Current affairs October 20,2021

EU and GM Rice from India

  • When candy giant Mars Wrigley carried out a mass recall of several batches of its Crispy M&Ms across Europe this August, it was due to the use of one ingredient: rice flour with genetically modified (GM) contamination that allegedly originated in India, according to notifications on the European Commission’s rapid alert system.
  • However, the Commerce Ministry pointed out that GM rice is not grown commercially in India, let alone exported, and promised a thorough enquiry by its agricultural exports authority.
  • The Ministry alleged that the case was a “futile conspiracy to malign the image of India as a reliable food security provider”.
  • Worried farmers’ groups and environmental activists, however, noted that multiple GM rice varieties had been approved for confined field trials, and warned that any cross-contamination could dampen the country’s agricultural export ambitions.
  • India’s annual rice exports amount to 18 million tonnes worth ₹65,000 crore, and reach more than 75 countries



  • Transgenic plants have genes inserted into them that are derived from another species.
  • BENEFITS- improved shelf life, improved nutrition (golden rice- rich in vitamin A-Gene  is derived from from the bacterium Erwinia  uredovora); stress resistance, insect  resistance etc



  • Algae is used for the production
    Modified jatropha



Bioplastic- use of potato

Oilseed   can be modified to produce  detergent



May impact human health
Loss of indigenous crops
Some have  toxic  properties


Increasing  population and  food security
Drought resistant
Salinity tolerance




More safety  testing
More use of pesticide and pesticide resistance
Impact on consumer behaviour



CODEX Alimentarius
Sanitary and phytosanitary measures


Caste based census

  • The total number of castes counted in the 1931 Census was 4,147, the SECC of 2011 returned over 46 lakh caste names.
  • Such a humongous number of castes were returned partly because Indian people use the names of their caste, subcaste, clan, gotra and surnames interchangeably.
  • Moreover, the enumerators also got confused over the spellings and classification of the castes
  • Population census in a vast and uniquely diverse country such as India cannot but be a complex exercise.
  • Over the decades, the census machinery has moved on a learning curve, credibly enumerating complicated categories such as language and religion, which also display considerable diversity
  • While caste appears to be an even more complex category than language in the Indian context, technologies to enumerate and analyse complex big data have become easily accessible today.
  • Yet, the affidavit cites the absence of an all-India Registry of Castes to rule out the conduct of full caste enumeration in the forthcoming census.
  • The Government’s affidavit also cites the absence of categorical constitutional or statutory requirements to count castes other than SCs and STs in the Census.
  • However, Articles 15(4) and 15(5) of the Indian Constitution have explicitly recognised “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens” as a category distinct from SCs and STs and enabled the State to make special provisions for their advancement


Quad in west Asia

  • virtual meet of the Foreign Ministers of India, the U.S., Israel and the UAE is a strong manifestation of the changes in West Asian geopolitics.
  • If Israel and the UAE did not even have formal diplomatic relations a year ago, their growing economic and strategic cooperation is opening up opportunities for other powers, including India.
  • The four-nation meeting also points to India’s strategic desire to adopt a regional foreign policy strategy towards West Asia, transcending its bilateralism.
  • Over the years, India has built vibrant bilateral ties with all the countries in the grouping. It is a member of the Quad with the U.S., Australia and Japan, which have common concerns and shared interests on East Asia.
  • Israel is one of India’s top defence suppliers.
  • The UAE is vital for India’s energy security. The Gulf country, which hosts millions of Indian workers, has also shown interest to mediate between India and Pakistan
  • In the past, there were three pillars to India’s West Asia policy — the Sunni Gulf monarchies, Israel and Iran.
  • Now that the gulf between the Sunni kingdoms and Israel is being narrowed, especially after the Abraham Accords, the normalisation agreements signed between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain under the tutelage of the Trump administration, India faces fewer challenges to a regionalist approach.
  • There are areas where it can deepen its engagement — trade, energy ties, fighting climate change and enhancing maritime security. But India should also be mindful of the challenges in the region.
  • The U.S. is clearly seeking to lessen its footprint here as part of its pivot to East Asia to tackle China’s rise, which is redrawing West Asia’s traditional equations.
  • India should be careful not to get sucked into the many conflicts of West Asia that could intensify amid growing regional rivalries.
  • While the Abraham Accords made it easier for India to find common ground with the Israelis and the Emiratis, the contradiction between this emerging bloc and Iran remains as intense as ever.
  • India, which sees itself aligned with the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific, faces deepening insecurities in continental Asia after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • And it will have to work closely with countries such as Iran to deal with the challenges emanating from a post-American Afghanistan.
  • So the challenge before New Delhi is to retain a healthy relationship with Iran even as it seeks to build a stronger regional partnership with the U.S.-Israel-UAE bloc.



