Current Affairs Jun 15

UN ‘High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land degradation and Drought’

Why in News?

  • The Indian Prime Minister, delivered a keynote address at the UN “High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought”.
  • The Prime Minister spoke at the Opening Segment in his capacity as the President of the 14th Session of the Conference of Parties of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • The United Nations has estimated that one-fifth of Earth’s land area – which is more than 2 billion hectares – is degraded, including more than half of all agricultural land.
  • And 12 million hectares of land is lost to desertification, land degradation and drought each year.
  • In all, nearly, 95% of calories from food come from soil, yet top soil erosion has accelerated by tenfold due to human activity. The world loses 24 billion tons of fertile soil annually due to dry-land degradation, with significant negative impacts on food production and economic activity.
  • The high-level dialogue launched recently will assess progress made in this fight against land degradation and propose a way forward at the end of the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification, and the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

India’s Scenario

  • India has taken the lead to highlight land degradation issues at international forums and pointed to the “Delhi Declaration” of 2019, which had called for “better access and stewardship over land” and emphasise gender-sensitive transformative projects.
  • Over the last 10 years, India has added around three million hectares of forest cover, which enhanced the cumulative forest cover to almost one-fourth of the country’s total area and India is on track to achieve our national commitment of land degradation neutrality.
  • India is also working to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, which would help create an additional carbon sink – natural assets that absorb carbon dioxide – of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • Efforts under way in the Banni region in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, which is marked by degraded land and lack of rain. India is restoring land there by developing grasslands.




 ‘Jivan Vayu’

Why in News?

  • Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar has developed a device ‘Jivan Vayu’ which can be used as a substitute of CPAP machine.
  • This is Nation’s first such device which functions even without electricity and is adapted to both kinds of oxygen generation units like O2 cylinders and oxygen pipelines in hospitals. These provisions are not available in otherwise existing CPAP machines.


  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a treatment method for patients having breathing problems during sleep called sleep apnea.
  • The machine uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open for easy breathing. It is also used to treat infants whose lungs have not fully developed.
  • The machine blows air into the baby’s nose to help inflate his or her lungs. The treatment is all the more necessary during early stages of the Covid-19 infection.
  • It reduces lung damage and allow patients to recover from the inflammatory effects.




Dagmara HE Project

Why in News?

  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between NHPC Limited and Bihar State Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited (BSHPC) for Implementation of 130.1 MW Dagmara HE Project, Dist. Supaul, Bihar.
  • Apart from generating clean and green power, the execution will boost the socio-economic and infrastructure development in the area and shall also create employment opportunities.


  • The 130.1 MW Dagmara HE Project, the largest hydropower project of Bihar is to be implemented by NHPC on ownership basis.
  • NHPC is a Category-A Miniratna Company under Ministry of Power, Govt. of India in the field of Hydropower.
  • Currently, NHPC has 24 operational power stations with a total installed capacity of 7071 MW.




Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Why in News?

  • NTPC, India’s largest integrated power generating company under Ministry of Power has floated a global Expression of Interest (EOI) to set up two pilot projects,
      • Standalone Fuel-Cell based backup power system and
      • a standalone fuel-cell based microgrid system
      • With hydrogen production using electrolyser at NTPC premises.
  • Through the projects, NTPC is looking to further strengthen its footprint in green and clean fuel.
  • This is in line with NTPC’s initiatives towards adopting Hydrogen technologies. It has already started a pilot for making methanol integrating carbon captured from power plant flue gas and hydrogen from electrolysis.
  • NTPC is exploring use of Hydrogen based Fuel Cells-Electrolyser systems for backup power requirement. Currently, the backup power requirement and micro grid applications are being met from diesel-based power generators.

How hydrogen fuel cells work

  • Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a source of energy.
  • Hydrogen fuel must be transformed into electricity by a device called a fuel cell stack before it can be used to power a car or truck.
  • A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy using oxidising agents through an oxidation-reduction reaction.
  • Fuel cell-based vehicles most commonly combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity to power the electric motor on board.
  • Since fuel cell vehicles use electricity to run, they are considered electric vehicles.
  • Inside each individual fuel cell, hydrogen is drawn from an onboard pressurised tank and made to react with a catalyst, usually made from platinum. As the hydrogen passes through the catalyst, it is stripped of its electrons, which are forced to move along an external circuit, producing an electrical current.
  • This current is used by the electric motor to power the vehicle, with the only byproduct being water vapour.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell cars have a near zero carbon footprint. Hydrogen is about two to three times as efficient as burning petrol, because an electric chemical reaction is much more efficient than combustion.




Cancer causing virus affects the glial cells in central nervous system

Why in News?

