Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister was apprised of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India and the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC), Nepal.
- The objectives of this MOU are collaboration on joint research activities of mutual interest such as
- cross-border health issues, Ayurveda/traditional medicine and medicinal plants, climate change and health, non-communicable diseases, mental Health, Population based cancer registry, tropical diseases (Vector borne diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya, malaria, JE etc.), Influenza, Clinical Trial Registry, health research ethics, Capacity building through exchange of knowledge, skills tools and fellows and Collaboration for adoption of tools, guidelines, protocols and best practices related to health research.
- Each Party shall fund the components of the research approved under this MoU to be conducted in their country or may apply jointly for third party funding.
MoU between India and Myanmar
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister S was apprised of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India and the Department of Medical Research (DMR), Ministry of Health and Sports of Myanmar signed recently.
- The objective of this MoU is to build on the health research relationship in the topics of mutual research.
The main objectives are:
- Elimination of infectious diseases (to be decided mutually)
- Development of network platform of emerging and viral infections
- Training /capacity building in research methodology management, clinical trials, ethics etc.
- Harmonization of regulatory mechanism
Refurbishing Personnel Administration and Governance Reforms
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India and the Public Service Commission, Office of the President, Republic of The Gambia on Refurbishing Personnel Administration and Governance Reforms.
- The MoU will help in understanding the personnel administration of both the countries and enable in improving the system of governance through replicating, adapting and innovating some of the best practices and processes.
The areas of cooperation under this MoU would include, but shall not be limited to:
- Improving Performance Management System in Government.
- Implementation of contributory Pension Scheme
- E-recruitment in Government
- The main objective of the MoU is to strengthen and promote bilateral cooperation between the two countries in Personnel Administration and Governance Reforms, as this will facilitate a dialogue between Indian Government agencies and the agencies of the Republic of the Gambia.
- More so, Gambia is keen to engage with India to promote cooperation in areas such as Improving Performance Management System in Government, Implementation of contributory Pension Scheme and, e-Recruitment in Government.
- Government of India has taken up a goal of quantum shift in delivery of Government Services across the country and also aims to further Government’s efforts at revamping of Personnel Administration and Governance Reforms which is relevant in the context of the goal of ‘Minimum Government with Maximum Governance’.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for extending the terminal date for registration of beneficiaries for availing the benefit under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY) for another nine months i.e. from 30th June, 2021 to 31st March, 2022.
- This scheme is being implemented through Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) to reduce financial burden of the employers of various sectors/industries and to encourage them to hire more workers.
- Under ABRY, Government of India is crediting for a period of two years both the employees’ and employers share’ (24% of wages) or only the employees’ share (12% of wages), depending on the strength of EPFO registered establishments.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)
- ABRY was announced as one of the measures under Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 package to boost the economy and increase employment generation in formal sector during post Covid recovery phase.
- This scheme will minimize the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s economy and will ameliorate the hardship faced by low paid workers, provide incentive to employers for restarting and expanding business activities.
BharatNet implementation through Public Private Partnership Model
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, today accorded approval for revised implementation strategy of BharatNet through Public Private Partnership mode in 16 States of the country.
- BharatNet will now extend upto all inhabited villages beyond Gram Panchayats (GPs), in the said States.
- The revised strategy also includes creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilization of BharatNet by the concessionaire who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process.
- The States covered under the Cabinet approval are Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
- An estimated 3.61 lakh villages including GPs will be covered.
- The Cabinet also accorded in principle approval for extending BharatNet to cover all inhabited villages in the remaining States and UTs.
- The PPP Model will leverage Private Sector efficiency for operation, maintenance, utilization and revenue generation and is expected to result in faster roll out of BharatNet.
Loan Guarantee Scheme for Covid Affected Sectors (LGSCAS)
Why in News?
- On account of the disruptions caused by the second wave of COVID 19 specially on healthcare sector, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved Loan Guarantee Scheme for Covid Affected Sectors (LGSCAS) enabling funding to the tune of Rs. 50,000 crore to provide financial guarantee cover for brownfield expansion and greenfield projects related to health/ medical infrastructure.
