Current Affairs Jul 7

Ministry of Co-operation

Why in News?

  • A separate ‘Ministry of Co-operation’ has been created by the Central Government for realizing the vision of ‘Sahkar se Samriddhi’.

What it will do?

  • This ministry will provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.
  • It will help deepen Co-operatives as a true people based movement reaching upto the grassroots.
  • In our country, a Co-operative based economic development model is very relevant where each member works with a spirit of responsibility.
  • The Ministry will work to streamline processes for ‘Ease of doing business’ for co-operatives and enable development of Multi-State Co-operatives (MSCS).
  • Creation of a separate Ministry for Co-operation also fulfils the budget announcement made by the Finance Minister.




Enhance  academic collaboration in higher education and TVET

Why in News?

  • Education Ministers from the five BRICS countries virtually signed a joint declaration, with the resolve to further strengthen their academic and research collaboration in higher education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
  • In the 8th meeting of BRICS education Ministers that was held as part of the 13th BRICS Summit being hosted by India, ministers deliberated on two themes – Leveraging digital and technological solutions for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and enhancing research and academic collaboration.
  • Regarding the need to leverage digital and technological solutions for ensuring quality inclusive education, the member states agreed to generate and expand their knowledge base that would help formulate initiatives in this regard.
  • They also agreed to facilitate creation of mechanisms that would allow sharing of knowledge and best practices with each other. These could include seminars, policy dialogues, interactions with experts, to name a few.
  • In order to enhance their collaboration in academics and research, the ministers agreed on facilitating the mobility of students and faculty among BRICS partner states, besides encouraging joint and dual degrees between higher education institutions in BRICS countries.
  • They also recognized Technical and Vocational Training and Education as a priority area for every BRICS country and expressed their commitment to promoting collaboration in this area.

 About BRICS

  • BRICS is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs”), before the induction of South Africa in 2010.
  • About 27% of the world land surface and 41% of the world population. Four out of five members are among world’s ten largest countries by population and by area, except for South Africa, the twenty-fourth in both.
  • The term “BRIC” is believed to be coined in 2001 by then-chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O’Neill, in his publication Building Better Global Economic BRICs.
  • But, it was actually coined by Roopa Purushothaman who was a Research Assistant in the original report.




“Matsya Setu”

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying launched the Online Course Mobile App “Matsya Setu”.
  • The app was developed by the ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (ICAR-CIFA), Bhubaneswar, with the funding support of the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), Hyderabad.
  • The online course app aims to disseminate the latest freshwater aquaculture technologies to the aqua farmers of the country.




Khadi Prakritk Paint

Why in News?

  • Minister for Road Transport and Highways & MSME Shri Nitin Gadkari declared himself the “Brand Ambassador ” of Khadi Prakritk Paint and said he would promote it across the country so as to encourage young entrepreneurs to take up the manufacturing of cow dung paint.
  • Inaugurating the new automated manufacturing unit of Khadi Prakritik Paint, India’s first and only paint made from cow dung, in Jaipur.
  • Khadi Prakritik Paint has immense potential of creating sustainable development for benefit of the poorest of the poor and the target should be setting up a Parkritik Paint unit in each and every village.


  • Khadi Prakritik Paint was launched by Shri Gadkari on 12th January 2021.
  • The Paint has been launched with the twin objectives of increasing farmers’ income and creating self-employment across the country.
  • To enable maximum people to benefit from this innovation, KVIC has included this project under the Prime Minister Employment Generation Program (PMEGP), a flagship scheme of the Central government for employment generation.
  • Available in two variants- Distemper and Emulsion, Khadi Prakritik Paint contains “AshtaLaabh”; i.e. the eight benefits like anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and natural thermal insulation properties.
  • This paint is eco-friendly, non-toxic, odorless and cost-effective.




Wealth from Waste

Why in News?

