Current Affairs Apr 16

UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Why in News?

  • The United Nations Secretary General has called for the first ever UN Food Systems Summit to be held in September 2021 to strategize the actions for positive change in Agri-food systems in the World to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


  • The Summit will focus on levers and pathways to shape food systems nationally and globally to accelerate progress in the SDGs.
  • The Summit 2021 is planned to be essentially participatory and consultative and needs the game changing ideas from the experiences through the National, Sub-national (State)  and independent consultation for the five Action Tracks related to safe and nutritious food, sustainable consumption patterns, nature-positive production, advance equitable livelihoods, and resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress.

India’s Role

  • India with close to 18% humanity on the Globe owes paramount stake in this Food System Summit. India has volunteered, but not limited to, to the Action Track 4: Advance Equitable Livelihoods for the UN Food System Summit 2021.
  • To take the process further the Government has constituted a high level Interdepartmental Group under the Chairmanship of Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog along with the representatives from Ministries of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoAFW), Rural Development and others.
  • The prime function assigned to this group is to conduct National Dialogues with all the stakeholders of agri-food systems for exploring national pathways towards creating sustainable and equitable food systems in India and suitably contribute to transformation in global food systems to meet the needs of present and future.




National Startup Advisory Council

Why in News?

  • Minister of Railways, Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs and Food & Public Distribution chaired the first meeting of National Startup Advisory Council (NSAC).


  • Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) had constituted the National Startup Advisory Council to advise the Government on measures needed to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in the country to drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities.
  • Besides the ex-officio members, the council has a number of non-official members, representing various stakeholders such as founders of successful startups, veterans who have grown and scaled companies in India, persons capable of representing interest of investors into startups, persons capable of representing interests of incubators and accelerators, representatives of associations of stakeholders of startups and representatives of industry associations.



Eatsmart Cities Challenge and Transport 4 All Challenge

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs launched the EatSmart Cities Challenge and Transport 4 All Challenge.

The EatSmart Cities Challenge aims

  • To motivate Smart Cities to develop a plan that supports a healthy, safe and sustainable food environment supported by institutional, physical, social, and economic infrastructure along with the application of ‘smart’ solutions to combat food related issues.
  • The Transport 4 All Digital Innovation Challenge aims
  • To develop digital solutions that will make public transport safe, affordable, comfortable, and reliable for all.

EatSmart Cities Challenge

  • The ‘Eat Right India’ movement initiated by FSSAI under the aegis of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, has gone a long way in creating awareness amongst the people about eating safe, healthy and sustainably.
  • The EatSmart Cities Challenge is envisioned as a competition among cities to recognize their efforts in adopting and scaling up various initiatives under Eat Right India.
  • This unique challenge, in partnership with Smart Cities Mission will create an environment of right food practices and habits, strengthen the food safety and regulatory environment, build awareness among the consumers and urge them to make better food choices in India’s major cities and can set an example for other cities to follow.
  • The challenge is open to all Smart Cities, capital cities of States /UTs, and cities with a population of more than 5 lakh.
  • At the end of first phase of the challenge, 11 cities will be selected for deeper engagement for an extended period to implement their vision.

Transport 4 All (T4All) Challenge

  • Indian cities have the golden opportunity to invest in public transport as a social good, completely revamp informal transit services, and prioritise digital innovation to improve user experience.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched the Transport 4 All challenge in collaboration with ITDP.
  • The Challenge aims to bring together cities, citizen groups, and start-ups to develop solutions that improve public transport to better serve the needs of all citizens.
  • At the core of the Challenge are citizens who will not only define the problems for which solutions shall be created but also help start-ups and cities to refine the solutions to meet their needs.

Three Stages of the Challenge

  • Stage I PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION: Cities, with the support of NGOs, identify key recurring problems that citizens and public transport operators face.
  • Stage II SOLUTION GENERATION: Start-ups develop prototypes of solutions to improve public transport with inputs from cities and NGOs.
  • Stage III PILOT TESTING: Cities engage start-ups for large-scale pilots and refine the solutions based on citizen feedback.




Punjab’s new nutrient rich crop & vegetable

Why in News?

