Current Affairs Jul 8

Geographical Indications certified Bhalia wheat

Why in News?

  • In a major boost to wheat exports, the first shipment of Geographical Indication (GI) certified Bhalia variety of wheat was exported to Kenya and Sri Lanka from Gujarat.
  • The GI certified wheat has high protein content and is sweet in taste.
  • The crop is grown mostly across Bhal region of Gujarat which includes Ahmadabad, Anand, Kheda, Bhavanagar, Surendranagar, Bharuch districts.
  • The unique characteristic of the wheat variety is that grown in the rainfed condition without irrigation.
  • The Bhalia variety of wheat received GI certification in July, 2011.

What is GI?

  • According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), it is an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product, originating from a specific geographical area due to which it possesses unique characteristics and qualities.
  • GI tag is basically an assurance that the product is coming from that specific area.
  • It’s kind of trademark in the international market.




World’s first database of genomic variants of oral cancer

Why in News?

  • DBT-National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani an Autonomous Institute funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India has created a database of genomic variations in oral cancer; the first of its kind in the world.
  • dbGENVOC is not just a catalogue of genomic variants, it has a built-in powerful search engine.
  • It also allows a reasonable extent of statistical and bioinformatic analysis to be carried out online, including identifying variants in associated altered pathways in oral cancer.
  • Oral cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among men in India, largely fuelled by tobacco-chewing. Tobacco-chewing causes changes in the genetic material of cells in the oral cavity. These changes (mutations) precipitate oral cancer.

About DBT

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, boosts and augments the development of the biotechnology ecosystem in India through its expansion and application in agriculture, healthcare, animal sciences, environment, and industry.


  • The National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) has been established as an autonomous institution by the Government of India, under the aegis of the Department of Biotechnology.
  • This is the first institution in India explicitly devoted to research, training, translation & service and capacity-building in Biomedical Genomics.
  • It is located in Kalyani, West Bengal, India, near Kolkata.




 Solar thermal components testing facility

Why in News?

  • A newly established Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) based test rig facility at Hyderabad can help the growing solar industry in India to test capability and performance of solar thermal components like solar receiver tubes, heat transfer fluids, concentrating mirrors.
  • The facility set up by the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), will validate solar thermal components such as solar receiver tubes, heat transfer fluids, concentrating mirrors, and AR coated glass tubes, etc. of the CST system in field conditions.
  • It will validate the indigenous components by parallelly comparing the performance (heat gain and heat loss properties) of the standard components with varying the operating parameters (e.g., flow rates of Heat Transfer Fluids (HTFs) operating temperature, pressures, etc.) and different DNI (Direct Normal Irradiance) conditions.
  • The development of solar thermal technologies for low and medium-temperature applications requires much attention of indigenous solar thermal components manufacturing facilities and cost-effective engineering designs because most of the solar thermal companies import solar thermal components, particularly from China and Europe.
  • In this regard, ARCI is working on the development of cost-effective solar receiver tubes, anti-reflective (AR) coated glass covers, nanostructured material-based thermic fluids, and durable reflective mirrors to enhance the performance and cutting down the cost of the solar thermal systems in India.
  • Apart from the development, the testing and validation of the components in real-field conditions are critical for the deployment of solar thermal technology.
  • In order to cater to this need, ARCI has established a concentrated solar thermal-based single-axis parabolic trough test rig facility sponsored by the Technology Research Centre (TRC) project, DST, Govt. of India.
  • The parabolic-trough test rig facility has features for simultaneous testing of standard and indigenous solar receiver tubes.
  • It has a thermic fluid-based closed-loop system which can operate between 50 to 350°C temperature range.




Biomaterials for Bone Tissue Regeneration

Why in News?

  • A nano biomaterial with a stable link between two molecules or a hormone nanoconjugate called hydroxyapatite-Parathyroid synthesized by Inspire Faculty fellow Dr. Geetanjali Tomar from Savitribai Phule Pune University may soon help tissue regeneration.
  • She has also synthesised and characterised gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) from a microorganism called Actinomycete, Nocardiopsisdassonvillei NCIM 5124.