  • Scientists have shown that the spent catalysts from the energy industry or the raw material for recycling operation that deliver fresh catalysts and valuable metals work as an efficient bifunctional oxygen electrocatalyst and can catalyze the core reactions that facilitate the operation of metal-air batteries.
  • It can help develop new strategies for effectively using industrial waste for energy storage in batteries paving the way to realize the dream of achieving ‘today’s waste is tomorrow’s energy’.
  • Hydrogen energy offers a promising power generation route for the industry and transport sectors due to high energy density and clean output.
  • One of the ways to produce hydrogen is by catalytic decomposition of methane using nickel catalyst embedded on alumina or zeolite.
  • After several runs, the catalysts get spent due to carbon choking and lose their activity.
  • The spent catalysts are typically subjected to energy-intensive processes such as high-temperature combustion for recycling, releasing a large amount of COx into the atmosphere during the process or chemical treatment for the reclamation of metal constituents.
  • These protocols are neither economically viable nor environmentally friendly, thus demanding alternative avenues to efficiently use the spent catalyst.
  • One of the best possible routes is to use the retrieved spent catalyst for energy generation/storage applications.
  • The composition of the given spent catalyst, Carbon nanotubes with Ni nanoparticles and porous alumina, may be ideal for direct use as electrocatalyst in electrochemical energy applications and thus, opens up a viable strategy for converting waste to wealth.
  • Researchers have demonstrated that the above-spent catalyst works as an efficient bifunctional oxygen electrocatalyst. It can catalyze both electrochemical oxygen evolution (OER) and oxygen reduction reactions (ORR), the core reactions that facilitate the operation of metal-air batteries.
  • The spent catalyst shows stable current density for 20 hrs and 8 hrs towards OER and ORR. The potential difference for overall oxygen electrocatalyst (ΔE) reveals a superior bifunctional activity of the spent catalyst. Furthermore, the spent catalyst employed in Zn-air batteries displayed commendable charge-discharge performance up to 45 hrs with high reversibility.



Karaikal-Jaffna ferry service

Why is the project a much anticipated one?

  • The project, in essence, is seen as a reflection of India seeking to up its stakes in the economic progress of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, after the end of the civil war in the island nation.
  • Dredging work at the Kankesanthurai (KKS) Harbour was undertaken and completed by the Dredging Corporation of India, a public sector undertaking of the Government of India, to support domestic and regional commerce.

Why MARG Karaikal Port ?

  • The Port has the unique advantage of being serviced by four national highways and rail connectivity to major cities.

What are the expected outcomes?

  • Reduced travel time, easy and cheap travel alternative, enhanced economic activities between the two countries and smooth connectivity for the pilgrims of both countries.

What has India done so far?

  • Dredging work at the KKS Harbour in Jaffna was undertaken and completed by the Dredging Corporation of India, a public sector undertaking of the Government of India, to support domestic and regional commerce. Due to its closeness, KKS Harbour is considered strategically important to India.

 Why is India keen on coastal shipping under Sagarmala Programme?

  • The flagship programme of the Ministry, implemented through the Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL) envisages promoting port-led development in the country.
  • The purpose of the environment-friendly ferry service to be offered based on localised demand is to create a supplementary mode of transportation which will be beneficial for daily commuters and tourists’ movement, bring about savings in terms of both cost and time for the users alongside reducing carbon footprint.

About Sagarmala Programme

  • The Sagarmala Programme is an initiative by the government of India to enhance the performance of the country’s logistics sector.
  • The programme envisages unlocking the potential of waterways and the coastline to minimize infrastructural investments required to meet these targets.
  • The main vision of the Sagarmala Programme is to reduce logistics cost for EXIM and domestic trade with minimal infrastructure investment.
  • Sagarmala Programme was approved by the Union Cabinet in March 2015 and a National Perspective Plan was prepared by the Ministry of Shipping which was released on 14th April 2016.



White flag campaign

Why in News?

  • In Malaysia, some residents of low-income families have started waving white flags as part of the so-called “White Flag Campaign”, or the #benderaputi (white flag) movement.
  • They are doing this to convey distress about the financial crunch they have had to deal with amid the lockdowns due to Covid-19.

So what is this movement?

  • As part of the movement that was initiated last week, families that are facing hunger or need any other kind of assistance are encouraged to wave a white flag or put a piece of white cloth outside their homes to signal that they need help.
  • The idea is that by spotting the white flag, neighbours and good samaritans can reach them.
  • Alongside the white flag movement, there is the black flag movement as well, in order to express dissatisfaction with the Malaysian government. Specifically, this movement is demanding that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resign.

Why use white flags?

  • The world over, white flags are used as a symbol of surrender or truce. The phrase ‘white flag’ has also found its way into the Cambridge dictionary, which defines it as “a flag that is waved to show that you accept defeat or do not intend to attack”.
  • In fact, different countries’ military manuals have rules that govern when and how a white flag can be used.