  • Punjab, the granary of India has come up with offerings of a bouquet of improved crop and vegetable varieties which are rich in nutrients and can make valuable contributions to the nutritional requirements of India’s population.
  • ‘PAU 1 Chapatti’ with low polyphenols and outstanding processing qualities has been shortlisted for commercialization whereas wheat candidate varieties having high grain protein, high zinc, low phytates (chemical group that reduces bioavailability of micro-nutrients and protein) and high carotenoids have been developed.
  • Besides this, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has offered to growers two carotene rich cherry tomato varieties called Punjab Sona and Punjab Kesar and two anthocyanin rich brinjal varieties called Punjab Raunak and Punjab Bharpoor with antioxidant properties.
  • These are also suitable for home/terrace/urban gardening. Inexpensive, nutrient rich home gardening pot mixture providing 40-50% higher productivity along with appropriately designed pots and pot props have also been developed.




World Population Report 2021

Why in News?

  • United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Flagship State of World Population Report 2021 titled ‘My Body is My Own’ launched.
  • This is the first time a United Nations report has focused on bodily autonomy, defined as the power and agency to make choices about your body without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you.

It says

  • In countries where data is available, only 55% of women are fully empowered to make choices over healthcare, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex. It also highlights that only 75% of countries legally ensure full and equal access to contraception.
  • Some examples of violation of bodily autonomy include, child marriage, female genital mutilation, a lack of contraceptive choices leading to unplanned pregnancy, unwanted sex exchanged for a home and food or when people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot walk down a street without fearing assault or humiliation.
  • Under its ambit also fall people with disabilities stripped of their rights to self-determination, to be free from violence and to enjoy a safe and satisfying sexual life.

India’s NFHS-4

  • In India, according to NFHS-4 (2015-2016), only about 12% of currently married women (15-49 years of age) independently make decisions about their own healthcare, while 63% decide in consultation with their spouse.
  • For a quarter of women (23%), it is the spouse that mainly takes decisions about healthcare. Only 8% of currently married women (15-49 years) take decisions on the use of contraception independently, while 83% decide jointly with their spouse.
  • Information provided to women about use of contraception is also limited — only 47% women using a contraceptive were informed about the side effects of the method, and 54% women were provided information about other contraceptives.





National Pension System (NPS)

Why in News?

  • The National Pension System (NPS) will no longer compel investors to convert 40% of their accumulated retirement corpus into an annuity.


  • Poor yields on annuities and high inflation are translating into negative returns.
  • The regulator will issue fresh rules to soon allow those saving up to ₹5 lakh in the NPS to take the whole amount at retirement, up from ₹2 lakh at present.
  • The pension fund regulator is also hoping to launch the first guaranteed return NPS scheme in the coming year.
  • Amendments will be made to the PFRDA Act of 2013 to allow NPS members with a balance over ₹5 lakh to retain 40% of the corpus in the NPS or wind it down over a few years through a system akin to a systematic withdrawal plan.

Tax, inflation hits

  • Since annuities are taxable, deducting the tax and factoring in inflation means annuities are yielding negative returns.




Dam Umngot

Why in News?

  • The Meghalaya government has defended its plan to dam Umngot, arguably India’s clearest river, despite protests from more than a dozen villages downstream.
  • The villages in the West Khasi Hills district are near the border with Bangladesh but the site of the proposed 210 MW Umngot Hydroelectric Project is upstream in the adjoining West Jaintia Hills district.
  • Many people downstream are dependent on the tourism that the river Umngot generates.




OCI cardholders

Why in News?

  • The Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) will not be required to register for a fresh OCI card every time a new passport is issued in their name.
  • At present, the OCI card is required to be reissued each time a new passport is issued up to 20 years of age and once after completing 50 “in view of biological changes in the face of the applicant”.
  • The details of the new passports obtained by the OCI cardholder can be uploaded online within three months of receiving the passport.

