Current Affairs Jul 2


Why in News?

  • The 7th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a biennial event, was hosted by the French Navy at La Réunion from 28 June to 01 July 2021.
  • IONS, conceived by the Indian Navy in 2008, seeks to enhance maritime cooperation among Navies of the littoral states of the IOR by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues that would lead to common understanding on the way ahead.
  • The chairmanship of IONS has been held by India (2008-10), UAE (2010-12), South Africa (2012-14), Australia (2014-16), Bangladesh (2016-18) and Islamic Republic of Iran (2018-21). France has assumed the Chairmanship on 29 Jun 21 for a two-year tenure.
  • IONS Conclave of Chiefs (CoC) is the decision-making body at the level of Chiefs of Navies, which meets biennially.
  • 6th IONS and CoC was conducted by Iran Navy in April 2018 at Tehran. Owing to the pandemic, the CoC 2021, will be hosted by French Navy later this year.




Report on United District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Education released the Report on United Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20 for School Education in India.
  • As per the UDISE+ report 2019-20, Gross Enrolment Ratio at all levels of school education has improved in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19. Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) has improved at all levels of school education.
  • According to the report, in 2019-20, enrolment of girls from primary to higher secondary is more than 12.08 crore.
  • This is a substantial increase by 14.08 lakh compared to 2018-19. Between 2012-13 and 2019-20, the Gender Parity Index (GPI) at both Secondary and Higher Secondary levels have improved.
  • The UDISE+ report shows a remarkable improvement in the number of schools with functional electricity, with functional computers, internet facility in 2019-20 over the previous year.
  • Another major improvement is seen in the number of schools with hand wash facility. In year 2019-20, more than 90% schools in India had hand wash facility as compared to only 36.3% in 2012-13.

 Highlights of Report on United District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20:

  • In 2019-20, total students in school education from pre-primary to higher secondary have crossed 26.45 crore. This is higher by 42.3 lakh compared to 2018-19.
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio at all levels of school education has improved in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19.
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio increased to 89.7% (from 87.7%) at Upper Primary level, 97.8% (from 96.1%) at Elementary Level, 77.9% (from 76.9%) at Secondary Level and 51.4% (from 50.1%) at Higher Secondary Level in 2019-20 (from 2018-19).
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has improved by nearly 10% in secondary between 2012-13 and 2019-20. GER for secondary has reached nearly 78% in 2019-20, compared to 68.7% in 2012-13.
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has improved by more than 11% in higher secondary between 2012-13 and 2019-20. GER for higher secondary has reached 51.4% in 2019-20, compared to 40.1% in 2012-13.
  • n 2019-20, 96.87 lakh teachers have been engaged in school education. This is higher by about 2.57 lakh compared to 2018-19.
  • The Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) has improved at all levels of school education.
  • In 2019-20, enrolment of girls from primary to higher secondary is more than 12.08 crore. This is an increase by 14.08 lakh compared to 2018-19.
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio of girls has increased to 90.5% (from 88.5%) at Upper Primary level, 98.7% (from 96.7%) at Elementary Level, 77.8% (from 76.9%) at Secondary Level and 52.4% (from 50.8%) at Higher Secondary Level in 2019-20 (from 2018-19).




AI and Emerging Technologies Centre of Excellence

Why in News?

  • The Arun Jaitley National Institute of Financial Management (AJNIFM) and Microsoft signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a strategic partnership to build an AI and emerging technologies Centre of Excellence at AJNIFM.
  • The collaboration seeks to explore the role of cloud, AI and emerging technologies for transforming and shaping the future of public finance management in India.
  • The Centre of Excellence will serve as a central body for research, AI scenario envisioning and tech led innovation.
  • AJNIFM and Microsoft will jointly explore use cases of emerging technologies in finance and related areas, across central and state ministries and public sector enterprises.
  • Microsoft will partner closely with AJNIFM to define the future of public finance management in India, providing the technology, tools and resources to build a strong ecosystem of partners, upskill government officials and build thought leadership.