- The Cabinet has also approved introduction of a scheme for other sectors/lenders including those allied to better healthcare.
- In addition, the Cabinet has also approved additional funding up to Rs. 1,50,000 crore under Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS).
- LGSCAS: The Scheme would be applicable to all eligible loans sanctioned up to 31.03.2022, or till an amount of Rs. 50,000 crore is sanctioned, whichever is earlier.
- ECLGS: It is a continuing scheme. The Scheme would be applicable to all eligible loans sanctioned under Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line (GECL) till 30.09.2021, or till an amount of rupees four lakh fifty thousand crore is sanctioned under the GECL, whichever is earlier.
- LGSCAS: The LGSCAS has been formulated as a specific response to an exceptional situation the country has witnessed due to lack of adequate health infrastructure in the light of second wave of Covid-19. The approved scheme is expected to help the country in shoring up its much-needed healthcare infrastructure along with creating more employment opportunities. The main objective of LGSCAS is to partially mitigate credit risk (primarily construction risk) and facilitate bank credit at lower rates of interest.
- ECLGS: lt is a continuing scheme and recently, on account of the disruptions caused by the second wave of COVID 19 pandemic to businesses across various sectors of the economy, Government has further enlarged the scope of ECLGS. The enhancement is expected to provide much needed relief to various sectors of the economy by incentivizing lending institutions to provide additional credit of up to Rs. 1.5 lakh crore at low cost, thereby enabling business enterprises to meet their operational liabilities and continue their businesses. Besides supporting MSMEs to continue functioning during the current unprecedented situation, the Scheme is also expected to have a positive impact on the economy and support its revival.
Gamma Ray Burst (GRB)
Why in News?
- The highest energy afterglow detected in space so far seems to be a rebel. The emission from the most notable Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) explosion so far traced — the afterglow from a galaxy 4.5 billion light years away was found to be complex in nature and did not follow the evolution expected in standard afterglow models.
- The detection of high energy photons (TeV Photons) from this GRB provides new insights and important clues to unravel the underlying physical processes at work which result in such explosions.
- The GRB with ultra-high energy photons called GRB 190114C was detected for the first time on 14-January-2019.
- The GRB lasted for a brief period, followed by an initial bright flash in high energies known as the ‘prompt emission’.
- A less luminous but long-lasting counterpart known as the ‘afterglow’ was detected after the prompt emission and offered scientists the chance to probe the GRBs.
- Kuntal Misra from Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) carried out observations of the afterglow from GRB 190114C spanning over nearly 140 days after the burst.
- Detailed modelling of the afterglow using multi-band data indicates that the parameters describing the fraction of energy in electron population and magnetic field are evolving with time and not constant as generally seen in GRBs.
- The scientists suggested that the evolution of these parameters, at early times, may play a role in producing the bright TeV emission.
About Gamma Ray Burst (GRB)
- Gamma-ray bursts are the strongest and brightest explosions in the universe, thought to be generated during the formation of black holes.
- Though they last mere seconds, gamma-ray bursts produce as much energy as the sun will emit during its entire 10-billion-year existence.
- The enigmatic phenomena were first seen in 1967 by a U.S. Air Force satellite called Vela.
- The probe was designed to keep watch for secret Soviet nuclear testing, but it ended up spotting dazzling gamma-rays — the most powerful electromagnetic radiation — coming from beyond the solar system.
Black carbon could lead to premature mortality
Why in News?
- Black Carbon has a significant adverse effect on human health and leads to premature mortality, says a new study. The study could help in the estimation of future burden of mortality associated with air pollutants more accurately.
- The Indo-Gangetic plain is exposed to black carbon (BC) with serious implications on regional climate and human health.
- The health effects in terms of mortality due to BC aerosol exposure have never been evaluated in India.
- Team of scientists from the Department of Science & Technology-Mahamana Centre of Excellence in Climate Change Research (MCECCR) at Banaras Hindu University explored the individual as well as the cumulative impact of BC aerosol, fine (PM 2.5), and coarse (PM 10) particulates, and trace gases (SO2, NO2, O3) on premature mortality in Varanasi.