  • Indian Scientists have recently found that the cancer-causing virus Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) affects the glial cells or the non-neural cells in the central nervous system and alters molecules like phospho-inositols (PIP); a type of lipid, glycerol, and cholesterol, when the virus infects the brain cells.
  • This could pave the path towards understanding the probable role of the virus in neurodegenerative pathologies.
  • The virus has been detected in brain tissue of the patients suffering from neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson and multiple Sclerosis.

About Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

  • The EBV can cause cancers like nasopharyngeal carcinoma (a type of head and neck cancer), B-cell (a type of white blood cells) cancer, stomach cancer, Burkett’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, post-transplant lymphoid disorders, and so on.
  • More than 95% of the adult population is positive for EBV. However, the infection is mostly asymptomatic, and very little is known about the factors which trigger the development of such disease.
  • It was the detection of the virus in patients with neurodegenerative diseases that triggered the search for the mechanism of propagation of the virus.


Raman Scattering (RS)

  • The phenomenon of Raman Scattering, first discovered by Indian Nobel laureate (awarded by Bharat Ratna) Sir C. V. Raman, provides information on the structure of any material based on the vibrations produced in them.
  • Similarly, the light falling on the virus generates vibrations in the biomolecules, depending on the make of the virus.
  • Using RS, the light that is scattered by the virus can be captured and analyzed to understand its structure and behaviour.
  • Interestingly, every virus has a different biomolecular composition and thus generates a unique Raman Spectrum that serves as a fingerprint to its identity.
  • The study, based on spatial and temporal changes in Raman signal, was helpful in advancing the application of Raman Scattering as a technique for rapid and non-invasive detection of virus infection in clinical settings.
  • Since all the techniques available for viral load detection in the brain by far include invasive methods, RS can be a sigh of relief for patients undergoing brain biopsies for diagnostic purposes.
  • Furthermore, it can be helpful in determining the stage of infection based on biomolecular markers and thus aid in early diagnosis.




Cryogenic-Electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) facilities

Why in News?

  • Researchers in the country would soon have access to four Cryogenic-Electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) facilities paving the way towards establishment of leadership in structural biology, enzymology, and drug discovery to combat new and emerging diseases.
  • Cryo-EM is a testimonial for a revolutionary technology for structural biologists, chemical biologists, and ligand discovery, which has gained a clear edge over contemporary x-ray crystallography.
  • Cryo-electron microscopy technique was recognized with the Nobel Prize for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution (2017).
  • The revolution in resolution resulted in atomic-level understanding of the Zika virus surface proteins, thus aiding structure-based drug discovery, deciphering of structure of hard-to-crystallize membrane proteins and other macromolecular complexes.
  • The National Facilities supported by the Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), an institution under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), would help explore Macromolecular Structures and Complexes” and create research knowledge base and skills for cryo-EM research in India to establish leadership in structural biology, enzymology, ligand/drug discovery.
  • The first national cryo-EM facility was established at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in 2017 and then subsequently in IISc, Bangaluru, and RCB Faridabad.




AI-powered Contact-free Health Monitor & Step-Down ICU

Why in News?

  • Dozee, a Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and its PSU Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) funded start-up offers ‘contact-free monitoring of the vital parameters of the patients on a normal bed.

About Dozee

  • Dozee is an easy to deploy solution to upgrade the normal hospital bed to a Step-Down-ICU. It records the micro-vibrations produced in the heart-beat and respiration cycle using Ballistocardiography when placed under a mattress.
  • The device, using Artificial Intelligence algorithms, converts this data into vital signs like heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure.
  • The device has 98.4% proven accuracy as medical-grade products.
  • The device also records Oxygen saturation and ECG using accessories. The data can also be accessed remotely on any smart phone via an app.
  • The data can also be monitored on a central monitoring dashboard.
  • Dozee also features an AI-powered Early Warning System that sends proactive alerts to clinicians, thereby reducing the nursing staff’s workload and improving patient outcomes.

About DBT

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, boosts and augments the development of the biotechnology ecosystem in India through its expansion and application in agriculture, healthcare, animal sciences, environment, and industry.

About BIRAC 

  • Set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), is a not-for-profit Section 8, Schedule B, Public Sector Enterprise, which acts as an Interface Agency to improve and encourage the evolving biotechnology industry to execute strategic research and development activities in context to Nation’s product development needs.




SIPRI Year Book 2021

  • China is in the middle of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Year Book 2021.
  • According to the year book, India possessed an estimated 156 nuclear warheads at the start of 2021 compared to 150 at the start of last year, while Pakistan had 165 warheads, up from 160 in 2020. China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of 350 warheads up from 320 at the start of 2020.
  • The nine nuclear armed states – the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021.
  • Russia and the U.S. together possessed over 90% of global nuclear weapons and have extensive and expensive modernisation programmes under way.

