Current Affairs Jun 25

Healthcare services in Mizoram

Why in News?

  • The Government of India, Government of Mizoram and the World Bank have signed a $32 million Mizoram Health Systems Strengthening Project to improve management capacity and quality of health services in Mizoram, particularly for the benefit of under-served areas and vulnerable groups.
  • The project will strengthen the governance and the management structure of the Department of Health and Family Welfare (DoHFW) and its subsidiaries, improve the quality and coverage of services delivered by the state government health systems, and invest in a comprehensive Quality Assurance program which would enable quality certification of health facilities.

Key Focus

  • To strengthen the effectiveness of the state health insurance programme; build synergies with the Government of India’s Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY); and thereby reduce financial barriers in accessing hospital services, prevent catastrophic out of pocket expenditure for health by poor families and expand coverage.
  • The project will also invest in improving the overall ecosystem for bio-medical waste management (both solid and liquid waste). It will include segregation, disinfection, and collection while safeguarding the environment and improving the quality of health service and patient safety.




Ship Financing and Leasing in IFSC

Why in News?

  • International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has constituted a committee to examine global best practices in ship financing and leasing, identify opportunities and devise a roadmap to enable such activities from GIFT IFSC.
  • This committee will be chaired by Ms. Vandana Aggarwal, former Senior Economic Advisor, Government of India. The committee includes representatives from the Government of India, Gujarat Maritime Board and industry experts possessing domain knowledge.

About India’s Shipping Route

  • India is strategically located on the world’s shipping routes and has a large coastline of approximately 7,500 km. India also has 12 major and over 200 minor ports.
  • 95% of India’s trading by volume and 70% by value is done via maritime transport.
  • Inspite of significant exposure to Shipping, India is yet to develop as an international shipping hub.
  • IFSCA aims to provide an enabling regulatory framework and facilitative environment so that GIFT IFSC can become an international hub for Ship Financing & Leasing activities thereby benefitting shipowners, lessors, carriers, ship operators, ship management companies and other stakeholders in the maritime ecosystem.
  • The committee is mandated to examine the existing legal, regulatory, tax and other applicable frameworks, identify the bottlenecks pertaining to ship financing & leasing and recommend specific measures required which shall enable ship financing & leasing from IFSC at par with best international practices.
  • The committee would submit its recommendations to IFSCA in three months.
  • The IFSCA was established with head office in Gandhinagar with an objective to develop the financial products and services in the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City International Financial Services Centre (GIFT IFSC).




Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT and PMAY-U

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) is organising an online event to commemorate 6 years of the launch of three transformative Urban Missions vis. Smart Cities Mission (SCM), AMRUT and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U), which were launched by Prime Minister on 25th June, 2015.
  • The three schemes were part of a visionary agenda for urban rejuvenation and were designed as part of a multi-layer strategy to meet the aspirations of 40% of India’s population living in cities.


  • PMAY-U, under the aegis of ‘Housing for All’, addresses urban housing shortage among the EWS/LIG and MIG categories including the slum dwellers by ensuring a ‘pucca’ house to all eligible urban households by the year 2022, when the nation completes 75 years of its Independence.

AMRUT Mission

  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was launched to address the issues of Water Supply, Sewerage and septage management, Storm Water Drainage to reduce flooding, Non-motorized Urban Transport and creating green space/parks in 500 cities with more than 1 lakh population.


  • Smart Cities Mission is a transformational Mission aimed to bring about a paradigm shift in the practice of urban development in the country.
  • Projects developed under the Smart Cities Mission are multi-sectoral and mirror the aspirations of the local population.
  • As on date, 69 Smart cities have developed and operationalised their Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) in the country.




Metal-air battery

Why in News?

  • A new non-precious metal-based bi-functional electrocatalyst (capable of catalyzing two different types of reactions) can decrease cost and increase the efficiency of metal air batteries.
  • With the rise in demand for different energy sources, worldwide efforts are being made to develop different kinds of energy devices, such as lithium-ion batteries, lead-acid batteries, redox flow batteries, lithium-air batteries, zinc-air batteries, etc. sodium-ion batteries, fuel cells, and super capacitors.
  • Among them, Zn-air batteries have drawn significant attention due to their low cost and high energy density.
  • They are compact power sources for portable electronics and electric vehicles and energy storage devices to manage energy flow among renewable energy generators, such as wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, electric grids, and end-users.
  • However, a major challenge for such batteries is catalyst development.
  • A bi-functional catalyst works for oxygen reduction while discharging the battery and the same catalyst helps in oxygen evolution reaction during the charging cycle.
  • Most of the conventional catalysts available consist of noble metals in their composition, making the batteries costly.
  • International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), has developed the cost-effective electrocatalyst by anchoring transition metal ions into the sulfur-doped carbon framework via carbonization of a polymer called sPEEK (sulphonated polyether ether ketone).
  • This catalyst synthesis method can also be used to recycle used ionomers (polymer composed of both neutral repeating units and ionized units).
  • The scientists have used an ion-exchange strategy that positions the metal ions in the carbon framework homogeneously, limits the particle size and offers control on composition and size at a very low loading of transition metal.
  • Cost-effectiveness is thus achieved by low loading of transition metal, high activity, and high cycling stability compared to many of the catalysts earlier reported in the literature.
  • The catalyst also leads to reduced voltage polarization, enabling higher energy efficiency and a stable charge-discharge characteristic.
  • The results obtained were comparable to that of conventionally used noble metal-based catalysts with metal loading of 20% or higher.




