavating in this area to look for a mortuary temple of King Tutankhamun, who is among the best-known figures from ancient Egypt.
  • The legend of Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered almost intact in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 by British archaeologists is famous on account of the vast treasure discovered at the location.

Why is the find significant?

  • While unearthing the city, archaeologists are said to have found city walls and even rooms filled with utensils used in daily life.
  • They have found clay caps of wine vessels, rings, scarabs, coloured pottery, and spinning and weaving tools.
  • Some mud bricks discovered here bear the seal of Tutankhamun’s granfather King Amenhotep III, who is considered to be one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs.
  • The city is also believed to have been used by Tutankhamun and his successor Ay during a period widely believed to be the golden era of ancient Egypt.
  • The site contains a large number of ovens and kilns for making glass and faience, along with the debris of thousands of statues.




Uttarakhand’s Char Dham Board


  • The Uttarakhand government in December 2019 had tabled the Uttarakhand Char Dham Shrine Management Bill, 2019, in the state Assembly amid protests – within and outside the Vidhan Sabha.
  • The bill was aimed at bringing the Char Dham of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri and 49 other temples under the purview of a proposed shrine board.
  • The bill was passed in the Assembly and became the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019.
  • Under the same Act, the BJP government led by then CM Trivendra Singh Rawat constituted the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board on January 15, 2020.
  • The Chief Minister is the chairman whereas the minister for religious affairs is the vice-chairman of the board.
  • Two MLAs of Gangotri and Yamunotri are members on the board along with the Chief Secretary. A senior IAS officer is the Chief Executive Officer.
  • The shrine board is the highest governing body for the management of the temples with powers to frame policies, make decisions to give effect to the provisions of this Act, of budget formulation and to sanction expenditure, among others.
  • The board may also give directions for the safe custody, prevention and management of funds, valuable securities, jewellery and properties vested in the temples.




IIT research may improve lithium-ion battery performance

Why in News?

  • Researchers from IIT Guwahati have developed a technique to improve the performance of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which power most of the portable devices used today.

What are lithium ion batteries?

  • The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough and Akira Yoshino for work that led to the development of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in most mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops and power banks, among other devices.
  • The first commercially viable Li-ion battery was created by Yoshino in 1985 who developed on Whittingham and Goodenough’s work.
  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences notes that the foundation of the lithium-ion battery was laid during the oil crisis of the 1970s, around which time Whittingham started working on developing methods that could lead to fossil fuel-free energy technologies.
  • Today, most Electrical Vehicles (EV) use Li-ion batteries as well, but are slowly reaching their theoretical limits of being able to provide roughly up to 300-watt hour per kilogram of energy.
  • These batteries can also be used to store solar and wind power, which means that with their widespread use it may even be possible to live in a fuel free society.
  • Even so, some of the disadvantages of Li-ion batteries include their susceptibility to overheating and their being prone to damage at high voltages since they are made with flammable and combustible materials.
  • Such batteries also start losing their capacity over time — for instance, a laptop battery in use for a few years does not function as well as a new one.

So, what have the researchers now developed?

  • Researchers from IIT Guwahati have developed a technique which can precisely estimate one of the most important battery internal states known as SOC, short for state of charge.
  • SOC reflects the remaining capacity of the battery, that is how much more charge can be withdrawn from the battery before it gets fully discharged.
  • The knowledge of remaining capacity helps to optimize battery’s capacity utilization, prevent overcharging and undercharging of the battery, increases its lifespan, reduces cost, and ensures safety of the battery and its surroundings.

Are there alternatives to Li-ion batteries?

  • In 2019, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory developed a Lithium-ion battery that does not catch fire.
  • Earlier in January 2020, researchers from Australia claimed that they developed the world’s most efficient lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery, capable of powering a smartphone for five continuous days — the equivalent of an electric car being able to drive a distance of over 1,000 km.
  • While the materials used in the Li-S batteries are not different from those in Li-ion batteries, the Australian researchers reconfigured the design of the sulfur cathodes (a type of electrical conductor through which electrons move) to accommodate higher stress without a drop in overall capacity.
  • Li-S batteries are generally considered the successors of Li-ion batteries because of their lower cost of production, energy efficiency and improved safety. Their cost of production is lower because sulfur is abundantly available.
  • Even so, there have been some difficulties when it comes to commercialising these batteries, mainly due to their short life cycle and poor instantaneous power capabilities.