Current Affairs Jul 10

1st India-UK Financial Markets Dialogue

Why in News?

  • India and the UK held the inaugural meeting of the India-UK Financial Markets Dialogue (‘the Dialogue’).
  • The Dialogue was established at the 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD)in October 2020 to deepen bilateral ties in the financial sector.
  • Financial Cooperation is one of the key pillars of the 2030 Roadmap adopted by the two countries during the recent meeting of the two Prime Ministers and the India-UK Financial Market Dialogue is one of the key elements of this Financial Cooperation.
  • The Dialogue began with a government to government discussion,focused on four themes:

(1) GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) City, India’s flagship international financial centre,

(2) Banking and payments,

(3) Insurance, and

(4) Capital markets.




Rail Cargo movement between India and Nepal

Why in News?

  • Rail Transportation between India & Nepal got a major boost with coming into force of authorization to all cargo train operators to utilize the Indian railway network to carry all containers bound for Nepal whether bilateral freight between Indian and Nepal or third country freight from Indian ports to Nepal.
  • This liberalization will allow market forces to come up in the rail freight segment in Nepal, and is likely to increase efficiency and cost- competitiveness, eventually benefiting the Nepalese consumer.
  • These cargo train Operators include public and private container trains Operators, automobile freight train operators, special freight train operators or any other operator authorized by Indian Railways .
  • Move will reduce transportation costs for automobiles and certain other products whose carriage takes place in special wagons.
  • Wagons owned by Nepal Railway Company will also be authorized to carry Nepal-bound freight (inbound and outbound on Kolkata/Haldia to Biratnagar/Birganj routes) over the Indian Railways network as per IR standards and procedures.
  • The signing of this LoE marks annother milestone in India’s efforts to enhance regional connectivity under the “Neighbourhood First”

Background of Rail Services Agreement (RSA) – 2004 and LoE.

  1. The Rail Services Agreement was executed on 21.05.2004 between Ministry of Railways, Government of India and Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Supplies (now Ministry of Commerce), His Majesty’s Government of Nepal (now Govt. of Nepal) for introduction of freight train services between these two countries to and from Birgunj (Nepal) via Raxaul (India).  
      1. This is an agreement which guides movement between India and Nepal by rail.
      2. The rationale for this Agreement is that there was no rail movement prior to this between the two countries and hence a framework was required for operational and commercial aspects and procedure for customs clearances for rail bound cargo.
      3. Since then large various developments have taken place which require changes to the Rail Services Agreement.
  2. There is a provision in Article 1.4 of the RSA that “the Agreement shall be reviewed every five years and may be modified by the Contracting Parties by mutual consent.
  3.  For effecting amendments in the relevant Articles to RSA, Letters of Exchange (LoE) are signed from both sides.   In the past, there have been amendments to RSA through LoE on three occasions. 
      1. First such amendment to RSA-2004 was effected through Letter of Exchange (LoE) signed on 21st May, 2004.
      2. Second LoE was signed on 17th December, 2008 at the time of introduction of bilateral cargo between the two countries which required introduction of new customs procedure and
      3. Third LoE was signed on 19/20.02.2016 enabling rail transit traffic to/from Vishakhapatnam Port in addition to existing provision of rail transportation through Kolkata/Haldia Port.




Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission

Why in News?

  • The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission would base its final report on the 2011 Census and also take into account the topography, difficult terrain, means of communication and convenience available while delimiting seven additional seats for the 83-member Assembly of the Union Territory (UT), besides granting reservation to the Schedule Tribe (ST) and Schedule Caste (SC) communities.
  • Delimitation must reflect the political aspirations of society bound in a particular geography.
  • Though the population forms the base [for delimitation], the commission shall take into account constituencies’ practicality, geographical compatibility, topography, physical features, means of communication and convenience available.
  • The earlier delimitation panels did not acknowledge the difficult terrains and people’s difficulties.
  • The commission will also specify the number of seats to be reserved for the SC and the ST in the Legislative Assembly of the UT. It will be for the first time that seats will be reserved for the ST in J&K.
  • It will be for the first time that STs, including Bakerwals and Gujjars, will get reservation in this delimitation exercise.
  • The maximum population of Gujjars and Bakwerwals are from the Pir Panjal Valley, comprising Poonch and Rajouri districts in the Jammu region.