Ramappa temple

Why in News?

  • The Telengana government has intensified its pitch for speeding up the process for recognition of the Rudreshwara (Ramappa) temple as world heritage site.

About Ramappa Temple

  • Ramappa Temple also known as the Ramalingeswara temple, is located in the state of Telangana in southern India. It lies in a valley in Palampet village of Venkatapur Mandal of Mulugu district, a tiny village long past its days of glory in the 13th and 14th centuries.
  • An inscription in the temple dates it to the year 1213 CE and says it was built by a Kakatiya General Recherla Rudra Reddy, during the period of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva.
  • The temple is a Sivalayam, where Lord Ramalingeswara is worshipped.
  • Marco Polo, during his visit to the Kakatiya Empire, allegedly called the temple “the brightest star in the galaxy of temples”.
  • The temple is named after the sculptor Ramappa, who built it, and is perhaps the only temple in India to be named after a craftsman who built it.
  • The Temple is included in the proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site “The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways”, in 2019 on the “tentative list”.

World Heritage Site

  • A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
  • World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance.
  • The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”.
  • To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance.




RBI sets norms for NBFC dividend distribution

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to prescribe guidelines on distribution of dividend by NBFCs to infuse greater transparency and uniformity in the practice.
  • The guidelines will be effective for declaration of dividend from the profit for the financial year ending March 31, 2022 and onwards.
  • The NBFCs will need to comply with the minimum prudential requirements to be eligible to announce dividend.
  • One of the eligibility criteria is that the net NPA ratio should be less than 6% in each of the last three years, including as at the close of the financial year for which dividend is proposed to be declared.
  • While for NBFCs that do not accept public funds and do not have any customer interface, no specific ceilings on dividend payout has been set, the maximum dividend payout ratio for core investment companies is 60%, standalone primary dealers 60% and and other NBFCs 50%.




Proposed integrated theatre commands

Why in News?

  • Chief of Defence Staff held a meeting this week with the Vice Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and representatives of the Ministries of Home and Finance, National Security Council, Integrated Defence Staff, and Department of Defence, among others.
  • The meeting was held in the backdrop of concerns about the proposed model of the integrated theatre commands — both within the Services and outside, as it involves paramilitary forces as well.

What are integrated theatre commands?

  • In the simplest words, it is a unified command under which all the resources of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are pooled, depending on the threat perception.
  • The commands could be geographical — like looking at a border with a particular country — or thematic, like a command for all maritime threats.
  • Several nations in the world have theatre commands, including the United States and China.

Is theatre commands a new idea?

  • The idea of creating an integrated tri-Services command in India is not new — it had been recommended at various levels after the Kargil conflict.
  • When Gen Rawat was appointed Chief of Defence Staff in January 2020 with a mandate to raise such commands within his three-year tenure, the idea was finally brought to the design table.

What is the proposal under discussion?

  • A model with four to five integrated tri-Services theatre commands is under discussion, with each command headed by a three-star officer.
  • This officer, the theatre commander, will report to the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), which, as the name suggests, includes the three Service chiefs, and is headed by the CDS as its permanent chairman.
  • This brings in a major change — the Service chiefs currently have all the operational control over their forces; operational powers will now move to the COSC.
  • Each of these commands will have the needed assets from all the three forces. Operational control over all of those assets, regardless of the force, will lie with the commander of that theatre.

The proposed commands are:

  • A Maritime Theatre Command, which will take care of all the maritime security needs of the country on both the eastern and the western seaboards, and will include air strike assets and amphibian forces of the Army.
  • An Air Defence Command, which will be mandated with air defence across the country and beyond. The fighter jets will have reconnaissance and surveillance assets as well.
  • Two or three land-based commands are proposed. If there are two commands, there will be one each for India’s borders with China and Pakistan.
  • But there is also a proposal to have another command looking at India’s borders with Pakistan and China in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, given the unique territory and security needs of the country in that region.

How many commands are there now; are any of them tri-Service commands?

  • As of now, the three forces have 17 commands between them.
  • The Army has seven commands: Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, Central, Southwestern and Army Training Command (ARTRAC).
  • The Air Force has seven as well: Western, Eastern, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Training, and Maintenance commands.
  • The Navy has three: Western, Eastern and Southern, of which Southern is largely about training.
  • Even if these commands operate in the same region, they are not co-located, and their areas of operational responsibility are not necessarily the same.
  • There are two existing tri-Service commands as well — the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which is headed by rotation by officers from the three Services, and the Strategic Force Command, which is responsible for India’s nuclear assets.




