Current affairs October 7, 2021

Nobel Prize in chemistry

  • Germany’s Benjamin List and U.S.-based David MacMillan on Wednesday won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for developing a tool to build molecules which has helped make chemistry more environmentally friendly.
  • Their tool, which they developed independently of each other in 2000, can be used to control and accelerate chemical reactions, exerting a big impact on drugs research.
  • Prior to their work, scientists believed there were only two types of catalysts metals and enzymes.
  • The new technique, which relies on small organic molecules and which is called “asymmetric organ catalysis” is widely used in pharmaceuticals, allowing drug makers to streamline the production of medicines for depression and respiratory infections, among others.
  • Organ catalysts allow several steps in a production process to be performed in an unbroken sequence, considerably reducing waste in chemical manufacturing, the Nobel committee at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.




  • Striking a discordant note on the impending delivery of the Russian S-400 missile systems to India, however, US described the deal as “dangerous”, expressed the hope that the two sides could “solve” the issue arising from possible U.S. sanctions over the defence purchase.
  • US been quite public about any country that decides to use the S-400.


  • The S-400 Triumph, previously known as the S-300PMU-3, is an anti-aircraft weapon system developed in the 1990s by Russia’s Almaz Central Design Bureau as an upgrade of the S-300 family.
  • It has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007.


Changing world order and options for India (IR)

  • The world is today adrift. We are neither in a bipolar Cold War nor in a multipolar world, though perhaps tending towards a world of several power centres.
  • We are in a world between orders.
  • The lack of a coherent international response to the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of an absence of international order and of the ineffectiveness of multilateral institutions.
  • So is the ineffective international response to climate change and other transnational threats.
  • A retreat from globalisation, the regionalisation of trade, a shifting balance of power, the rise of China and others, and structural China United States strategic rivalry have shifted the geopolitical and economic centres of gravity from the Atlantic to Asia.
  • Over the next decade we expect Asia to remain the cockpit of geopolitical rivalries, and that the U.S. remains the most formidable power, though its relative power is declining.


  • With the U.S. could enable growing cooperation in fields significant for India’s transformation: energy, trade, investment, education and health.
  • Other areas in which India and the U.S. could increase cooperation are: climate change and energy, on tech solutions for renewable energy, and on digital cooperation. Several middle powers are now India’s natural partners.
  • There is also an increasing possibility of working with partners in the developing world building broader coalitions on issues of common interest.
  • Creation of a Maritime Commission, a Bay of Bengal Initiative with partner countries, and increasing what we do with South East Asia in maritime security, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism.
  • We should aim for multipolarity in Asia
  • Developing our capacities, and creating an equitable and enabling international order for India’s transformation.
  • Today’s situation makes India’s strategic autonomy all the more essential.

Revive SAARC

  • We also suggest initiatives to craft and reinvigorate regional institutions and processes in the neighbourhood, reviving the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for instance.
  • India could be the primary source of both prosperity and security in the neighbourhood the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean Region.
  • The over securitisation of policy towards our neighbours has driven trade underground, criminalised our borders, and enabled large-scale entry of Chinese goods destroying local industry in the northeast.


  • Self-strengthening as an absolutely essential precondition as also safeguarding the foundational sources of India’s international influence.
  • We cannot separate our domestic trajectory from the external course we need to pursue to transform India into a strong, secure and prosperous country.


