International Olympic Day
- The Olympic Games are an international sports event, held every four years featuring summer and winter sports competitions.
- World Olympic Day or International Olympic Day is celebrated on June 23 all around the world.
- World Olympic Day was introduced in 1948 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on June 23, 1894, at the Sorbonne in Paris.
- The day aims at promoting sports and spreads the message of making sports an integral part of life.
- The creation of the modern-day Olympic Games is inspired by the ancient Olympic Games held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.
- Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894 and laid foundation of the Olympic Games.
- The goal of celebrating Olympic Day was to promote participation in sport across the globe regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability.
World Olympic Day 2021: Significance & Theme
- The day is celebrated to encourage more people to participate in the Olympic Games and spread awareness about the event and promote the Olympic Movement.
- Based on the three pillars – “move”, “learn” and “discover” – the National Olympic Committees are deploying sports, cultural and educational activities to encourage participation regardless of age, gender, social background, or sporting ability.
- The theme for this year is Stay healthy, stay strong, stay active.
Merger of Central Railside Warehouse Company Limited (CRWC) with Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC)
Why in News?
- Taking another step towards implementing the direction of “Minimum Government Maximum Governance” given by Prime Minister, promoting ease of doing business and bringing private sector efficiencies in Public Sector Undertakings.
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Ministerhas approved to merge and transfer all assets, liabilities, rights and obligations of ‘Central Railside Warehouse Company Limited’ (CRWC), a Mini-Ratna Category-II Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE) incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 in 2007 with its holding enterprise ‘Central Warehousing Corporation’ (CWC).
- The merger will unify similar functions of both the companies (i.e., warehousing, handling, transportation) through a single administration to promote efficiency, optimum capacity utilization, transparency, accountability, ensure financial savings and leverage railway siding for new warehousing capacities.
About ‘Central Warehousing Corporation’ (CWC)
- CWC is a Mini-Ratna Category-I CPSE set up in 1957 to provide for incorporation and regulation of Warehousing Corporations for the purpose of warehousing of agriculture produce and certain other commodities notified by the Central Government and for matters connected there with.
- CWC formed a separate subsidiary company named ‘Central Railside Warehouse Company Ltd.’ (CRWC) on 10th July 2007 to plan, develop, promote, acquire and operate Railside Warehousing Complexes / Terminals / Multimodal Logistics Hubs on land leased from Railways or acquired otherwise.
- As CWC is the sole shareholder of CRWC and all the assets and liabilities and rights and obligations will be transferred to CWC, there will be no financial loss to either instead it will bring synergy.
Agreement between India and Saint Vincent
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved an Agreement between the Republic of India and Saint Vincent and The Grenadines for the Exchange of Information and Assistance in Collection with respect to Taxes.
Details of the Agreement:
- This is a new Agreement between the Republic of India and Saint Vincent and The Grenadines. There was no such agreement in past between the two countries.
- Agreement mainly proposes to facilitate exchange of information between the two countries and to provide assistance to each other in collection of tax claims.
- Agreement also contains tax examination abroad provisions which provide that a country may allow the representatives of the other country to enter its territory (to the extent permitted under its domestic laws) to interview individuals and examine records for tax purposes.
- Agreement between the Republic of India and Saint Vincent and The Grenadines will help in facilitating the exchange of information between the two countries including sharing of information held by the banks and other financial institutions encompassing the information regarding the legal and beneficial ownership.
- It will also facilitate the assistance in collection of the tax claims between the two countries.
- Thus, it will strengthen India’s commitment to fight offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance practices leading to generation of unaccounted black money.
- There was no such agreement with Saint Vincent and The Grenadines in the past and India was negotiating this agreement since a long time.
- Finally, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines agreed to conclude this agreement with India which will promote tax cooperation between the two countries through exchange of information and assistance in collection of outstanding tax claims between the two countries.
Bhutan’s Tax Inspectors without Borders (TIWB) programme
Why in News?
- Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB), a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), launched its programme in Bhutan.
- India was chosen as the Partner Jurisdiction and has provided the Tax Expert for this programme.
- This programme is expected to be of about 24 months’ duration through which India in collaboration with the UNDP and the TIWB Secretariat aims to aid Bhutan in strengthening its tax administration by transferring technical know-how and skills to its tax auditors, and through sharing of best audit practices.