Open Network for Digital Commerce or ONDC project

Why in News?

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) issued orders appointing an advisory committee for its Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) project that is aimed at curbing “digital monopolies”.
  • This is a step in the direction of making e-commerce processes open source, thus creating a platform that can be utilised by all online retailers.

What processes are expecting to be open-sourced with this project?

  • Several operational aspects including onboarding of sellers, vendor discovery, price discovery and product cataloguing could be made open source on the lines of Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

Who are the members of this advisory council?

  • National Health Authority CEO and former TRAI Chairman RS Sharma and Infosys non-executive chairman Nandan Nilekani are on this council.
  • In addition to these two, Quality Control of India Chairman Adil Zainulbhai, Avaana Capital Founder Anjali Bansal, Digital India Foundation Co-Founder Arvind Gupta, National Payments Corporation India CEO Dilip Asbe, NSDL e-Governance MD & CEO Suresh Sethi, CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal, and Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan are also members on the council.

What is the meaning and significance of making something open-source?

  • Making a software or a process open-source means that the code or the steps of that process is made available freely for others to use, redistribute and modify it.
  • For example, while the operating system of Apple’s iPhones — iOS — is closed source, meaning it cannot be legally modified or reverse engineered, Google’s Android operating system is open-source, and therefore it is possible by smartphone OEMs such as Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc to modify it for their hardware.
  • If the ONDC gets implemented and mandated, it would mean that all e-commerce companies will have to operate using the same processes.
  • This could give a huge booster shot to smaller online retailers and new entrants.




ASEAN Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

  • Developing countries will need resources for proper implementation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will include financial support and technology transfer.
  • The fifth and the final session of the third ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Conference on Biodiversity focused on theme ‘Towards 2050: Living in Harmony with Nature.’
  • Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework aims to galvanise transformative action by governments, including indigenous peoples and local communities, civil society and businesses, to achieve the outcomes that contribute to the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other biodiversity-related multilateral agreements.
  • The ASEAN region include 10 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Insufficient finances for managing and conserving the region’s protected areas, especially the Asean Heritage Parks (AHP), was recently acknowledged by the ASEAN Centre on Biodiversity (ACB) as well. The region has 44 AHPs.
  • AHPs have been identified as the best protected areas in the ASEAN region in terms of ecological completeness, biodiversity richness and conservation.

Importance of recommendations

  • These recommendations are likely to be adopted at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15) scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, from October 11-24, 2021.
  • The post 2020 global biodiversity framework is important because the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020 has ended.
  • This is a stepping stone towards the 2050 Vision of “Living in harmony with nature”, according to the United Nations CBD.
  • The recommendations are also important because the region occupies only three per cent of the Earth’s land, but covers four biodiversity hotspots and contains three of the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines).
  • All 10 ASEAN countries have been facing major significant challenges in achieving the two sustainable development goals (SDG) on biodiversity mandated by the United Nations: SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land), revealed the Sustainable Development Report 2021.




Buxwaha diamond mining project

  • The proposed diamond mine in the Buxwaha protected forest region in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh may have a greater ecological impact on the region than projected so far.
  • The project threatens to further deplete the already scarce water reserve of the drought-prone Bundelkhand region to excavate about five million tonnes of diamond-bearing kimberlite ore per annum.
  • Diamond mining is a water-intensive process.
  • The Bunder mining project was awarded to Essel Mining & Industries Limited in 2019. The company, in its application for environmental clearance, stated that to meet water requirements and protect the mine from inundation, a seasonal nullah (stream) will be converted into a dam.
  • The Chhatarpur was categorised as a semi-critical region by the Central Ground Water Authority in 2017.

Waste from tailing ponds and water-pollution

  • Two major kinds of waste are generated during the excavation of any ore. One, overburden (OB) waste which lies over the ore, such as rocks and soil.
  • The other is tailings or the remains of the mineral after the economically valuable components have been extracted from the finely milled ore.
  • Under the Bunder project, five metric tonnes of kimberlite ore will be excavated per annum.
  • A large part of the auctioned forest land will be used for dumping waste.
  • Soil and OB wastes are not contaminated and thus are easy to dispose of. But tailings are disposed of in dams or ponds usually built around the mining site. The tailing ponds contain process-affected water, dissolved metals and various toxic ore processing reagents that can seep into the ground.
  • There have been several reports of contaminated waste leaching into the groundwater and the tailing ponds overflowing in the monsoon.
  • In April 2011, leakage from the red mud pond containing bauxite residue of the aluminium refinery of Vedanta Ltd in Odisha entered River Vamsadhara and caused enormous damage to the environment.