Solar technologies

  • ‘First-generation’ solar cells use mono-crystalline and multi-crystalline silicon wafers.
  • While the former is made from a single crystal of silicon (of higher purity), the latter is made by combining several fragments.
  • The efficiency of mono-crystalline panels is about 24%, while for multi-crystalline panels it is about 20%.
  • Crystalline silicon technologies are one of the oldest in the market and occupy 95% of the global photovoltaic (PV) market. Mono-crystalline cells are dominant today.
  • Although mono-crystalline panels are priced higher than multi-crystalline ones, the difference is diminishing and will soon attain parity.
  • This would result in mono panels being preferred over multi due to their higher efficiency, greater energy yield and lower cost of energy.
  • Newer technologies incorporating crystalline silicon focus on bifacial solar cells, capable of harvesting energy from both sides of the panel.
  • Bifacials can augment the power output by 10-20%.
  • Within this, the Passive Emitter and Rear Contact technology is predicted to gain popularity.
  • However, it is yet to achieve price parity for large-scale deployment.
  • The thin film technologies developed later are classified as the ‘second generation’ of solar PVs.
  • They are manufactured by depositing single or multiple layers of PV material on a substrate, typically plastic or glass.
  • In addition to being used in solar farms and rooftops, thin films with their low thickness, light weight and flexibility are also placed on electronic devices and vehicles.
  • Mainstream thin films utilise semiconductor chemistries like Cadmium Telluride.
  • However, the efficiency of thin films is lower than that of crystalline silicon. This has affected their popularity and market share.
  • New and upcoming solar cells are grouped as ‘third generation’ and contain technologies such as perovskite, nanocrystal and dye-sensitised solar cells.
  • Perovskites have seen rapid advances in recent years, achieving cell efficiency of 18%.
  • They have the highest potential to replace silicon and disrupt the solar PV market, due to factors such as ease of manufacture, low production costs and potential for higher efficiencies.
  • Nanocrystal and dye-sensitised solar cells are variants of the thin film technology.
  • These are in early stages for large-scale commercial deployment.
  • There is also interest in the use of Graphene Quantum-dots for solar PVs. Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms bonded together as hexagons.
  • Solar cells made of graphene are of interest due to high theoretical efficiency of 60% and its super capacitating nature.
  • Quantum-dot PVs use semiconductor nano crystals exhibiting quantum mechanical properties capable of high efficiency of about 66%.
  • However, both these are in the early stages of research.
  • Considerable advances have also been made in developing solutions that better integrate solar PVs into the grid.
  • These include weather forecasting and power output prediction systems; operation monitoring and control systems; and scheduling and optimisation systems.
  • Additionally, automatic systems have been developed for the smooth resolution of output fluctuations


Steps Needed

  • Policy support is essential to fast-track adoption of new technologies.
  • A portion of the budget for renewable energy targets should be set aside exclusively for new technologies.
  • Grants and subsidies can also be provided for their adoption.
  • This can mitigate the higher initial costs of such technologies and help establish the market.
  • Efforts must be taken to address gaps in research, development, and manufacturing capabilities in the solar sector through sector-specific investment and incentives.
  • There must also be greater industry-academia collaborations and funding opportunities for startups.
  • A comprehensive sector-specific skilling programme is also required for workers



Econometrics and Noble prize in economics

  • Among the many significant and deep questions that the three Economics Nobel Laureates for 2021 — David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens — have investigated. Answering such questions involves establishing causality accurately.
  • One way to draw causal inference is through experiments or randomised controlled trials (RCTs), the predominance of which in the field of empirical economics was recognised by the Nobel Committee in 2019.
  • However, several big-picture and urgent questions cannot be evaluated through RCTs because of ethical, logistical or financial reasons.
  • Outside of experiments, researchers have to rely on real-world data which is messy.
  • Drawing the correct causal inference entails comparisons between groups (those who stayed longer in school compared to those who did not, or States where the minimum wage increased compared to States where it did not increase, and so forth).
  • But since individuals or States differ along many dimensions, comparison needs to be done carefully to avoid comparing apples with oranges.
  • Additionally, adjustments need to be made for self-selection and omitted variables that might confound causal inference.
  • The 2021 Nobel Laureates have been justly recognised for their pioneering contribution to the methodologies to uncover causality using real-world observational data
  • A source of great anxiety in the contemporary world is the apprehension that entry of immigrants will adversely affect employment and wages of non-immigrant residents.
  • Card’s analysis of another natural experiment — the Mariel boat lift that brought 1,25,000 Cubans to the U.S. in 1980, half of whom settled in Miami — showed this anxiety to be invalid.
  • As a result of the boat lift, the Miami workforce increased by 7% but this had no adverse impact on the wages or employment of the non Cuban native workforce



  • Econometrics is the use of statistical methods using quantitative data to develop theories or test existing hypotheses in economics or finance.
  • Econometrics relies on techniques such as regression models and null hypothesis testing.
  • Econometrics can also be used to try to forecast future economic or financial trends.




  • Bhaskarabda, an era counted from the date of the ascension of a seventh century local ruler, will be added to Saka and Gregorian eras in the official calendar of the Assam Government.
  • Bhaskarabda began when Bhaskara Varman was crowned ruler of the Kamrupa kingdom.
  • He was a contemporary and political ally of northern Indian ruler Harshavardhana
  • In addition to Saka and Gregorian, Bhaskarabda will be used in the official calendar by the Assam Government.
  • Unlike Gregorian, where a day starts at midnight, the Assamese calendar begins and ends at sunrise over 24 hours.
  • While the Gregorian goes by the solar cycle, the Saka and Bhaskarabda eras use a lunisolar system based on both the phases of the moon and the solar year.
  • The gap between Bhaskarabda and Gregorian is 593 years.




  • The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), jointly initiated by the Union Health Ministry of Health, and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) with Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is a consortium of 28 National Laboratories to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2.
  • INSACOG is a multi-laboratory, multi-agency, Pan-India network to monitor genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 by a sentinel sequencing effort.
  • The network carries out whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 virus across the nation, aiding the understanding of how the virus spreads and evolves, and provide information to aid public health response.