- The focus of the programme will be in the area of International Taxation and Transfer Pricing.
- This programme is another milestone in the continued cooperation between India and Bhutan and India’s continued and active support for South-South cooperation.
River runoff, glacier melt and seasonality of flow in rivers
Why in News?
- Snow and glaciers are melting rapidly in the Himalayan range due to climate change, altering water supplies in the rivers like Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra in the Himalaya-Karakoram (HK) ranges.
- The HK region in South Asia, often called the water tower of Asia or the Third Pole is one of the most heavily glacierized mountain regions on Earth.
- Understanding the response of HK rivers to climate change is crucial for almost 1 billion people who partly depend on these water resources.
- The study shows that glacier and snow melt are important components of HK rivers with greater hydrological importance for the Indus than Ganga and Brahmaputra basins.
- The Himalayan river basins cover an area of 2.75 million km2 and have the largest irrigated area of 577,000 km2, and the world’s largest installed hydropower capacity of 26,432 MW.
- The melting glaciers fulfils the water requirements of more than a billion people of the region who will be affected when much of the glacier ice mass melts throughout this century and gradually stops supplying the required amount of water.
- Region-wide, the total impact on each year’s water supply varies.
- Glacier meltwater, and climate change impacts on glaciers, are more crucial for the Indus basin in comparison to the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins which are predominantly fed by monsoon rains and are affected mainly due to the changing rainfall patterns.
- Projected trends in river runoff volume and seasonality over the 21st century are consistent across a range of climate change scenarios.
- Total river runoff, glacier melt, and seasonality of flow are projected to increase until the 2050s, and then decrease, with some exceptions and large uncertainties.
- Now, chemical engineers have identified the life cycle of foam.
- The molecules of soap and detergent get accumulated in water to form micelles.
- The team noted that foam films have an ever-changing topography and the arrangement of micelles is governed by ionic interactions.
- This knowledge and understanding could aid in the development of new products — from food and personal care to pharmaceuticals.
- Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Purdue University have developed a new bio-ink for biosensors that could simplify surgery.
- These new biosensors allow medical practitioners to record and image tissues and help in identifying critical regions during surgery.
- The bio-inks are made of polymers which can also allow in 3D printing of stem cells.
- The team notes that the ink used in the biosensors is biocompatible and provides a user-friendly design.
How sour it is?
- How do our taste buds identify the sourness of a food?
- Though we easily identify the sweet taste of any food, it is not the same in the case of sour foods.
- However, many animals are able to distinguish the sourness of foods.
- Researchers using the fruit fly as their research model found that the insect while tasting acidic foods activates a neuron that decides whether to intake or refuse the food.
Health problems in rural South Africa
- A study conducted in rural KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa showed a high burden of undiagnosed diseases in the region.
- The 18-month study, found that tuberculosis, diabetes, and hypertension were prevalent among both genders.
- Also, four out of five women above 30 years were suffering from a chronic health condition.
- Findings suggest that the massive efforts of the past 15 years to test and treat for HIV have done very well for that one disease…But in that process, may have neglected some of the other important diseases that are highly prevalent.
- The cellular skeleton in our body consists of various protein filaments.
- The protein filaments further consist of intermediate filaments and microtubules.
- The intermediate filaments get added to the microtubules and prevent the latter’s change in shape which ultimately helps to maintain the shape of our cells, notes a new study.
UN climate report
Why in News?
- Hunger, drought and disease will afflict tens of millions more people within decades, according to a draft UN assessment that lays bare the dire human health consequences of a warming planet.
- After a pandemic year, a forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), offers a distressing vision of the decades to come: malnutrition, water insecurity, pestilence.
- Policy choices made now, like promoting plant-based diets, can limit these health consequences — but many are simply unavoidable in the short term.
- It warns of the cascading impacts that simultaneous crop failures, falling nutritional value of basic foods, and soaring inflation are likely to have on the world’s most vulnerable people.
- Depending on how well humans get a handle on carbon emissions and rising temperatures, a child born today could be confronted with multiple climate-related health threats before turning 30.
- It projects disruptions to the water cycle that will see rain-fed staple crops decline across sub-Saharan Africa. Up to 40% of rice-producing regions in India could become less suitable for farming the grain.