KRS dam

Why in News?

  • The Karnataka government clarified that the dam is safe and there is no structural defect in the body of the structure.
  • Karnataka had received an award in 2017 for excellent civil works at the KRS dam under the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project of the World Bank.

Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) Dam

  • Krishna Raja Sagara, also popularly known as KRS, is a lake and the dam that creates it.
  • They are close to the settlement of Krishna raja sagara in the Indian State of Karnataka. The gravity dam made of surki mortar is below the confluence of river Kaveri with its tributaries Hemavati and Lakshmana Tirtha, in the district of Mandya.
  • Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV Maharaj of Mysore constructed the dam during famine despite the critical financial condition in State. One of the architects of the dam was Chief Engineer of Mysore M. Visvesvaraya. There is an ornamental garden, Brindavan Gardens, attached to the dam.




Make non-permanent staff eligible for shares

Why in News?

  • An expert group constituted by SEBI has recommended that non-permanent staffers should be considered eligible to receive share-based employee benefits.
  • In addition, it has suggested relaxations with respect to the quantum of sweat equity shares that can be issued by new-age companies listed on the Innovators Growth Platform.
  • The group has made several policy recommendations in its report, including combining both sweat equity and SBEB (share-based (share-based employee benefits) regulations.
  • In addition, the panel considered various practical issues in relation to implementation of employee stock purchase schemes through a trust.
  • It recommended that non-permanent employees may also be considered for eligibility to receive share-based employee benefits.
  • Accordingly, ‘employees,’ as defined by firms, should be eligible under the SBEB regulations, as opposed to earlier position of only ‘permanent employees.’

About Sweet Equity

  • The term sweat equity refers to a person or company’s contribution toward a business venture or other project.
  • Sweat equity is generally not monetary and, in most cases, comes in the form of physical labor, mental effort, and time. Sweat equity is commonly found in real estate and the construction industry, as well as in the corporate world—especially for startups.
  • Sweat equity is the unpaid labor employees and cash-strapped entrepreneurs put into a project.
  • Homeowners and real estate investors can use sweat equity to do repairs and maintenance on their own rather than pay for traditional labor.
  • In cash-strapped startups, owners and employees typically accept salaries that are below their market values in return for a stake in the company.




Disruptions caused by space operations

Why in News?

  • Federal regulators are now can better track rocket launches and space vehicles returning to Earth, which could cut the amount of time that airplanes must be routed around space operations.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration’s new tool automates the near-instantaneous delivery of data about a space vehicle’s flight path to the nation’s air traffic control system.
  • The tool, called the Space Data Integrator, will replace a system in which much of the work of giving telemetry data about space vehicles to air traffic control managers is done manually.
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX was the first company to share flight telemetry data with the FAA, and others including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have since joined the program.
  • The new technology was first used recently for the launch of SpaceX’s Transporter 2, which lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying dozens of satellites into orbit.
  • It will be used again with the pending return of a SpaceX cargo ship from the International Space Station.
  • With this capability, we will be able to safely reopen the airspace more quickly and reduce the number of aircraft and other airspace users affected by a launch or reentry.
  • During space operations, the FAA shuts down a huge section of airspace for hours in case the rocket or the space vehicle breaks apart.
  • Airlines must reroute flights, which causes them to burn more fuel and fall behind schedule. A single launch can affect hundreds of flights.




Covid-19 vaccine booster shots

Why in News?

  • Delta, Delta Plus, Lambda — as the novel coronavirus continues to mutate, all eyes are upon vaccine manufacturers who continue studies to see how capable their shots are against these variants.
  • This is where the concept of a booster shot arises.

So, what exactly is a booster shot?