- A typical urban pollution hotspot in central Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), the town experiences very high aerosol loading and trace gas concentrations throughout the year due to prevalence of a subsidence zone and observed decadal increasing trends both in Aerosol Optical Depth and Black Carbon aerosols.
- The Scientists utilized daily all-cause mortality and ambient air quality from 2009 to 2016 to clearly establish a significant impact of BC aerosols, NO2 and, PM2.5 exposure on mortality.
- The inclusion of co-pollutants (NO2 and PM 2.5) in the multi-pollutant model increased the individual mortality risks for BC aerosols.
- The effect of pollutants was more prominent for males, age group 5-44 and, in winter.
- They found that the adverse effect of air pollutants was not limited to current day of exposure but can extend as high as up to 5 days (Lag effect).
- They further showed that mortality rises linearly with an increase in air pollutants level and shows adverse impact at higher levels.
About Black Carbon
- Chemically, black carbon (BC) is a component of fine particulate matter (PM ≤ 2.5 µm in aerodynamic diameter).
- Black carbon consists of pure carbon in several linked forms.
- It is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is one of the main types of particle in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot.
- In climatology, black carbon is a climate forcing agent contributing to global warming.
- Black carbon warms the Earth by absorbing sunlight and heating the atmosphere and by reducing albedo when deposited on snow and ice (direct effects) and indirectly by interaction with clouds.
- Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only several days to weeks, whereas other potent greenhouse gases have longer lifecyles.
National Doctors Day
- India celebrates National Doctors’ Day on July 1 every year to honour the birth and death anniversary of great physician and second chief minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy.
- This day serves to show gratitude to all those doctors who have selflessly aided us in our time of need and tirelessly worked for the health of their patients.
- Doctor’s Day is not just celebrated in India but also in different countries, however, on different dates.
- In the United States it is observed on March 30, in Cuba on December 3 and in Iran, it is celebrated on August 23.
- First time the Doctor’s Day was observed in March 1933 in the US state of Georgia.
History and Significance of National Doctors’ Day
- The Government of India established Doctors’ Day in 1991 to recognize the contributions of BC Roy.
- He played an important role in the establishment of Medical Council of India and Indian Medical Association. This day is celebrated to acknowledge the role of doctors in the progress of this nation.
Why in News?
- The Western Ghats have yielded a genus and species of nocturnal semi slug new to science.
- The newly described glossy grey or greyish-white Varadia amboliensis with irregular dark mottling measures 6.9 cm long at most, but scientists are enthused by its sensitivity to the slightest of climatic fluctuation.
- The genus of the new land species has been named after Varad Giri in recognition of his transformative contribution to the study and conservation of the Indian herpetofauna while the species name ‘amboliensis’ refers to the Amboli area of Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district.
About Semi Slug
- Semi-slugs are so-called because their shells are relatively small in comparison to the body, with the shell often partly or almost entirely covered by extensions of the snail’s ‘skin’, the mantle.
- In the new semi-slug, the parts of the mantle covering the shell lobes are retractable, so that the shell can be completely covered by the mantle or largely exposed.
- The semi-slug is endemic to the northern and central Western Ghats and primarily found in natural forests. It is most active at night and is known from only a handful of localities in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.
- The shell of the adult semi-slug is depressed and ranges from glossy golden brown to reddish yellow with rapidly increasing whorls.
Rubber Research Institute of India
Why in News?
- The Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board has decoded the entire genome of the most popular Indian hybrid rubber clone RRII 105.
- The findings would have a profound impact on research aimed at improving the genetic potential of rubber trees to produce more rubber and timber.
- This will also aid in evolving clones that can tolerate pests and diseases and adverse climatic conditions in a better manner.
- With the help of the whole genome information, the breeding cycle in rubber can be reduced by half from the present period of 23-25 years,
- The completion of this ambitious project will enable the country to be in the forefront of rubber cultivation and productivity in the coming years.
Diana Award 2021
Why in News?
- A 17-year-old student from Chennai, D. Kavin Vendhan, has been recognised for his social efforts, and is one among several recipients from across the world who have been recognised with the Diana Award 2021.
