Cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors
Why in News?
- Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare and Fiji’s Minister of Agriculture, Waterways & Environment, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of Agriculture and allied sectors between India and Fiji.
- The MoU provides for cooperation in the fields of Dairy Industry Development, Rice Industry Development, Root crop diversification, Water Resources Management, Coconut Industry Development, Food Processing Industry Development, Agriculture Mechanization, Horticulture Industry Development, Agricultural Research, Animal Husbandry, Pest and Disease, Cultivation, Value Addition and Marketing, Post-Harvest and Milling, Breeding and Agronomy.
- The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India and the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of the Republic of Fiji shall be the Executing Agencies from respective sides.
- Under the MoU, a Joint Working Group will be established to set down procedures and plan and recommend programs of cooperation towards achieving its aims. The Working Group will hold its meetings alternatively in India and Fiji once in every two years.
INDIAN NAVY – US NAVY
Why in News?
- Indian Naval Ships Kochi and Teg along with P8I and MiG 29K aircraft are participating in a Passage Exercise with US Navy Carrier Strike Group Ronald Reagan during its transit through Indian Ocean Region.
- The Indian Naval warships along with aircraft from Indian Navy and Indian Air Force will be engaged in joint multi-domain operations with the Carrier Strike Group comprising Nimitz class aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey and Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh.
- The two-day exercise aims to strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation by demonstrating the ability to integrate and coordinate comprehensively in maritime operations.
- High tempo operations during the exercise include advanced air defence exercises, cross deck helicopter operations and anti-submarine exercises.
- Indian Navy and US Navy regularly undertake a host of bilateral and multilateral exercises which underscore the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring commitment to an open, inclusive and a rule-based international order.
Pollution Control Vessels
Why in News?
- Ministry of Defence signed a contract with Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) for construction of two Pollution Control Vessels (PCVs) for Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
- These Special Role ships will be indigenously designed, developed and built by GSL. The acquisition is under ‘Buy Indian – Indigenously Designed Developed & Manufactured (Buy Indian-IDDM)’, the highest priority category for defence capital procurements.
- The acquisition will significantly augment the capability of ICG to respond to Oil spill disasters at sea and also enhance Pollution Response (PR) efficiency.
- At present, ICG has three PCVs in its fleet at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Porbander to carry out dedicated Pollution Surveillance, Oil spill monitoring/Response operations in Indian EEZ and around islands.
Why do new waves happen?
Why do new waves happen
There are four elements leading to the formation of a new wave.
- Behaviour of the virus: The virus has the capacity and ability to spread
- Susceptible host: Virus keeps looking for susceptible hosts for it to survive. So, if we are not protected either via vaccination or by previous infection, then we are a susceptible host.
- Transmissibility: The virus can become smart enough where it mutates and becomes more transmissible. The same virus which used to infect three hosts becomes capable of infecting 13! This factor is unpredictable. No one can pre-plan to fight such mutations. The change of the very nature of the virus and its transmissibility is an X factor and no one can predict when and where it may happen.
- Opportunity: ‘Opportunities’, which we give to the virus to infect. If we sit and eat together, crowd, sit in closed areas without masks, then the virus gets more opportunities to spread.
Mystery behind abundance of heavy metals in oldest metal-poor stars
Why in News?
- The abundance of heavy metals in oldest metal-poor stars that are born from the ejecta of first stars has intrigued astronomers for long as already known processes of reaction of chemical elements by nuclear fusion within stars (nucleosynthesis) could not explain it.
- Scientists have now found a clue to this abundance in a nucleosythesis process called the i-process.
- Metal-poor stars that show enhancement of carbon, technically called Carbon Enhanced Metal Poor (CEMP) stars which were formed from the ejected material of the first stars that formed after the Big Bang, carry the chemical imprints of early Galactic chemical evolution.
- Probing into the formation of these metal-poor stars that exhibit enhancement in carbon as well as the specified heavy elements can help trace the origin and evolution of the elements in the Universe.
- Scientists earlier found that heavier elements are produced mainly by two processes of nucleosynthesis– slow and rapid neutron-capture processes called s and r processes respectively.
- The s-process elements were thought to be produced in low and intermediate mass stars towards a final stage of stellar evolution.
- The proposed sites of the r- process are exotic events such as supernovae and neutron star mergers.