  • A booster shot is nothing but a means of strengthening one’s immune system against a particular pathogen.
  • It may be exactly the same original vaccine, in which case its goal is to increase the magnitude of protection by producing more antibodies.
  • The vaccine contains weakened forms of the disease-causing virus or bacteria, or it may be made of an altered genetic “blueprint” for the germ that can make one sick.
  • The shot triggers one’s immune system to attack the foreign organism, like it would if one actually got the disease.
  • This helps our immune system remember the disease-causing germ.

Who would need a booster shot?

  • The first thing to keep in mind is that these shots are only for the fully-vaccinated.
  • Firstly, these boosters will be particularly helpful for the elderly and immunocompromised people whose bodies were unable to mount a robust protection against the virus following the first two shots.
  • Secondly, if there are studies showing that a new variant can sneak past the antibodies created by a specific vaccine, the need of a tweaked booster shot arises then.




Zika virus

Why in News?

  • Kerala is on alert after detecting at least 15 cases of the Zika virus.

What is Zika virus?

  • Zika is a viral infection, spread by mosquitoes. The vector is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya.
  • Additionally, infected people can transmit Zika sexually.
  • First identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys, Zika was detected in humans five years later.
  • Sporadic cases have been reported throughout the world since the 1960s, but the first outbreak happened only in 2007 in the Island of Yap in the Pacific.
  • In 2015, a major outbreak in Brazil led to the revelation that Zika can be associated with microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small and underdeveloped brains.

How dangerous is Zika?

  • Fears around Zika primarily involve microcephaly, especially when pregnant women are infected. Generally, the virus is not considered dangerous to anyone other than pregnant women.
  • Some countries that have had a Zika outbreak, including Brazil, reported a steep increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome — a neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • In 2017, following a study on Brazil’s confirmed cases, the US National Institutes of Health study estimated the fatality rate at 8.3 per cent.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

  • Most people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms. When they are manifested, the symptoms are similar to those of flu, including fever bodyache, headache etc.
  • The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is estimated to be 3-14 days.

How do you treat Zika virus?

  • Zika has no treatment or vaccine. The symptoms of Zika virus are mild and usually require rest, consumption of plenty of fluids, and common pain and fever medicines.




Global warming can put billions at risk of malaria, dengue

  • A 3.7 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures by 2100 from pre-industrial levels can unleash fatal outbreaks of malaria and dengue, a study claimed.
  • At that level of warming, some 4.7 billion more people may be at risk from such deadly diseases than were during 1970-99.
  • The study predicted the population at risk of malaria and dengue will be higher in densely populated urban areas in the World Health Organization (WHO)’s African region, South-East Asia region and the region of the Americas.
  • It also estimated that 1.4 billion additional people will be at risk of malaria and dengue in urban areas in Africa and southeast Asia.
  • The study found that the transmission season of both diseases would also increase due to climate change. Recent studies have shown that winters are becoming warmer and summers are arriving earlier. Hence, vectors like mosquitoes get more time to breed.
  • The risk of transmission of malaria will increase by 1.6 additional months in Africa’s tropical highlands, the eastern Mediterranean and the Americas.
  • The risk of dengue transmission will increase in the lowland areas of the western Pacific and the eastern Mediterranean by four additional months.




Zoonotic viruses

Why in News?

  • A quarter of mammal species in wildlife trade host 75 per cent of zoonotic diseases that can spread from animals to humans, according to a recently published study.
  • Rodents and bats were previously identified as the significant players for disease transmission. The study also added primates and even-toed ungulates such as deer (often poached for their meat) and carnivores to the hot list.
  • The researchers surveyed the association of 226 viruses responsible for zoonotic diseases with more than 800 mammal species distinguished into three categories: traded, non-traded, and domesticated mammals.
  • According to the research, primates, bats, ungulates and carnivores alone host 58 per cent of the known zoonotic viruses present in the wildlife trade.
  • Ongoing deforestation, land-use change and habitat fragmentation could result in direct contact and disease transmission between humans and the species listed in their study.