- Global maize production has already declined 4% since 1981 due to climate change, and human-induced warming in West Africa has reduced millet and sorghum yields by up to 20 and 15% respectively.
- Even as rising temperatures affect the availability of key crops, nutritional value is declining.
- The protein content of rice, wheat, barley and potatoes, for example, is expected to fall by between six and 14%, putting close to 150 million more people at risk of protein deficiency.
- Essential micronutrients — already lacking in many diets in poorer nations — are also set to decline as temperatures rise.
- Extreme weather events made more frequent by rising temperatures will see “multi-breadbasket failures” hit food production ever more regularly.
- As climate change reduces yields, and demand for biofuel crops and CO2-absorbing forests grows, food prices are projected to rise as much as a third at 2050, bringing an additional 183 million people in low-income households to the edge of chronic hunger.
- Across Asia and Africa, 10 million more children than now will suffer from malnutrition and stunting by mid-century, saddling a new generation with life-long health problems — despite greater socioeconomic development.
- As with most climate impacts, the effects on human health will not be felt equally: the draft suggests that 80% of the population at risk of hunger live in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Water crisis looming
- Just over half the world’s population is already water insecure, and climate impacts will undoubtedly make that worse.
- Research looking at water supply, agriculture and rising sea levels shows that between 30 million and 140 million people will likely be internally displaced in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America by 2050.
- Up to three quarters of heavily tapped groundwater supply — the main source of potable water for 2.5 billion people — could also be disrupted by mid-century.
- The rapid melting of mountain glaciers has already “strongly affected the water cycle”, an essential source for two billion people that could “create or exacerbate tensions over water resources”.
- As the warming planet expands habitable zones for mosquitoes and other disease-carrying species, the draft warns that half the world’s population could be exposed to vector-borne pathogens such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika virus by mid-century.
- Risks posed by malaria and Lyme disease are set to rise, and child deaths from diarrhoea are on track to increase until at least mid-century, despite greater socioeconomic development in high-incidence countries.
- Diseases associated with poor air quality and exposure to ozone, such as lung and heart conditions, will “rise substantially”.
Why in News?
- An instrument on board India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission has provided outstanding science results on the solar corona and heliophysics.
- Though we have a fairly good understanding of the origin of energy and other various aspects of the Sun, several potentially life-changing phenomena still remain a mystery.
- Some of these mysteries are related to the hot outer atmosphere of the Sun, known as corona, which emits profusely in ultra-violet and X-ray wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.
- It is known that the corona consists of ionised gas at temperatures exceeding one million Kelvin, which is much higher than photospheric temperature of 6000K, the visible surface temperature of the Sun.
- However, this observation is against the natural expectation that the temperatures should reduce as we go away from the source of energy, and this is known as the ‘coronal heating problem.’
- From observations, such as the presence of even hotter corona, called active regions above the Sunspots (dark patches seen in visible images of the Sun) where the magnetic fields are known to be stronger, it is suggested that the magnetic fields have an important role in the coronal heating.
- While there are different theories regarding the actual mechanism, one of these relies on the occurrence of a large number of small solar flares called nanoflares.
- Another puzzling observation about the corona is that certain elements are found to have abundances three to four times higher in active regions than in the photosphere.
- This happens for elements which are easier to ionise, or require lesser energy to ionise. In more technical terms, these elements have their First Ionisation Potential (FIP) lower than 10 eV, and hence this phenomenon is generally termed as FIP bias.
- The exact reason behind the FIP bias and its origin remains an open question.
- A team of scientists used observations of the Sun in soft X-rays with Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM) on board ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission during the deepest solar minimum of the past hundred years to learn exciting details about the solar corona.
- For the first time, absolute abundances of elemental Mg, Al, Si in the quiet solar corona are derived.
- The team discovered and characterised around 100 sub-A class microflares in the quiet corona providing new insight into coronal heating puzzle.
- The XSM, provides measurement of soft X-ray (1- 15 keV) spectrum of the Sun.
- The XSM also supports the quantitative measurements of elemental abundances of the lunar surface using the companion payload CLASS (Chandrayaan-2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer) developed by URSC (U R Rao Satellite Centre), an ISRO centre, which measures the X-ray fluorescence spectrum from the lunar surface.