- The CEMP stars showing enhancements of s-process and r-process elements are known as CEMP-s and CEMP-r stars respectively.
- However, there is an another surprising subclass of CEMP stars, known as CEMP-r/s stars which exhibit enhancement of both s- and r-process elements the production process of which had remained a puzzle.
- A group of scientists has achieved a significant advancement in unravelling this puzzle.
- They have found that an intermediate process which they called i-process operating at neutron densities intermediate between those for s-process and r-process is responsible for the peculiar abundance pattern of CEMP-r/s stars.
- They have also put forward a new stellar classification criteria based on the abundances of barium, lanthanum and europium to distinguish between the CEMP-s and CEMP-r/s stars.
- With the help of a large sample of CEMP-s and CEMP-r/s stars from the literature, the team has critically analysed the different criteria used by various authors for CEMP-s and CEMP-r/s stars.
- They found that none of the existing classification criteria was efficient enough in distinguishing the CEMP-s and CEMP-r/s stars and hence put forward new criteria to fill this gap.
Delta plus is a variant of concern
Why in News?
- The Centre termed the emerging Delta plus variant a ‘variant of concern’.
- A variant of concern (VoC) carries the highest threat perception of a coronavirus variant, which is characterised by increased infectivity, transmissibility or resistance to vaccines and treatment. A variant of interest ,VoI is a degree lower.
- The World Health Organisation, had recently classified the variant ‘delta’ (B.1.617.2) as well as offshoots — AY.1 and AY.2 — as VoC.
- So far there are only four international VoC (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) with the off-shoots, AY.1 and AY.2 classified as off-shoots of Delta.
- Delta variant is a Variant of Concern and has been found in 80 countries. Delta plus is in 9 countries and as of now is in the category of variant of interest and is not yet in the variant of concern category.
First-ever genetically modified rubber
Why in News?
- A Rubber Board research farm on the outskirts of Guwahati now sports the world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant tailored for the climatic conditions in the Northeast.
- The GM rubber has additional copies of the gene MnSOD, or manganese-containing superoxide dismutase, inserted in the plant, which is expected to tide over the severe cold conditions during winter — a major factor affecting the growth of young rubber plants in the region.
- The plant was developed at the Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII).
- Natural rubber is a native of warm humid Amazon forests and is not naturally suited for the colder conditions in the Northeast, which is one of the largest producers of rubber in India.
Rare pygmy hogs
Why in News?
- Eight of 12 captive-bred pygmy hogs, the world’s rarest and smallest wild pigs, were recently released in the Manas National Park of western Assam. The remaining four would be released soon.
- This is the second batch to have been reintroduced into the wild under the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) in a year. Fourteen of these animals were released in Manas in 2020.
About Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP)
- The PHCP is a collaboration among Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust of UK, Assam Forest Department, Wild Pig Specialist Group of International Union for Conservation of Nature and Union Environment Ministry and is currently being implemented by NGOs Aaranyak and EcoSystems India.
- Six hogs — two males and four females — were captured from the Bansbari range of the Manas National Park in 1996 for starting the breeding programme.
- The reintroduction programme began in 2008 with the Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary (35 hogs), Orang National Park (59) and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary (22).
Brought back from near-extinction
- “Conservation of pygmy hog was initiated by noted naturalist Gerald Durrell and his trust in 1971.
- The pygmy hog was brought back from near-extinction by the partnership effort
About Pygmy hogs
- The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is a suid native to alluvial grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas at elevations of up to 300 m (980 ft).
- Today, the only known population lives in Assam, India and possibly southern Bhutan.
- As the population is estimated at less than 250 mature individuals, it is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Hearing beyond the normal range
Why in News?
- Human beings observe what and where something is happening around them using their sense of hearing. Humans, however, have a limited range of hearing and can perceive only certain sound frequencies – generally stated to lie between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.
- A new audio technique, developed by researchers will now allow people to hear ultrasonic sources that generate sounds of frequencies over 20,000 Hz.
- The technique would also allow for perception of the direction from which the sound is coming.
Listening to bats
- Bats in their natural habitats were employed as the source of ultrasonic sound in this study. Using their technique, the researchers were able to hear the direction of arrival of bat sounds, effectively allowing them to track the bats in flight as well as hear them.