As part of the strategic partnership, Microsoft and AJNIFM will focus on:

  • Building an innovation centre: Joint development of a Centre of Excellence at AJNIFM to drive AI envisioning in finance management across key associated ministries of AJNIFM.
  • Industry thought leadership: Microsoft and AJNIFM will jointly develop research papers and organize strategic knowledge sharing workshops with industry experts to discuss the role of cloud, data and AI for re-imagining public finance management in India.
  • Reskilling and capacity building: Developers at AJNIFM and senior government officials from associated ministries will be skilled in data engineering, data sciences, AI and machine learning etc.
  • Creating a strong ecosystem of partners: Engaging ecosystem partners, academia and MSMEs to drive innovation in financial management based on priority scenarios.


  • The Arun Jaitley National Institute of Financial Management (AJNIFM) is a Centre of Excellence specialising in capacity building of professionals in the fields of Public Policy, Financial Management and other governance issues for promoting highest standards of professional competence and practice.
  • AJNIFM was set up in 1993 as a registered society under Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  • AJNIFM plays a pivotal role in governance and administrative reforms by providing a platform for interaction and exchange of ideas and experiences among officers from different organized services, different state governments and between personnel of civil and defense establishments.
  • AJNIFM has become a premier resource center to meet the training needs of Central Government for senior and middle level management.

About Microsoft India

  • Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge.
  • Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Microsoft set up its India operations in 1990.





Why in News?

  • Patrode, a delicacy made with colocasia leaves that is popular in Malnad, coastal Karnataka and some other parts of the country, has been identified as one of the ‘traditional food recipes from the AYUSH system of medicine’ by the Union Ministry of AYUSH.
  • It is one among 26 traditional recipes selected by the Ministry while preparing a booklet.
  • In addition to Kerala where Patrode is called ‘chembila appam’, the dish is also prepared in parts of Maharashtra, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and the North East region.
  • Patrode is widely cooked in coastal and Malnad belts during the rainy season.
  • A variant of colocasia leaves, which grows on tree trunks during the monsoon, is in huge demand for making the dish.

Health Benefits

  • Iron-rich colocasia leaves help in improving the hemoglobin level.
  • The leaves contain phenols, tannins, flavonoids, glycosides and sterols, which help in reducing chronic inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis. The leaves have significant amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene.

Other Recipes

  • Some among other traditional recipes selected by the Ministry are peya (medicated rice gruel), lajardraka (puffed paddy ginger granules), amalaki panaka (Indian gooseberry drink), amla squash, takra (buttermilk), khalam’ (medicated buttermilk), yusha (medicated soup), rasala (medicated curd), ragi and banana smoothie, and niger seeds laddu.




Defence service workers barred from strike

Why in News?

  • The Law Ministry notified an Ordinance that prohibited employees engaged in essential defence services from taking part in any agitation or strike.
  • The Essential Defence Services Ordinance 2021 comes in the backdrop of major federations affiliated with the 76,000 employees of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) making an announcement that they would go on indefinite strike from July 26 in protest against the government’s decision to corporatise the OFB.
  • Any person, who commences a strike which is illegal under this Ordinance or goes or remains on, or otherwise takes part in, any such strike, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to ₹10,000 or both,” the Law Ministry notification said.
  • The notification added that anyone instigating or inciting others to take part in a strike declared illegal under the Ordinance shall also be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend up to two years, apart from having to pay fines.
  • Employees involved in the production of defence equipment, services and operation, or maintenance of any industrial establishment connected with the military, as well as those employed in repair and maintenance of defence products, will come under the purview of the Ordinance.
  • Recently, the Union Cabinet approved a long-pending proposal to restructure the nearly 200-year-old Ordnance Factory Board — operating 41 ammunition and military equipment production facilities — into seven state-owned corporations to improve its accountability, efficiency and competitiveness.






Why in News?

  • Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila has applied to Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), the national drugs regulator, seeking emergency use authorisation (EUA) for ZyCov-D, its Covid-19 vaccine.
  • If approved by the regulator, ZyCov-D will be the world’s first DNA vaccine against infection with SARS-CoV-2.

What is the ZyCov-D vaccine, and how does it work?

  • ZyCov-D is a “plasmid DNA” vaccine — or a vaccine that uses a genetically engineered, non-replicating version of a type of DNA molecule known as a ‘plasmid’.
  • The plasmids in this case are coded with the instructions to make the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
  • Vaccination gives the code to cells in the recipient’s body, so they can begin making the spiky outer layer of the virus.
  • The immune system is expected to recognize this as a threat and develop antibodies in response.
  • Most Covid-19 vaccines currently are given in two doses, with a couple of single-shot ones also available. ZyCov-D by contrast, will be given in three doses, with an interval of 28 days between the first and second and second and third shots.
  • No needle is used — instead, a spring-powered device delivers the shot as a narrow, precise stream of fluid that penetrates the skin.
  • ZyCov-D has been developed with the support of the central government’s Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).