IISS report

  • A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London, in May titled ‘Nuclear Deterrence and Stability in South Asia: Perceptions and Realities’ said that chance played an important ameliorative role in the India-Pakistan crisis of February 2019 and the two countries “risk stumbling into using their nuclear weapons through miscalculation or misinterpretation in a future crisis.”


  • SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.
  • Based in Stockholm, SIPRI is regularly ranked among the most respected think tanks worldwide.




Mutant form of Delta Variant

  • An emerging form of the Delta variant that allows the coronavirus to “escape” antibodies, in recently approved treatment regimes, is appearing on the radar of Indian scientists.
  • Five Indian labs have submitted data on this modified variant in May and June to GISAID, a global repository of coronavirus variants.
  • Evidence of the mutant have been found in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Telangana.
  • Called AY1 or B.1.617.2.1, it’s a variant of the Delta (B.1.617.2) but with a mutation called K417N, which has previously been identified in the Beta variant — first identified in South Africa.
  • This is an international variant of concern, marked by being highly infectious and significantly able to reduce the potency of vaccines.
  • The Delta variant is now regarded as the most prevalent variant in India, comprising nearly 31% of the 21,000 community-samples processed until late May.
  • An additional concern with the K417N mutation, was that it was associated with resistance to a newly developed treatment drug, Casirivimab and Imdevimab, for treating those with moderate and severe disease but at high risk.




GSP+ status given to Sri Lanka

Why in News?

  • A recent resolution adopted by the European Parliament, urging the EU Commission to consider temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ status given to Sri Lanka, has put the spotlight back on the country’s human rights situation, prompting Colombo to defend its “multifaceted progress” in a response.
  • Sri Lanka regained the GSP +, or the EU’s ‘Generalised Scheme of Preferences’ in 2017, under the former Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe administration, on Colombo’s commitment to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labour conditions, protection of the environment and good governance.
  • The status effectively removes import duties on goods from Sri Lanka entering the EU.
  • The “continuing discrimination” against and violence towards religious and ethnic minorities, while voicing “serious concern” about the 20th Amendment passed in 2020, and the “resulting decline in judiciary independence, the reduction of parliamentary control, and the excessive accumulation of power with the presidency”.
  • 20th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution that envisages expansive powers and greater immunity for the Executive President.
  • The EU is Sri Lanka’s second-largest trading partner — after China — and its second main export destination, absorbing 22.4% of Sri Lankan exports in 2020, mainly textiles and clothing.




Diabetes drug

Why in News?

  • Metformin is a widely prescribed blood sugar-lowering drug. It is often used as an early therapy (in combination with diet and lifestyle changes) for type 2 diabetes.
  • Team led by researchers identified the molecular mechanism for the anti-inflammatory activity of metformin and found that metformin prevents pulmonary or lung inflammation in mice infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • Researchers used a mouse model of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening condition in which fluids leak into the lungs, making breathing difficult and restricting oxygen supply to essential organs.
  • ARDS is a frequent cause of death in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.
  • The researchers found that metformin administered to mice prior to or after exposure to bacterial endotoxin, a surrogate for bacterial pneumonia, resulted in the inhibition of ARDS onset and lessening of its symptoms.
  • Metformin also produced a marked reduction in mortality in endotoxin-challenged mice and inhibited immunity.






Why in News?

  • Various organisations initiated a Twitter campaign demanding official language status to Tulu in Karnataka and Kerala.

Who all speak Tulu in India now and what is its history?

  • Tulu is a Dravidian language spoken mainly in two coastal districts Dakshina Kannada and Udupi of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala.
  • As per the 2011 Census report, there are 18,46,427 Tulu-speaking people in India.
  • Some scholars suggest Tulu is among the earliest Dravidian languages with a history of 2000 years.

So what exactly is the demand by Tulu speakers?

  • The Tulu speakers, mainly in Karnataka and Kerala, have been requesting the governments to give it official language status and include it in the eighth schedule to the Constitution.
  • Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri are the 22 languages presently in the eighth schedule to the Constitution.

The demand for separate statehood for Tulu Nadu

  • The political party ‘Tuluvere Paksha’, which got recognition from the Election Commission of India in February 2021 under section 29A of Representation of the People Act 1951, has given wings to the political aspirations of the Tulu-speaking people.
  • When there was a separate state for Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada-speaking people, why there cannot be a separate state for Tulu Nadu?