- At present, XSM is the only instrument that provides soft X-ray spectral measurements of the Sun, i.e., measures the intensity of X-ray in different energies over the 1 to 15 keV.
- A remarkable and surprising observation is the detection of a large number (98) of extremely small flares in the quiet corona.
- These flares are so small that their intensity is well below the standard scale to classify solar flares (i.e. A, B, C, M, and X class flares, where each class is 10 times more intense than previous), and hence these are termed as sub-A class microflares.
- Using the X-ray spectra of these microflares obtained with the XSM and contemporary images in Extreme Ultra-violet obtained with the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the energy content of these flares could be estimated.
- Analysis of the XSM spectra of the quiet Sun, excluding the microflares, provided the measurement of abundances of various elements.
- The abundances of the low FIP elements Mg, Al, and Si were estimated and found to be lower than the abundances seen in active region corona but higher than that in the photosphere.
- This is the first report of measurement of abundances as well as reduced FIP bias in the quiet Sun.
The First Ionization Potential Effect
- The first ionization potential (FIP) effect is the by now wellknown abundance anomaly in the solar corona and slow-speed solar wind, whereby elements such as Fe, Si, and Mg with FIPs less than about 10 eV—i.e., those elements that are predominantly ionized in the solar chromosphere—are enhanced in abundance in the solar corona with respect to solar photospheric values by a factor of about 3.
- High-FIP elements are generally unchanged, although He and Ne can also show abundance depletions.
New species of skittering frog discovered
Why in News?
- A new species of skittering frog has been identified from the surroundings of the Thattekkad bird sanctuary.
- The new species is named as Euphlyctis Kerala in honour of the remarkable biodiversity of the State, which is also known for many endemic species of frogs.
- The study is part of an “Integrative Taxonomic Approach (ITA)” wherein scientists utilise morphological characters, genetic studies and other parameters to substantiate their findings of new species.
- The new species Euphlyctis Kerala is known to be found in the fresh water bodies of the foothills of the Western Ghats, south of the Palakkad Gap.
- Since these frogs live in fresh water bodies, conservation of these freshwater systems plays a crucial role in conservation of the species as well as species populations.
- Members of the genus Euphlyctis (skittering frogs) have their distribution range from Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Copper plates discovered in Srisailam deciphered
Why in News?
- The 18 copper plates recently discovered at Srisailam during the renovation of Ganta Matham, one of the Panchamathas, were deciphered.
- The copper plates written in Sanskrit and in Telugu Characters reportedly record the gift of the village Vemavaram, after renaming it as Allada Reddi Vemavaram to “the God Mallikarjunadeva of Sriparvata by the king” issued by Virabhadra Reddi, from the Reddis of Rajamahendravaram.
- The copper plate was issued by king Virabhadra Reddi, son of Allada Reddi.
- It is reportedly dated Śaka 1358 (vasu-bāna-viśva) Anala, Vaiśākha, śu.15 which is equivalent to 1436 A.D., April 30, Monday.
- It records the gift of the village for the merit of his father Allada Reddi, on the occasion of the Lunar eclipse.
- The record was composed by Kommanamatya and engraved by Pinanumka, son of Goragapumdi Numka.
Ranked choice voting
Why in News?
- Ranked choice voting made its debut in New York City’s mayoral primary.
- The system is based on a simple premise: Democracy works better if people aren’t forced to make an all-or-nothing choice with their vote.
- Rather than pick just one candidate, voters get to rank several in order of preference. Even if a voter’s top choice doesn’t have enough support to win, their rankings of other candidates still play a role in determining the victor.
- But the system is more complex than a traditional election, making it tough to forecast a winner. It could take longer to get results.
How does ranked choice voting work?
- In New York City’s version, voters get to rank up to five candidates, from first to last, on their ballot.
- If one candidate is the first choice of a majority of voters — more than 50% — that person wins the race outright, just like in a traditional election.
- If nobody hits that threshold, ranked choice analysis kicks in.
- Vote tabulation is done in rounds. In each round, the candidate in last place is eliminated. Votes cast ranking that candidate first are then redistributed to those voters’ second choices.
- That process repeats until there are only two candidates left. The one with the most votes wins.
Why do people like ranked choice?
- One benefit of the system is that nobody “wastes” their vote by picking an unpopular candidate as their first choice.