Australia ranks last for climate action among UN member countries

  • Australia has been ranked last for climate action out of nearly 200 countries in a report assessing progress towards global sustainable development goals.
  • The Sustainable Development Report 2021 scored Australia last out of 193 United Nations member countries for action taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A database shows Australia received a score of just 10 out of 100 in an assessment of fossil fuel emissions, emissions associated with imports and exports, and policies for pricing carbon.
  • Second last was Brunei, which was ranked behind Qatar and Norway.
  • Australia has received similar rankings from other comparable studies, including the Climate Change Performance Index, which last year ranked Australia second last behind only Trump’s America.
  • The report noted Australia had not committed to achieving netzero carbon emissions by 2050 but has instead signalled Australia wants to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible and “preferably” by 2050.
  • The Sustainable Development Report tracks countries’ progress towards the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, which include quality education, gender equality, wiping out poverty, creating sustainable cities and communities, and affordable and clean energy.
  • Australia ranked 35th overall, performing strongly on health and wellbeing, economic growth, education and clean water and sanitation.
  • For clean energy, Australia was listed as having “major challenges” but recorded a moderate improvement over the past 12 months.




Growth of sea snot in Sea of Marmara

Why in News?

  • Turkey should mitigate the growth of factors that have been responsible for the biggest-ever outbreak of sea snot or marine mucilage in its Sea of Marmara.
  • Instead of trying to ‘clean up’ the inland sea that separates the European and Asian parts of Turkey, the country should take steps like limiting the flow of nutrients into rivers at the source.
  • Sea snot has also been seen in the adjoining Black Sea and Greece’s Aegean Sea, which are connected by the Sea of Marmara through the straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles.

But what exactly is sea snot?

  • It was first discovered in Turkey in 2007.
  • Also known as ‘marine mucilage’, it is a thick, slimy grey-brown sheet that is formed by dead and living organic material.
  • The sludge forms when algae overloaded with nutrients fests on warm weather.
  • This warm weather is caused due to global warming.Algae are the prime source of oxygen in water bodies.
  • However, if their growth is overlooked, they could lead to the formation of this mucilage that could block sunlight from entering the deep waters of the oceans.
  • The current outbreak has made it difficult for marine and aquatic life to survive beneath water.
  • It has also affected local communities on a large scale. Some of the sea snot has sunk below the water surface, suffocating the seabed.
  • The proliferation of the organic matter can also flourish when nutrient-rich sewage flows into seawater as it contains a wide variety of micro-organisms.
  • The ocean biogeochemical cycle was majorly dependent upon plankton species like ‘coccolithophores’ that helped in calcifying carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • This process sequestrated atmospheric carbon dioxide and thereby helped in preventing immediate shocks of climate change. Other plankton species like diatoms helped in photosynthesis and provided food to almost a sixth of the ocean.
  • Cyanobacteria and chlorophytes had a significant role in nitrogen recycling. However, their deaths resulted in the formation of detritus that provided an active site for the formation of sea snot.
  • A major concern is that the enhanced growth of sea snot through nutrient enrichment in the oceans will prevent the recycling of silica, nitrogen and carbon for the ultimate growth of plankton and micro-organisms, thereby disrupting the entire ocean biogeochemical cycle.




Heat wave

Why in News?

  • USA National Weather Service issued another excessive-heat warning on Tuesday for much of Washington state and Oregon.

What causes a heat wave?

  • Heat waves begin when high pressure in the atmosphere moves in and pushes warm air toward the ground. That air warms up further as it is compressed, and we begin to feel a lot hotter.
  • The high-pressure system pressing down on the ground expands vertically, forcing other weather systems to change course. It even minimizes wind and cloud cover, making the air more stifling. This is also why a heat wave parks itself over an area for several days or longer.

What is a heat dome?