  • On studying the properties of stem cells in terms of their suitability for tissue regeneration. At the same time, they are also working on development of materials for therapeutic applications in some critical bone defects.
  • Team highlighted that innovative and multidisciplinary approaches, including advanced materials, nanobiotechnology, cell biology, computer-assisted techniques, robotics, and artificial intelligence tools, offer huge potential for augmentation of craniomaxillofacial tissue engineering.
  • The lab is amongst the very few labs in India who are working with stem cells derived from gums around the teeth technically called human gingiva.
  • Bone marrow, dental pulp, alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, umbilical cord, endometrium, breast milk, and adipose tissue are the major and well-studied sources of stem cells.
  • Group aims at establishing gingiva to be at par with the other stem cell sources, as it is very easy to harvest and involves minimum invasion into the host system.
  • She has developed a polymer system for replicating the bone marrow microenvironment by co-culturing bone cells on its surface.
  • This would enable the researchers in therapeutic screening of the target molecules.

About  Actinomycete

  • The Actinomycetales are an order of Actinobacteria. A member of the order is often called an actinomycete.
  • Actinomycetales are generally gram-positive and anaerobic and have mycelia in a filamentous and branching growth pattern. Some actinobacteria can form rod- or coccoid-shaped forms, while others can form spores on aerial hyphae.
  • Actinomycetales bacteria can be infected by bacteriophages, which are called actinophages.
  • Actinomycetales can range from harmless bacteria to pathogens with resistance to antibiotics.Actinomycetales have 2 main forms of reproduction; spore formation and hyphae fragmentation.






Why in News?

  • One of the biggest challenges for agriculture technology start-ups is reaching out to the farmers, FPOs,and Krishi Vigyan Kendras(KVKs) – their end-users.
  • Kisan Mitr was conceptualized and has been successful in linking the Supply with the Demand side.
  • The start-ups can support the farmers through the KVKs and the farmers can find solutions to some of their challenges.
  • The series of agricultural presentations by technology developers across the Indian research Institutes and their incubated start-ups have helped showcase around 150 agricultural technologies across different themes, farm management, post-harvest management, allied agriculture, etc.
  • These have been garnered under the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India.

About KisanMitr:

  • KisanMitr or ‘Friends of the Farmers’, is an initiative of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India.
  • This project aims to make Indian farmers more self-reliant by giving them insights and recommendations based on information from various data sources from different departments of the Government.

About Office of Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India:

  • In November 1999, Cabinet Secretariat established the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
  • The PSA’s office aims to provide pragmatic and objective advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on matters related to science, technology, and innovation with a focus on the application of science and technology in critical infrastructure, economic and social sectors in partnership with Government departments, institutions, and industry.

About KVK:

  • The Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) work towards the mandate of “Technology Assessment and Demonstration for its Application and Capacity Development.”
  • These kendras (centres) are a part of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), which aims at assessment of location-specific technology modules in agriculture and allied enterprises, through technology assessment, refinement, and demonstrations.
  • KVKs have been functioning as Knowledge and Resource Centre of agricultural technology supporting initiatives of public, private, and voluntary sectors for improving the agricultural economy of the district and are linking the NARS with extension system and farmers.




 Smart foam

Why in News?

  • While robots are getting smarter with the advancement in technology, they cannot still touch and feel their surroundings like human beings.
  • A new material invented by researchers dubbed artificially innervated foam, or AiFoam, enables robots to mimic the human sense of touch, sense nearby objects without actually touching, and repair when damaged.
  • Smart foam, with the ability to perform these functions, can potentially make robots more intelligent and interactive, as well as improve robotic motion.

About AiFoam

  • AiFoam is created by mixing fluoropolymer with a substance that lowers surface tension. The material is then infused with microscopic metal particles which enables the foam to sense the presence of a human finger.
  • To mimic the sensitive nerve endings in the human skin, the researchers embedded fine cylinder-shaped electrodes underneath the surface of the foam that can detect the direction of the applied force,
  • AiFoam can be stretched to more than twice its length and the surface-active agent enables it to self-heal even after being cut.
  • They tested the foam’s ability to self-repair by heating it over four days, after which the material healed about 70%, and could still be stretched to almost twice its length.




Underground spider

Why in News?