Detect pipe leaks
- Minor pipe leaks and sometimes even damaged electrical equipment produce ultrasonic sounds that we can’t hear with our ears. Their device would enable quickly detecting the location of such faulty equipment, saving valuable time.
How judges recuse from cases
Why in News?
- In the last week, two Supreme Court judges — Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Aniruddha Bose — have recused themselves from hearing cases relating to West Bengal.
Why does a judge recuse?
- When there is a conflict of interest, a judge can withdraw from hearing a case to prevent creating a perception that she carried a bias while deciding the case.
- The conflict of interest can be in many ways — from holding shares in a company that is a litigant to having a prior or personal association with a party involved in the case.
- The practice stems from the cardinal principle of due process of law that nobody can be a judge in her own case.
- Any interest or conflict of interest would be a ground to withdraw from a case since a judge has a duty to act fair.
- Another instance for recusal is when an appeal is filed in the Supreme Court against a judgement of a High Court that may have been delivered by the SC judge when she was in the HC.
What is the process for recusal?
- The decision to recuse generally comes from the judge herself as it rests on the conscience and discretion of the judge to disclose any potential conflict of interest. In some circumstances, lawyers or parties in the case bring it up before the judge. If a judge recuses, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to a fresh Bench.
- There are no formal rules governing recusals, although several Supreme Court judgments have dealt with the issue.
Can a judge refuse to recuse?
- Once a request is made for recusal, the decision to recuse or not rests with the judge.
Compensation for Covid deaths
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a petition by two advocates seeking compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of those who have died of Covid-19 or related complications.
What are the provisions for compensation for death?
- Last year, the Centre declared Covid-19 as a notified disaster under the Disaster Management Act.
- Section 12(iii) of the Act says the National Authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include “ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood”.
- The Centre revises this amount from time to time.
Draft rules for e-commerce companies
Why in News?
- The government has proposed changes to the e-commerce rules under the Consumer Protection Act to make the framework under which firms operate more stringent.
- Several proposals in the e-commerce rules are aimed at increasing liabilities for online retailers for goods and services purchased on their platforms.
Are there any changes that could impact the shopping experience of users?
- Firstly, the draft rules issued by the Consumer Affairs Ministry seek to ban “specific flash sales” by e-commerce entities. While as per the draft rules, conventional e-commerce flash sales are not banned, specific flash sales or back-to-back sales “which limit customer choice, increase prices and prevents a level playing field are not allowed”.
- The rules have also introduced the concept of “fall-back liability”, which says that e-commerce firms will be held liable in case a seller on their platform fails to deliver goods or services due to negligent conduct, which causes loss to the customer.
- With fall-back liability, consumers will be able to reach out to the platform itself.
- The rules also propose to restrict e-commerce companies from “manipulating search results or search indexes”, in what comes as a response to a long-standing demand from sellers and traders to prevent preferential treatment to certain platforms.
What else do these new rules change for consumers?
- E-commerce companies will also be restricted from making available to any person information pertaining to the consumer without express and affirmative consent. No entity shall record consent automatically, including in the form of pre-ticked checkboxes.
- Further, the companies will have to provide domestic alternatives to imported goods, adding to the government’s push for made-in-India products.
- The draft amendment also proposes to ask e-commerce firms to mandatorily become a part of the National Consumer Helpline.
What changes for e-commerce companies?
- Any online retailer will first have to register itself with the Department of Promotion for Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
- The rules propose mandating that no logistics service provider of a marketplace e-commerce entity shall provide differentiated treatment between sellers of the same category.
- Any entity having 10 per cent or more common ultimate beneficial ownership will be considered an “associated enterprise” of an e-commerce platform.
Unchecked climate change will cause severe drying of the Amazon forest
- Amazon rain forests could be at far higher risk of extreme drought than previously thought, according to new research.
- An international study, warns that huge areas in the eastern part of the Amazon face severe drying by the end of the century if action is not taken to curb carbon emissions.
- As a result, large amounts of carbon dioxide would be released from the forest into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse gas effect and driving further climate change.
- The increased dryness during the Amazon dry season would further threaten the viability of large parts of the rainforest, as trees are already water stressed and there is greater risk of forest fires.
- The predicted droughts could also have far-reaching consequences for the Amazon water cycle, biodiversity, and the population that lives in the region.
- The research team examined factors regulating the process by which forests transfer water from the soil to the atmosphere—known as evapotranspiration.