- The award, which is given by the charity of the same name established in the name of Diana, Princess of Wales, recognised 300 inspirational children and young people between the ages of 9 years to 25 years from across the world for their social action or humanitarian efforts.
- Kavin received a citation from the Charity for his non-profit youth initiative, ‘S.M.I.L.E.Y INDIA’ (Society for Motivation Innovative Leadership and Empowerment of Youth) and a write-up about it featured in the award honour roll, online.
- The initiative focuses on three main areas: reaching out to the student community at large and speaking to them about the importance of building skills beyond classrooms including communication and leadership, social responsibility and encouraging discussions on current issues, and addressing personal development and depression prevalent among teens.
World’s largest radio telescope
Why in News?
- The construction of the world’s largest radio telescope will begin from July 1, 2021, combining 197 dishes in South Africa and 131,072 antennas in Western Australia.
- The €2 billion Square Kilometre Array Observatory is an international partnership between Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
- The construction phase is expected to be completed in 2029 and once fully operational, the telescope will generate 710 Perabytes of science data per year.
- Headquartered in the UK, the members believe that the SKAO’s telescopes, SKA-Low and SKA-Mid, will explore the unknown frontiers of science and deepen the understanding of key processes, including the formation and evolution of galaxies, fundamental physics in extreme environments and the origins of life.
- The telescopes are planned to have a productive scientific lifetime of 50 years or more.
Efficacy of two-child norm
Why in News?
- In the recent past, States like Uttar Pradesh and Assam, and and Union Territories like Lakshadweep, have proposed to implement a two-child norm as a pre-condition for getting government jobs or to get nominated or elected to Panchayat elections.
Which are the States in the country that have enforced the two-child norm in one way or the other?
- Under the policy on the two child-norm introduced by States so far, anyone who has more than two children cannot be elected or nominated to Panchayat and other local bodies’ elections.
- In a few States, the policy has prohibited persons with more than two children from serving in government jobs or availing benefits of various government schemes. However, it is to be noted that States are implementing different aspects of the two-child norm as per their priorities.
- So far, 12 States have introduced the two-child norm. These include, Rajasthan (1992), Odisha (1993), Haryana (1994), Andhra Pradesh (1994), Himachal Pradesh (2000), Madhya Pradesh (2000), Chhattisgarh (2000), Uttarakhand (2002), Maharashtra (2003), Gujarat (2005), Bihar (2007) and Assam (2017). Of these, four States have revoked the norm — Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
- A five-State study found that, instead, in the States that adopted a two-child policy, there was a rise in sex-selective and unsafe abortions; men divorced their wives to run for local body elections; and families gave up children for adoption to avoid disqualification.
- The use of any modern contraceptive methods [female and male sterilisations, IUD (intrauterine device)/PPIUD (postpartum IUD), pills and condoms] is the highest amongst currently married Muslim women, at 49%, compared to 45.7% for Christian women and 42.8% for Hindu women, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), 2019-20, in the State.
- If we look at the unmet need amongst different religious groups in Assam, unmet need for Muslim women is 12.2%, compared to Hindu women (10.3%) and Christian women (10.2%), according to NFHS-5 data. This indicates that Muslim women want to use contraceptive methods, but are not able to do so due to lack of access to family planning methods or due to lack of agency.
- 77% currently married women and 63% of men, aged 15-49, in Assam want no more children, are already sterilised or have a spouse who is already sterilised. More than 82% of women and 79% of men consider the ideal family size to be two or fewer children (NFHS-5 data).
- India has already started experiencing a slowing down in population growth and a decline in fertility rate, The Indian Census data on Population confirms that the decadal growth rate during 2001-2011 had reduced to 17.7% from 21.5% over 1991-2001. Similarly, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is decreasing in India, going down from 3.4 in 1992-93 to 2.2 in 2015-16 (NFHS data).
- India, with a current population size of 1.37 billion, has the second largest population in the world. By 2027, India is expected to overtake China to become the most populous country (UN World Population Prospects 2019).
- The overall size of population will continue to increase for some more time as two-thirds of India’s population is under 35 years.