  • Two species of spiders sharing the same space – the Jharbari range of western Assam’s Chirang Reserve Forest – have spun a web of cheer for fauna in India.
  • Gravelyia boro, the burrow spider, is new to science.
  • Dexippus kleini, the oriental jumping spider, has been recorded for the first time since its original description 129 years ago by Swedish arachnologist Tord Tamerlan Teodor Thorell about 2,600 km away in Sumatra.
  • The Gravelyia boro belongs to the Nemesiidae family comprising 184 species worldwide while the Dexippus kleini is a member of Salticidae, the largest family of all spiders on earth.
  • The name of the burrow spider has been derived from the Bodo community, one of the largest ethnolinguistic groups in Assam and predominantly inhabiting the area where the new species of spider was recorded.
  • The burrow spider lives underground, about 10-15 cm below the sandy-loamy surface. The burrows with an opening up to 1 cm wide were under the cover of some herbs and shrubs.
  • The jumping spider, typical of its kind, is a slow mover but capable of jumping up to 25 mm in length to hunt its prey.
  • The Jharbari jumper is one of a few salticids recently “rediscovered” in India after more than a century since their first description.
  • These include the Proszynskia diatreta after 112 years and Piranthus decorus after 122 years.




Sri Lanka issues coin for CPC centenary

Why in News?

  • Sri Lanka has issued a commemorative coin marking the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party. The country’s Central Bank has minted two coins in gold and silver, in connection with the Party’s 100th anniversary, and 65 years of Sri Lanka-China relations.
  • One of the coins, of LKR 1,000 denomination, bears the words ‘Communist Party of China’ in Sinhala, Tamil and English, and the years 1921-2021, along with the anniversary year 100.
  • While the other has a view of the China-built Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre [located in Colombo], with national flags of Sri Lanka and China, and the words ‘Sri Lanka-China 65 Years’ and year 2022 inscribed.
  • The apex bank’s move comes amid substantial economic assistance from China to Sri Lanka.
  • While Sri Lanka already owes China over $5 billion from past loans, Beijing sanctioned an additional $1 billion in loan and about $1.5 billion in a currency swap to help Colombo combat its economic crisis since the pandemic hit the island nation in March 2020.




PTI challenges new IT rules

Why in News?

  • India’s largest news agency, Press Trust Of India (PTI), has approached the Delhi High Court, challenging the 2021 Information Technology (IT) Rules. It said the Central government was attempting to regulate digital news media.
  • PTI has challenged the constitutional validity of the rules as it purports to regulate ‘publishers of news and current affairs content’, particularly digital news portals, by imposing “sweeping” government oversight and a vaguely worded ‘Code of Ethics’.

‘Era of surveillance and fear’

  • The plea argued that the IT Rules would “usher in an era of surveillance and fear, thereby resulting in self-censorship, which results in abridgment/ violation of Fundamental Rights as enshrined under Part III of the Constitution of India.”
  • The rules was notified on February 25, 2021.
  • The rules enabled the government to “virtually dictate content to digital news portals, and squarely violate media freedom”.
  • “They introduce digital portals with ‘news and current affairs content’ as a specific and targeted class to be subject to regulation by a loose-ranging ‘Code of Ethics’, and to be consummately overseen by Central Government officers, all of which is violative… of the Constitution”.
  • The news agency observed that the rules went beyond the object and scope of the IT Act, as the content to be regulated by the IT Act, as offences, was limited to sexually explicit material, child pornography, showing private parts of individuals, cyber terrorism, etc. to be prosecuted and tried by normal courts.
  • The petition drew the distinction between news outlets and intermediaries such as social media platforms. Intermediaries were immunised from the consequences of the content hosted by them, and hence they may need to be separately regulated.




Religions in India, ‘living together separately’

Why in News?

  • A recent survey of nearly 30,000 individuals by the Pew Research Center (‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’) suggests that most Indians respect religious diversity, and yet draw clear lines between communities when it comes to marriage.

Segregated spheres

  • More Indians see diversity as a benefit (53%) than view it as a liability (24%) for their country; the rest do not take a clear position.
  • Again, 84% of Indians believe that respecting all religions is very important to being truly Indian, and 80% believe respecting other religions is a very important part of their religious identity.
  • And yet, about two in every three Indians put a high priority on stopping interfaith and inter-caste marriages.
  • For all the new laws aimed at stopping inter-community marriages, the survey found very little change caused by conversion to the size of various religious groups among the respondents.
  • When it comes to neighbours, large sections among the minority communities say they would be willing to live near a Hindu. Most Hindus, too, say they would be willing to live near a Muslim, a Christian or a Jain.
  • But many Hindus also have reservations: for example, 36% would not be willing to live near a Muslim.