- Another benefit is that it’s tough for someone to get elected without broad support. In a traditional election, it’s possible for someone with fringe political views to win in a crowded field of candidates, even if they are deeply disliked by a majority of voters.
- That’s theoretically less likely in a ranked choice system. A candidate could get the largest share of first-choice votes, but still lose to someone who is the second or third choice of a large number of people.
What are the negatives?
- The system is tough to grasp. It requires voters to do a lot more research. It also makes races less predictable.
- Transparency and trust are also potential problems. Ordinarily, candidates, the public and news organizations can see votes coming in, precinct by precinct, and know exactly who is leading and where their support is coming from.
- Under the modern ranked choice system, the process of redistributing votes is done by computer. Outside groups will have a harder time evaluating whether the software sorted the ranked votes accurately.
- And there may be instances where candidates who seem to have a comfortable lead in first-place votes on election night lose because relatively few voters rank them as their second or third choice. That could lead to people questioning the results.
Class action suits
Why in News?
- A class action suit is a legal action or claim that allows one or many plaintiffs to file and appear for a group of people with similar interests. Such a group forms a “class”.
- A class action suit derives from representative litigation, to ensure justice to the ordinary individual against a powerful adversary.
- While class action suits have a history dating back to the 18th century, these were formally incorporated into law in the United States in 1938 under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
- Over the years, class action has become so successful at curbing negligence, that it is now a part of US corporate and consumer laws, environmental litigation, etc.
- The ubiquity of representative litigation in the US has given rise to a class of lawyers called “ambulance chasers” — those who solicit for clients at an accident or disaster site, largely for personal injury cases.
- They get financial compensation for their clients from the perpetrator, a percentage of which they keep. While such soliciting violates professional legal conduct in the US, it has helped hold people and corporations accountable.
Is there an Indian equivalent of US class action suits?
- The most actionable suit was the Bhopal gas leak from the Union Carbide factory in 1984, where more than 3,700 people died.
- Three class action suits were filed in the US, which dismissed all claims for environmental clean-up, personal injuries, and medical compensation.
- In India, the central government filed a case on behalf of the persons who had been injured as a result of the gas leak.
India now has legal provisions for filing class action suits, but under four laws:
- Order 1 Rule 8 of the Civil Procedure Code refers to representative suits, which is the closest to a classic class action suit in a civil context in India. It does not cover criminal proceedings.
- Section 245 of the Companies Act allows members or depositors of a company to initiate proceedings against the directors of the company in specific instances. There are threshold limits, requiring a minimum number of people or holders of issued share capital before such a suit can proceed. This type of suit is filed in the National Company Law Tribunal. Currently, no class action matters have been filed under this provision.
- The Competition Act under Section 53(N) allows a group of aggrieved persons to appear at the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal in issues of anti-competitive practices.
- The Supreme Court has held that in certain complaints under the Consumer Protection Act, they can be considered as class action suits. (Rameshwar Prasad Shrivastava and Ors v Dwarkadhis Project Pvt Ltd and Ors).
Is a class action suit comparable with public interest litigation?
- For filing a public interest litigation (Article 32 or Article 226 of the Constitution), the plaintiff need not have a personal interest or claim in the matter.
- The PIL must serve a matter of public interest. A crucial difference is that unlike a class action suit, a PIL cannot be filed against a private party.
What has deterred the development of a mature body of class action suits in India?
- There are several hurdles, which are not necessarily regulatory in nature.
- Underdeveloped system of torts: Tort law has not developed sufficiently in India for a number of reasons, primarily due to the high cost and time-consuming nature of litigation, especially in cases concerning the law of torts. As civil breaches, litigants find it too expensive and complicated, and therefore do not pursue such cases.
- Lack of contingency fees: The rules of the Bar Council of India do not allow lawyers to charge contingency fees, i.e., a percentage of the damages claimants receive if they win a case. This disincentivises lawyers from appearing in time-consuming cases that class action suits inevitably are. Revisiting this rule in specific cases may be a good first step in bringing class action suits into the mainstream.
- Third-party financing mechanisms for litigants: Since litigation costs are high, class action suits can be made easier by allowing external parties to fund or sponsor the cost of litigation. Some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka have made changes in the Civil Procedure Code to allow this.