- Even if this cohort of young population produces only one or two children per couple, it will still result in a quantum increase in population size before stabilising, which as per current projections will happen around 2050.
‘Union’ or ‘central’ government
Why in News?
- In Tamil Nadu, a controversy erupted earlier this month over the new DMK government referring to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the ‘union government’ instead of ‘central government’.
- Article 1(1) of the Constitution of India says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
‘Central’ v ‘union’ government
- In common parlance, the terms “union government” and “central government” are used interchangeably in India.
Language and Constitution
- Justice (retd) K Chandru, a former judge of the Madras High Court, pointed out that more than 70 years after Independence, there is no authorised Tamil translation of the Constitution of India.
- The question in the ‘union or centre’ debate is about the nature of the Indian state, Justice Chandru said.
- “In the Government of India Act, 1935, provinces had more power and the Viceroy had only the minimum… But the Indian constitution changed this equation, and the federal government was made more powerful… The actual power is vested with the Union of India in all respects. In the 70 years of working of the Constitution, every power was taken away, even those conferred by the original Constitution.
- While submitting the draft Constitution in 1948, Dr B R Ambedkar, chairman of the drafting committee, had said that the committee had used the world ‘Union’ because
- the Indian federation was not the result of an agreement by the units, and
- the component units had no freedom to secede from the federation.
Why in News?
- Jacobabad, located in the Sindh province of Pakistan.
- Recently, the city has officially surpassed the threshold temperature which human beings can withstand.
- Mercury levels in the city can soar to a life-threatening 52 degrees Celsius (126 F).
How did Jacobabad cross this deadly temperature threshold?
- Jacobabad is situated along the Tropic of Cancer, which means that the sun is nearly overhead during the summer months.
- The mixture of heat and humid air from the Arabian Sea has contributed to the city crossing temperatures of 52 degrees Celsius,
- The researchers found that Jacobabad and Ras al Khaimah are the only two cities in the world to have crossed this dangerous temperature threshold.
- According to their research, temperatures are likely to rise even further in the near future as this region of Pakistan along the Indus Valley is believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change.
- To take both heat and humidity into account, the researchers assessed what are known as ‘wet bulb temperatures’.
- These are measured using a thermometer covered in a moist cloth. These readings are generally lower than dry bulb readings, which do not take humidity into account. Heat is more dangerous when combined with high levels of humidity.
- At a wet bulb reading of 35 degrees Celsius, the body can no longer cool itself by sweating.
- If this temperature persists for a few hours, it could result in organ failure and even death.
Why in News?
- The Spanish government approved the first draft of a bill that would allow anyone over the age of 14 to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis or hormone therapy.
- The bill will now go to a public hearing, and will then come for a second reading in the national cabinet. To become law, it then has to be approved by the lower house of the Spanish parliament.
What is gender self-identification?
- Self-identification, or ‘self-id’, is the concept that a person should be allowed to legally identify with the gender of their choice by simply declaring so, and without facing any medical tests.
- This has been a long held demand of trans-right groups around the world, including in India, as prejudice against trans people remains rampant.
Where is self-ID legal?
- As per the advocacy group ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), 15 countries around the world recognise self-ID, including Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Malta, Argentina, Ireland, Luxembourg, Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico (only in Mexico City), Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay.
- In Denmark, the law requires a six-month reflection period for formalising gender change. In Portugal, changing one’s gender for the second time requires going to court.
What is the process for declaring one’s desired sex in India?
- In India, the rights of transgender persons are governed by the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020.
- Under the Rules, an application to declare gender is to be made to the District Magistrate. Parents can also make an application on behalf of their child.
- A much-criticised previous draft of regulations required transgender persons to go through a medical examination for declaring their desired sex.
- This requirement was omitted in the final Rules, which state that the District Magistrate will “subject to the correctness of the applicant’s particulars, get the application processed based on the affidavit submitted declaring the gender identity of any person, without any medical or physical examination, and thereafter, issue an identification number to the applicant, which may be quoted as proof of application.”
- As per the Rules, state governments have also been directed to constitute welfare boards for transgender persons to protect their rights and interests, and facilitate access to schemes and welfare measures framed by the Centre.