Triple talaq

  • A majority of Muslims say they are against triple talaq, with women more opposed to it than men. The survey also found three-quarters of Muslims in favour of having access to their own religious courts for family disputes.
  • Muslims with college degrees are more supportive of triple talaq than are Muslims with less education (46% vs 37%).
  • And Muslims who say religion is very important in their lives are more likely to support triple talaq than those who say religion is less important (39% vs 26%).

Being Hindu or Muslim

  • For most Hindus and Muslims, avoiding beef and pork respectively is central to their idea of who is truly Hindu or Muslim. 72% of Hindus say a person who eats beef cannot be Hindu; 77% of Muslims say a person cannot be Muslim if he or she eats pork.
  • A majority of both groups also says a person cannot be Hindu or Muslim, respectively, if they celebrate each other’s festivals.




Domestic violence bill in Pakistan

Why in News?

  • A new bill that proposes stringent punishment against the perpetrators of domestic violence has exposed faultlines and divided opinions in Pakistan.

What is the proposed legislation?

  • The bill proposes stringent punitive measures against all forms of domestic violence. It states that any act of domestic violence will be punishable with imprisonment of a maximum period of three years and not less than six months.
  • Moreover, fines ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1,00,000 can be imposed on the perpetrator.
  • The bill aims to protect women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups from domestic violence. It also seeks to offer relief and rehabilitation to all individuals who are victims of domestic violence.

Who is opposing the bill, and why?

  • Many concerns have been raised “regarding various definitions and other contents of the bill”.
  • It is being highlighted that the bill contravenes the Islamic [injunctions] and way of life as enshrined in responsibility of the state in Article 31 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • It is advisable to refer the bill to the CII as the constitution “empowers the Islamic Council (CII) to advise a House, a Provincial Assembly, a President or a Governor on any question referred to it as to whether proposed law is or is not repugnant to the [injunctions] of Islam”.
  • The bill has attempted to come up with a broad definition of domestic violence by including all forms of physical violence, verbal and psychological abuse, and any act which is essentially a breach of consent under its ambit.
  • While this has attracted praise from certain quarters which have lauded the proposed legislation as visionary, more conservative sections and religious hardliners have criticised the bill, saying it is too open-ended and has too many loopholes which can be misused.

Why is the demand to get the bill reviewed by CII being criticised?

  • Those who are supporting the bill have criticised the demand to get it reviewed by the CII, which is a body that advises the legislature on whether or not a certain law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam.
  • In 2016, the council had proposed a law that would allow a husband to “lightly” beat his wife “if needed”. It also called for gender segregation in schools, hospitals and offices.
  • Moreover, the council had in 2016 rejected a similar proposed legislation — the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Bill — stating that it was against religious law.
  • Women’s rights activists had criticised the move and questioned the decision to send the bill to the council for review when this was not the practice for other proposed legislations.




Extreme Temperatures

  • More than 5 million people die each year globally because of excessively hot or cold conditions, a 20-year study has found – and heat-related deaths are on the rise.
  • 4% of global deaths each year are attributable to heat or cold exposure, equivalent to 74 extra deaths per 100,000 people.
  • It’s prompted calls for better housing insulation and more solar-powered air conditioning, as well as warnings that climate change will increase temperature-linked deaths in the future.
  • Researchers analysed mortality and weather data from 750 locations in 43 countries between 2000 and 2019, and found the average daily temperature in these locations increased by 0.26C per decade.
  • The study found more people had died of cold than heat over the two-decade period. But heat-related deaths were increasing, while cold-linked deaths were dropping.
  • The highest heat-related excess death rate was in Eastern Europe, while sub-Saharan Africa had the highest mortality rate linked to cold temperatures.
  • Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Norway and Iceland all received a score of zero out of 15 on the report card as countries that failed to even mention human health in their nationally determined contributions.
  • The organisation also examined what countries were doing to strengthen their health systems for the burdens caused by the climate crisis, how much extra funding these policies received, and to what extent countries acknowledged that reaching net zero emissions would have co-benefits for human health.
  • The European Union was also near the bottom, with a score of one out of 15, while the US and the UK received scores of 6 and 7 respectively. Costa Rica was ranked highest, scoring 13 out of 15.