Changed Rules

  • Foreign spouses registered as OCIs will be required to upload a copy of the new passport and also a latest photo, along with a “declaration that their marriage is still subsisting, each time a new passport is issued”.
  • OCI citizens are of Indian origin but they are foreign passport holders and are not citizens of India. India does not allow dual citizenship but provides them certain benefits under Section 7B(I) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 to the OCIs.
  • As per norms, a foreigner of Indian origin or a foreign spouse of an Indian citizen or foreign spouse of an OCI can be registered as an OCI. OCI card is a life-long visa for OCIs to stay in India.
  • OCIs require special permission for “missionary, Tabligh, mountaineering or journalistic activities.”
  • OCI card holders can lay claim to “only NRI quota seats” in educational institutions based on all-India entrance tests such as the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the Joint Entrance Examination (Mains), Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) or other such all India character tests.




Money Transfer Outside Banking System

Why in News?

  • Transferring money to another person will soon be possible without depending directly on a bank.
  • Anyone will be able to send money online, or withdraw cash, using a mobile wallet or any non-bank entity through Real Time Gross settlement (RTGS) and the National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT), the centralised payment systems (CPSs) of the Reserve Bank of India.

What has the RBI done to facilitate this?

  • The RBI recently proposed to enable, in a phased manner, payment system operators like mobile wallets regulated by the central bank to take direct membership in RTGS and NEFT.
  • This is expected to minimise settlement risk in the financial system and enhance the reach of digital financial services to all user segments.
  • These entities will, however, not be eligible for any liquidity facility from RBI to facilitate settlement of their transactions in these CPSs.
  • The facility — details of which are yet to be unveiled — will be subject to an overall limit of Rs 2 lakh for non-banks.

Who can now undertake online transfers?

  • The RBI will now allow non-bank entities — Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers, Card Networks, White Label ATM operators, Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS) platforms — to become members of CPS.
  • Mobile wallets like Google Pay, Mobikwik, PayU, Ola Money, PhonePe and Amazon Pay can provide NEFT and RTGS facilities to their customers.
  • Transfer will be allowed only to KYC (know your customer)-compliant entities.
  • The RBI has decided to increase the limit of outstanding balance in PPIs of non-banks from the current level of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.




Azhdarchid pterosaurs

Why in News?

  • Azhdarchid pterosaurs, the giant reptiles that flew in the skies nearly 65 million years ago, had necks longer than that of a giraffe (on average a giraffe’s neck is about 6 feet long).
  • Now, researchers have reported a new finding about their long necks — that the thin neck vertebrae were supported by an intricate internal structure that is unlike anything seen before.

What are pterosaurs?

  • Pterosaurs are reptiles that are close cousins of dinosaurs, the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight.
  • Some pterosaurs were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, while others were as small as a paper airplane.
  • Pterosaurs went extinct about 65-66 million years ago (end of the Cretaceous period) and while they did not leave any of their descendants behind, scientists and researchers look for other ways to understand them – through their fossils, which, according to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), are not as abundant as their dinosaur cousins.
  • One reason for this is that few pterosaurs lived in places where fossils tend to form, because of which their bones are preserved poorly.
  • Azhdarchid pterosaurs are one type of pterosaur and one of the distinguishing characteristics about them is how big they were, especially their long necks.
  • Some of these pterosaurs were the largest animals to have flown in the sky, with wingspans greater than 30 feet.
  • The name azhdarchid, as per a blog on the Scientific American comes from Azhdarcho, a Central Asian form named by Russian ornithologist and paleontologist Lev Nesov in 1984 for the Uzbek word azhdarkho, which means dragon.

What have the researchers found?

  • Researchers used X-ray computed tomography and 3D modeling on specimen, they found that the vertebrae was filled with radial, spoke-like trabeculae that crossed each other like the spokes of a bicycle, which explained how the neck was able to support itself and the weight of the pterosaurs’ heads.




Whitest-ever paint

Why in News?

  • The whitest-ever paint has been produced by academic researchers, with the aim of boosting the cooling of buildings and tackling the climate crisis.
  • The new paint reflects 98% of sunlight as well as radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere into space. In tests, it cooled surfaces by 4.5C below the ambient temperature, even in strong sunlight.
  • White-painted roofs have been used to cool buildings for centuries.
  • Currently available reflective white paints are far better than dark roofing materials, but only reflect 80-90% of sunlight and absorb UV light. This means they cannot cool surfaces below ambient temperatures.