India’s first maritime arbitration centre

Why in News?

  • The Gujarat Maritime University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Financial Services Centres Authority in GIFT City to promote the Gujarat International Maritime Arbitration Centre (GIMAC).
  • This will be the first centre of its kind in the country that will manage arbitration and mediation proceedings with disputes related to the maritime and shipping sector.


Where is the GIMAC being set up?

  • The GIMAC will be part of a maritime cluster that the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) is setting up in GIFT City at Gandhinagar.

Why is such a centre needed?

  • There are over 35 arbitration centres in India. However, none of them exclusively deals with the maritime sector.
  • The arbitration involving Indian players is now heard at the Singapore Arbitration Centre.
  • The idea is to create a world-class arbitration centre focused on maritime and shipping disputes that can help resolve commercial and financial conflicts between entities having operations in India.
  • Globally, London is the preferred centre for arbitration for the maritime and shipping sector.
  • The maritime cluster consisting of ship leasing and brokering services is being set up with the intention of drawing back all the maritime and shipping business which is located offshore like Dubai and Singapore.
  • Arbitration is an add-on maritime service which we are trying to provide within the Gujarat Maritime cluster that is being created within GIFT City.





Full ship shock trials

Why in News?

  • The US Navy carried out a ‘full ship shock trial’ on the USS Gerald R Ford, its newest and most advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, by detonating around 18 tonnes of explosives a few metres near the ship, to ensure its hardness was capable of withstanding battle conditions.
  • The megablast triggered an earthquake of 3.9 magnitude at sea around 160 km off the coastal state of Florida.

What is a Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST)?

  • During World War II, American warships suffered severe damage from enemy mines and torpedoes that had actually missed their target, but exploded underwater in close proximity.
  • The US Navy has since worked to improve the shock proofing of their ship systems to minimise damage from such “near miss” explosions.
  • In FSSTs, an underwater explosive charge is set off near an operational ship, and system and component failures are documented.
  • The FSST probes whether the components survive shock in their environment on the ship; it probes the possibilities of system failures, and large components that could not be otherwise tested.




Delta Plus

Why in News?

  • India has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

What is Delta Plus?

  • The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.
  • It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.
  • The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property.




Russia and China team up to build a moon base

  • Russia and China have presented a plan to build the joint International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).
  • The proposed lunar base is intended to be ready for crewed visits by 2036 and is unrelated to the American-led Artemis programme, which has pledged to land “the first woman and person of color” on the moon by 2024.
  • Like Artemis, the ILRS is open to collaborating with other countries.
  • The development of ILRS is split into three phases.
  • Reconnaissance is taking place now with missions such as Chang’e-5, which returned lunar rock samples to the Earth on 16 December 2020, and future Chinese and Russian missions.
  • One or more sites will be chosen in the coming years and then the construction phase will begin. This will last almost a decade, with cargo and equipment being transported to the lunar surface via uncrewed ships.
  • Finally, in 2036, human visitors will arrive to begin scientific work and further building of the base.

What is the Artemis program?

  • With the Artemis program, NASA wishes to demonstrate new technologies, capabilities and business approaches that will ultimately be needed for the future exploration of Mars.
  • The program is divided into three parts, the first called Artemis I involves an uncrewed flight to test the SLS and Orion spacecraft.
  • Artemis II will be the first crewed flight test and is targetted for 2023.
  • Artemis III will land astronauts on the Moon’s South Pole in 2024.




29 planets where aliens could observe Earth

  • In new research, astronomers have drawn up a shortlist of nearby star systems where any inquisitive inhabitants on orbiting planets would be well placed to spot life on Earth.
  • The scientists identified 1,715 star systems in our cosmic neighbourhood where alien observers could have discovered Earth in the past 5,000 years by watching it “transit” across the face of the sun.
  • Among those in the right position to observe an Earth transit, 46 star systems are close enough for their planets to intercept a clear signal of human existence – the radio and TV broadcasts which started about 100 years ago.
  • The researchers estimate that 29 potentially habitable planets are well positioned to witness an Earth transit.
  • Earthly astronomers have detected thousands of planets beyond the solar system. About 70% are spotted when alien worlds pass in front of their host stars and block some of the light that reaches scientists’ telescopes.
  • Future observatories, such as Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope due to launch this year, will look for signs of life on “exoplanets” by analysing the composition of their atmospheres.
  • One star known as Ross 128, a red dwarf in the Virgo constellation, is about 11 light years away – close enough to receive Earth broadcasts – and has a planet nearly twice the size of Earth.
  • Any suitably equipped life on the planet could have spotted an Earth transit for more than 2,000 years, but lost the vantage point 900 years ago. If there is intelligent life on any of the two known planets orbiting Teegarden’s star, 12.5 light years away, it will be in a prime position to watch Earth transits in 29 years’ time.
  • At 45 light years away, another star called Trappist-1 is also close enough to eavesdrop on human broadcasts. The star hosts at least seven planets, four of them in the temperate, habitable zone, but they will not be in position to witness an Earth transit for another 1,642 years.