Human relationship with wild, domestic animals

  • The spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has triggered the need to understand zoonotic diseases more than before.
  • A new study has shed light on the need for coordination efforts among experts to find out how diseases related to wild, feral and domestic animals — that have the potential to be the source of future epidemics — can be prevented.
  • All categories of animals — wildlife, captive and domestic livestock — were included in the study.
  • The researchers focussed on pathogens, especially the viruses that can be transmitted from animals to humans and had the chance of acquiring epidemic potential.
  • A detailed understanding of how an animal virus jumped species boundaries to infect humans so productively would help in the prevention of future zoonotic events. If SARS-CoV-2 pre-adapted in another animal species, then there is the risk of future re-emergence events.
  • The study looked at disease transfer to humans involving wild animals, domestic animals and wild or exotic pets.
  • Most emerging infectious diseases originated from wild animals like non-human primates, rodents and bats and the diseases were transmitted to humans through an intermediate animal host (companion, farmed or feral animals).
  • Ebola has been suggested to have been transmitted from bats, either directly or via an intermediate host, while Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome likely originated in a species of bat, with the dromedary camel Camelus dromedarius as an intermediate host.
  • Destruction of biodiversity and increased human interaction with wild animals and wild animal products can increase the chance of zoonotic disease emergence.

To curtail zoonotic emergence from animals to humans, the study looked at four options:

  • Supply side measures (production / sourcing of animals)
  • Transport and sale (transactional interventions involving and regulation and legislative control)
  • Measures to tackle consumption (demand side interventions to reduce the frequency of a high risk product being used or shift demand away from high risk products towards lower risk ones)
  • Measures to create appropriate enabling environments (create markets for sustainable and low risk products and certification)
  • The call for a complete ban on hunting, wildlife trade and wet markets skip the importance that wildlife contributes to global diets, to fisheries and sustainable products. Wet markets are an important and affordable source of fresh produce for many.
  • The solution could include stronger enforcement on illegal wildlife trade and ban on high-risk wildlife trade to tackle emerging zoonotic diseases with epidemic potential into humans.




Ending the shift between Jammu and Kashmir

Why in News?

  • A tradition began, 149 years ago, of shifting the capital of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to Srinagar during summers and to Jammu during winters.
  • The ‘Darbar Move’, which brought two linguistically and culturally different regions closer, was entirely dependent on the vagaries of weather.
  • This tradition is likely to become history after the Lieutenant-Governor’s administration decided to shift to e-offices this month.
  • This is not the first time that the Darbar Move has come under a cloud. In January 1987, during his visit to J&K, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was stranded in Kashmir due to heavy snowfall while the capital was in Jammu.
  • Gandhi asked the Farooq Abdullah government to have a re-look at this practice because officials were unavailable when they were needed in Kashmir during winters.
  • A committee formed in 1987, headed by the then Chief Secretary, Shiekh Ghulam Rasool, submitted a report titled ‘Darbar Move:
  • The Reality’ to the government, to place before it the pros and cons of the practice. But the report was put on the back burner after the Jammu agitation.

A week-long carnival

  • The Hindu Dogra rulers from Jammu expanded their boundaries up to Afghanistan in the 19th Century, but most of them preferred to stay in the Valley.
  • It was in 1872 that Maharaja Ranbir Singh began the practice of shifting his government from Jammu to Srinagar in summers, taking the arduous journey along the Banihal Cart Road.
  • Dogra rulers popularised the papier-mâché artwork of Kashmir in many Jammu structures and the architectural elements of the Dogra Raj are visible in monuments in Srinagar such as the Sher Garhi Palace.
  • The Dogra rulers set up key institutions like J&K’s first museum and the Oriental Research Library in Srinagar. “Even the Royal Samadhi is in Srinagar. The Dogra Maharajas preferred to be called as Kashmir’s kings and contributed a lot to the Valley’s socio-economic development.
  • The Darbar Move, which took place twice a year — in October/November to Jammu and in April/May to Srinagar — would take two weeks of working days.
  • From the Raj Bhavan to the Chief Minister’s Secretariat to the Chief Justice’s office, the shifting of the capital was like a week-long carnival. It cost around ₹198 crore in 2019 to keep the tradition alive.


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