Three factors are responsible for the paint’s cooling performance.

  • First, barium sulphate was used as the pigment which, unlike conventional titanium dioxide pigment, does not absorb UV light. Second, a high concentration of pigment was used – 60%.
  • Third, the pigment particles were of varied size. The amount of light scattered by a particle depends on its size, so using a range scatters more of the light spectrum from the sun.
  • The ultra-white paint uses a standard acrylic solvent and could be manufactured like conventional paint.
  • They claim the paint would be similar in price to current paints, with barium sulphate actually cheaper than titanium dioxide.




Just 3% of world’s ecosystems remain intact

  • Just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and undisturbed habitat.
  • These fragments of wilderness undamaged by human activities are mainly in parts of the Amazon and Congo tropical forests, east Siberian and northern Canadian forests and tundra, and the Sahara.
  • Invasive alien species including cats, foxes, rabbits, goats and camels have had a major impact on native species in Australia, with the study finding no intact areas left.
  • The researchers suggest reintroducing a small number of important species to some damaged areas, such as elephants or wolves – a move that could restore up to 20% of the world’s land to ecological intactness.
  • Previous analyses have identified wilderness areas based largely on satellite images and estimated that 20-40% of the Earth’s surface is little affected by humans.
  • However, the scientists behind the new study argue that forests, savannah and tundra can appear intact from above but that, on the ground, vital species are missing. Elephants, for example, spread seeds and create important clearings in forests, while wolves can control populations of deer and elk.
  • The research used maps of the ranges of 7,000 species in 1,500 and today from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
  • Most of the data was for mammals, but it also included some birds, fish, plants, reptiles and amphibians. Many of the intact areas identified were in territories managed by indigenous communities. The analysis did not include Antarctica.
  • It might be possible to increase the ecological intact area back to up to 20% through the targeted reintroductions of species that have been lost in areas where human impact is still low, provided the threats to their survival can be addressed.




Fishing Ban

Why in News?

  • The Odisha government announced a two-month-long ban on fishing by mechanised vessels April 15, 2021 in a bid to conserve fish stocks in sea during their breeding period.


  • Trawling is one of two fishing methods in which the vessel, a trawler, speeds through the open sea with a net trailing behind it, catching all fish in its path.
  • During the monsoon, when fish normally breed, the force of a trawler’s engine can disturb the seabed, where fish eggs are buried and throw them up into the water, preventing them from hatching.
  • The summer monsoon is the breeding season of nearly 300 species of fish along the coast of Odisha.The ban extends to 12 nautical miles off the Odisha coast.
  • Small, non–mechanised boats that are less than 8.5 metres long and use nets with big gaps, are exempted from the ban. However, traditional fishermen are permitted to catch only pelagic fish.




Maldives bets on artificial islands

  • The government of Maldives, one of the most low-lying terrains in the world, is developing at least three artificial islands to tide over the rising sea-levels due to climate change.
  • Hulhumale, located to the northeast of the archipelago’s capital, Male, is a prominent example. It has been created by pumping out sand from the seafloor onto a submerged coral platform and is now Maldives’s fourth-largest island.
  • About 80 per cent of Maldive’s 1,190 coral islands are at an elevation of less than 1 metre (m) above sea level.
  • Globally, the annual sea-level rise is recorded at 3-4 millimetres and has been accelerating.
  • At this rate, it is only a matter of time that many of the islands are submerged.
  • Low-lying islands will become uninhabitable by 2050 due to flooding and scarcity of freshwater, a 2018 United States Geological Survey study concluded.
  • Sea-level will rise half a metre by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, or by 1m if they continue to rise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had warned.
  • Hulhumale, that rises 2m above sea level, could become a refuge for Maldive’s population.
  • The government had started constructing Hulhumale in 1997 on a lagoon off Male to accommodate the capital’s population swell. Now, the island covers an area of 4 square kilometres and is home to 50,000 people. Its population could grow to 200,000 in the future.
  • Since the 1990s, the government has also expanded at least two other coral atolls —Thilafushi and Gulhifalhuea — through land reclamation. They are currently being used as industrial areas or landfills.