Why in News?

  • Another SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus variant, Lambda, is increasingly being seen by scientists and health experts as a new emerging threat.
  • Recently, the World Health Organization designated the Lambda variant, previously known by its formal scientific name C.37, as the seventh and newest “variant of interest”, meaning it was something to watch out for.
  • It has been the dominant variant in Peru and other countries of South America.

Many significant mutations

  • According to the WHO, the Lambda variant has at least seven significant mutations in the spike protein (the Delta variant has three) which could have a range of implications, including the possibility of increased transmissibility or enhanced resistance to antibodies, created either through natural infection or vaccination.
  • A recent study by researchers at the Chile reported that the Lambda variant had greater infectivity than the Alpha and Gamma variants (known to have originated in the UK and Brazil respectively). The study also reported decreased effectiveness of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine (Coronavac) against the Lambda variant.
  • The designation as a “variant of interest” means that the genetic changes involved are predicted or known to affect transmissibility, disease severity, or immune escape.
  • It is also an acknowledgement of the fact that the variant has caused significant community transmission in multiple countries and population groups.
  • There are currently seven variants, including the Lambda, that the WHO classifies as “variants of interest”. Another four – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta – have been designated as “variants of concern”, and are considered a bigger threat.
  • These were all recently named after letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid linkage with the country of their origin that had been happening until then.




Heavy elements in galactic cosmic rays

  • Scientists have used data from the Southwest Research Institute-led Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission to explain the presence of energetic heavy elements in galactic cosmic rays (GCRs).
  • GCRs are composed of fast-moving energetic particles, mostly hydrogen ions called protons, the lightest and most abundant elements in the universe.
  • The supernova explosion of a dying star creates massive shockwaves that propagate through the surrounding space, accelerating ions in their path to very high energies, creating GCRs.
  • How heavy ions are energized and accelerated is important because they affect the redistribution of mass throughout the universe and are essential for the formation of even heavier and more chemically complex elements. They also influence how we perceive astrophysical structures.
  • Heavy ions are thought to be insensitive to an incoming shockwave because they are less abundant, and the shock energy is overwhelmingly consumed by the preponderance of protons.
  • Shock phenomena also occur in the near-Earth environment.
  • The Sun’s magnetic field is carried through interplanetary space by the supersonic solar wind flow, which is obstructed and diverted by the Earth’s magnetosphere, a bubble of protection around our home planet.
  • This interaction region is called the bow shock due to its curved shape, comparable to the bow waves that occur as a boat travels through water.
  • The Earth’s bow shock forms at a much smaller scale than supernova shocks. However, at times, conditions of this small shock resemble those of supernova remnants.
  • While this behavior was not expected to occur for heavy ions, the team identified direct evidence for this process in alpha particles, helium ions that are four times more massive than protons and have twice the charge.



Satellite galaxies

  • Historically most scientists thought that once a satellite galaxy has passed close by its higher mass parent galaxy, its star formation would stop because the larger galaxy would remove the gas from it, leaving it shorn of the material it would need to make new stars.
  • However, for the first time, a researchers has shown using numerical simulations that this is not always the case.
  • Using sophisticated simulations of the whole of the Local Group of galaxies, including the Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy and their respective satellite galaxies, the researchers have shown that the satellites not only can retain their gas but can also experience many new episodes of star formation just after passing close to the pericenter of their parent galaxy (the mínimum distance they reach from its center).
  • While in the majority of the cases the gas of the satellite is sucked out by the parent galaxy due to gravitational action and transfers itself to the larger galaxy (interrupting star formation in the satellite, in a process known as accretion), in some 25% of the sample they found that star formation was clearly enhanced by this interactive process.
  • The results show that the peaks of star formation are correlated with the close pass of the satellite around the parent galaxy, and occasionally by the interaction of two satellites.
  • The researchers identified two key features to the star formation: The satellite must enter the parent galaxy with a large reserve of cold gas, and a minimum distance not too small, so that stars may form due to compression of the gas.
  • On the contrary, galaxies which pass too close to the parent galaxy, or to a parent galaxy with little gas, are stripped of their gas and thereby lose the possibility of forming new stars.