  • As the ground warms, it loses moisture, which makes it easier to heat even more. And in the drought-ridden West, there is plenty of heat for the high-pressure system to trap.
  • As that trapped heat continues to warm, the system acts like a lid on a pot — earning the name “heat dome.”
  • To understand what causes a heat dome, one should liken the Pacific ocean to a large swimming pool in which the heater is turned on. Once the heater is on, the portions of the pool close to the heating jets will warm up faster and therefore, the temperature in that area will be higher.
  • In the same way, the western Pacific ocean’s temperatures have increased in the past few decades and are relatively more than the temperature in the eastern Pacific.
  • This strong change in ocean temperature from the west to the east is what a team of scientists believe is the reason for the heat dome, which is when the atmosphere traps heat at the surface, which encourages the formation of a heat wave.
  • To compare, the reason that the planet Venus is the hottest in the Solar System is because its thick, dense cloud cover traps the heat at the surface, leading to temperatures as high as 471 degree Celsius.




 Folate deficiency

  • Getting enough folate is key to avoiding neural tube defects in the baby during pregnancy.
  • But for the individuals who carry certain genetic variants, dealing with folate deficiency can be a life-long struggle which can lead to serious neurological and heart problems and even death.
  • Now a study offers clues to how to recognize early those who are most at risk.
  • Defects in an enzyme called MTHFR, or 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which modifies folate, or vitamin B9 as it is also known, to produce other essential cellular components, can increase a person’s need for folate.
  • MTHFR deficiency occurs when a person inherits two defective copies of this gene, one from each parent.
  • Disease severity depends on the exact changes in the composition of the amino-acid residues which make up the protein and which are encoded by the two copies of the gene that a person carries.
  • There are likely thousands of variants circulating in the population whose effects on folate metabolism—and health—remain unknown.
  • Knowing which variants impair enzyme function can help predict, and possibly prevent, the negative consequences associated with MTHFR deficiency.




  • New research has shown that many of the symptoms in fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) are caused by antibodies that increase the activity of pain-sensing nerves throughout the body.
  • The results show that fibromyalgia is a disease of the immune system, rather than the currently held view that it originates in the brain.
  • The study, demonstrates that the increased pain sensitivity, muscle weakness, reduced movement, and reduced number of small nerve-fibers in the skin that are typical of FMS, are all a consequence of patient antibodies.
  • Current estimates suggest that at least 1 in 40 people are affected by FMS worldwide (80% of which are women) and is commonly characterized by widespread pain throughout the body, as well as fatigue (often referred to as ‘fibro fog’) and emotional distress.
  • It most commonly develops between the ages of 25 and 55, although children can also get it.

About “Fibromyalgia

  • Fibromyalgia (FM) is a medical condition characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure.
  • Other symptoms include tiredness to a degree that normal activities are affected, sleep problems and troubles with memory.
  • Some people also report restless legs syndrome, bowel or bladder problems, numbness and tingling and sensitivity to noise, lights or temperature.
  • Fibromyalgia is frequently associated with depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.



Scientists discover a new class of memory cells in the brain

  • Scientists have long searched in vain for a class of brain cells that could explain the visceral flash of recognition that we feel when we see a very familiar face, like that of our grandmothers.
  • Now, new research reveals a class of neurons in the brain’s temporal pole region that links face perception to long-term memory. It’s not quite the apocryphal grandmother neuron—rather than a single cell, it’s a population of cells that collectively remembers grandma’s face.
  • The idea of a grandmother neuron first showed up in the 1960s as a theoretical brain cell that would code for a specific, complex concept, all by itself.
  • One neuron for the memory of one’s grandmother, another to recall one’s mother, and so on.
  • At its heart, the notion of a one-to-one ratio between brain cells and objects or concepts was an attempt to tackle the mystery of how the brain combines what we see with our long-term memories.
  • Scientists have since discovered plenty of sensory neurons that specialize in processing facial information, and as many memory cells dedicated to storing data from personal encounters. But a grandmother neuron—or even a hybrid cell capable of linking vision to memory—never emerged.
  • Recently, discovered that a small area in the brain’s temporal pole region may be involved in facial recognition.
  • The team found that neurons in the TP region were highly selective, responding to faces that the subjects had seen before more strongly than unfamiliar ones. And the neurons were fast—discriminating between known and unknown faces immediately upon processing the image.
  • The cells of the TP region behave like sensory cells, with reliable and fast responses to visual stimuli.
  • But they also act like memory cells which respond only to stimuli that the brain has seen before—in this case, familiar individuals—reflecting a change in the brain as a result of past encounters.