Nobel Prize in medicine

  • This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine — awarded to the researchers, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian from the University of California, San Francisco and Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, respectively — recognises their seminal work in identifying the gene and understanding the mechanism through which our body perceives temperature and pressure.
  • Our ability to sense touch and temperature particularly noxious temperature is essential for our survival and determines how we interact with our internal and external environment; chronic pain results when the pain response goes awry.
  • In 2002, five years after the heat sensor was discovered, the two laureates, and independently, used menthol to discover the receptor that senses cold temperatures.
  • Recent studies have found that discrimination between warm and cool temperatures is possible only through simultaneous activation of warmth-sensing nerve fibres and inhibition of cold-sensing nerve fibres
  • Julius utilised capsaicin, a key ingredient in hot chilli peppers that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin and the cellular mechanism that responds to uncomfortably hot temperatures.
  • The receptor for heat gets activated only above 40° C, which is close to the psychophysical threshold for thermal pain, thus allowing us to react to external heat.
  • In 2002, five years after the heat sensor was discovered, the two laureates, and independently, used menthol to discover the receptor that senses cold temperatures.
  • Recent studies have found that discrimination between warm and cool temperatures is possible only through simultaneous activation of warmth-sensing nerve fibres and inhibition of cold-sensing nerve fibres
  • The discovery of pain receptors and the cellular mechanism have attracted pharmaceutical companies as these could be targets for novel medicines.



Is WTO turning into an institutional zombie? 

  • Appellate Body (AB). The AB is part of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism.
  • It is a permanent body with seven members, and acts as an appellate court hearing appeals from the decisions given by WTO panels.
  • However, since December 2019, the AB has stopped functioning due to rising vacancies.
  • Over the years, the U.S. has consistently blocked the appointment of AB members.
  • The U.S. also vetoes proposals to find solutions to this impasse, including stalling the proposal of the European Union to establish an alternative interim appellate arbitration mechanism.
  • The number of pending appeals to the AB has increased sharply to around 20 cases.
  • Countries now have an easy option not to comply with the WTO panel decisions by appealing into the void.

Additional Challenges

  • There are four other challenges that the WTO faces.
  • First, no solution has been found to the public stockholding for food security purposes despite a clear mandate to do so in the 2015 Nairobi ministerial meeting.
  • This is of paramount concern for countries like India that use Minimum Support Price (MSP)-backed mechanisms to procure food grains.


  • The WTO rules allow countries to procure, stock and distribute food.
  • However, if such procurement is done at an administered price such as the MSP that is higher than the external reference price, then the budgetary support provided shall be considered trade-distorting and is subject to an overall cap.
  • With rising prices and the need to do higher procurement to support farmers and provide food to the poor at subsidised prices, India might breach the cap.
  • Second, the WTO member countries continue to disagree on the need of waiving the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19 related medical products.
  • It was exactly a year back when India and South Africa proposed a TRIPS waiver to overcome intellectual property (IP)-related obstacles in increasing accessibility of COVID-19 medical products, including vaccines.
  • Third, the WTO is close to signing a deal on regulating irrational subsidies provided for fishing that has led to the overexploitation of marine resources by countries like China, which is the largest catcher and exporter of fish.
  • However, this agreement should strike a balance between conserving ocean resources and the livelihood concerns of millions of marginal fishermen.
  • Fourth, the gridlock at the WTO has led to the emergence of mega plurilateral trade agreements like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) a treaty between 11 countries.
  • Another key trade treaty is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement between Asian economies and countries down under.
  • These plurilateral agreements not only fragment the global governance on international trade but also push the multilateral order to the margin, converting the WTO to what some call an “institutional zombie”.


  • WTO is the only forum where developing countries like India, not party to any mega plurilateral trade agreements, can push for evolving an inclusive global trading order that responds to the systemic imbalances of extant globalisation.
  • What is at stake is the future of trade multilateralism and not just an institution.



Malaria vaccine

  • Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO.
  • “For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,”
  • Now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use
  • The WHO’s recommendation was based on the results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
  • The development comes at a time when the WHO and its partners have reported a stagnation in the progress against the disease that kills more than 2,60,000 African children under the age of five annually.



Report of CEEW 

  • Uttar Pradesh is the largest emitter of PM2.5, the class of particulate matter considered most harmful to health, according to an analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
  • The council, a research body, looked at five of the most reliable data sources international and national that have tracked and measured the quantum and sources of air pollution in India.
  • The high emissions from U.P. were largely due to a significant share of PM2.5 emissions from solid-fuel use in households and, by virtue of being India’s most populous State, it had a higher proportion of households relying on this form of fuel.
  • Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan too feature in the list of top polluters but are differently ranked by the five sources.
  • Only Uttar Pradesh is at the top of the lists from all sources