Insights Daily Current Affairs, 27 March 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
India Signs Financing Agreement with World Bank
A financing agreement for IDA credit of US$ 100 for the “Uttarakhand Health Systems Development Project” was recently signed with the World Bank
- The objective of the project is to improve access to quality health services, particularly in the hilly districts of the State, and to expand health financial risk protection for residents of the State.
The project has two main components:
- Innovations of engaging the private sector.
- Stewardship and system improvement.
- Out of the total project size of USD 125 million, USD 25 million will be the counterpart contribution of the State Government.
- The planned design of the Project consists of multiple self-contained clusters of clinical services managed by operators on a PPP basis, providing services for free or at nominal charges, backed up by a robust oversight and monitoring mechanism fully integrated with the expanded health insurance program in the State.
The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries.
Aim: Overseen by 173 shareholder nations, IDA aims to reduce poverty by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities, and improve people’s living conditions.
How is it different from IBRD? IDA complements the World Bank’s original lending arm—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). IBRD and IDA share the same staff and headquarters and evaluate projects with the same rigorous standards.
- IDA lends money on concessional terms. This means that IDA credits have a zero or very low interest charge and repayments are stretched over 25 to 40 years, including a 5- to 10-year grace period. IDA also provides grants to countries at risk of debt distress.
- In addition to concessional loans and grants, IDA provides significant levels of debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
National Conference on Down Syndrome
National Conference on Down Syndrome was recently inaugurated in New Delhi.
- The Conference was organized by The National Trust for the welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities under M/o SJ&E in collaboration with Muskaan, a registered organisation of the National Trust.
- The conference called upon the people to provide all types of support and help to Persons with Down Syndrome.
About Down Syndrome:
Down Syndrome is a chromosomal condition associated with intellectual and learning disabilities.
Causes: Persons with Down Syndrome have 47 chromosomes as compared to 46 in majority of people.
Impacts: This one Extra chromosome causes its own impact and slows down learning process. It impacts neurological functioning causing impairment of intellectual functions e.g. analytical thinking, complex abstractions and judgement etc.
Treatment: Good schooling, loving family, learning and work opportunities make them grow up to be responsible, loving and cheerful persons. Their emotions and needs are like any other person of the same age. Accepting and respecting family/community is a big support to their growth and development.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
A leaner military is on the cards
The government has approved a host of reforms in the military, with proposals to cut flab and improve financial management.
These reforms were proposed by a committee of experts, headed by Lt. Gen. D.B. Shekatkar (Retd), constituted by the Defence Ministry. The committee, set up in 2015 to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces, submitted its final report in December 2016.
Key reforms proposed:
- A roll-on defence budget to have enough capital expenditure available for modernisation as against the present practice of surrendering unspent capital budget at the end of each financial year.
- A performance audit of the role of non-combat organisations under the Defence Ministry. The organisations include those dealing with defence estates and accounts, the Director- General of Quality Assurance, the Ordnance Factory Board, the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the NCC.
- Downsizing or rationalisation of manpower in the organisations, which can lead to significant savings.
- Setting up of a joint services war college for training middle-level officers.
The committee has said that if its recommendations are implemented over the next five years, the government can save up to ₹25,000 crore from the current expenditure.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Earth hour was observed across the globe on March 25th.
- It was the tenth anniversary of the Earth Hour this year.
What is it?
Earth Hour is a worldwide movement for the planet organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The event is held worldwide annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the last Saturday in March, as a symbol for their commitment to the planet.
It was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide. Today, Earth Hour engages a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues. The one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement.
Why do we need earth hour?
Global warming and climate change have dominated the scientific discourse in the past more than one decade. With ever rising population of the world, the climate change has put the humankind at a great risk along with other species.
- Global warming, rising levels of pollution due to ever increasing industrialisation, declining forest cover and rising sea levels are some of the dangers that drastically affect the workings of life on the earth.
- Though the largest polluters are big industries, the WWF tries to make the masses more and more aware about the impending dangers of adverse climate so that they could put pressure on the respective governments to frame environment-friendly policies and laws.
- With Earth Hour, the WWF aims to engage people across the globe to adopt more sustainable lifestyle. Turning off lights for an hour is just an annual reminder that if the world does not mend its ways, it will be heading to a dark age, literally.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Massive brown dwarf 750 light years away
Scientists have identified a record-breaking brown dwarf, which possesses the ‘purest’ composition that is about 90 times as massive as the planet Jupiter, located 750 light years away in the outermost reaches of our galaxy.
What are brown dwarfs?
Brown dwarfs are intermediate between planets and fully-fledged stars.
The mass of brown dwarfs is too small for full nuclear fusion of hydrogen to helium (with a consequent release of energy) to take place, but they are usually significantly more massive than planets.
- The new object, known as SDSS J0104+1535, is located 750 light years away in the constellation of Pisces.
- It is made of gas that is around 250 times purer than the Sun, hence consists of more than 99% hydrogen and helium.
- Estimated to have formed about 10 billion years ago, measurements also suggest that it has a mass equivalent to 90 times that of Jupiter, making it the most massive brown dwarf found to date.
- It was previously not known if brown dwarfs could form from such primordial gas, and the discovery points the way to a larger undiscovered population of extremely pure brown dwarfs from our Galaxy’s ancient past
- The researchers have classified SDSS J0104+1535 as an L-type ultra-subdwarf using its optical and near-infrared spectrum, which has been measured using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).
The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is a telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.
- The VLT consists of four individual telescopes, each with a primary mirror 8.2 m across, which are generally used separately but can be used together to achieve very high angular resolution. The four separate optical telescopes are known as Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun, which are all words for astronomical objects in the Mapuche language.
- The VLT operates at visible and infrared wavelengths. Each individual telescope can detect objects roughly four billion times fainter than can be detected with the naked eye, and when all the telescopes are combined, the facility can achieve an angular resolution of about 0.001 arc-second. This is equivalent to roughly 2 meters resolution at the distance of the Moon.
- The VLT is the most productive ground-based facility for astronomy, with only the Hubble Space Telescope generating more scientific papers among facilities operating at visible wavelengths.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
Titu Mir returns to roil Bengal, 190 years after his fall in war
Row over Titu Mir has been sparked again by the introduction of a chapter in the textbook in West Bengal.
What’s the issue?
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has approved the introduction of a chapter in its 10th history book that claims Titu Mir “killed” many Hindus and destroyed several temples.
Some historians have challenged this assertion, while the Opposition described it as a “distortion of history.”
About titu mir:
- Titu Mir (1782-1831) a peasant leader who resisted the oppression of the local zamindars and European indigo planters on the peasantry with ultimate object of liberating the country from British domination.
- He was a leader of the tariqah-i-muhammadiya in Bengal, and his movement initially aimed at socio-religious reforms, elimination of the practice of shirk (pantheism) and bidat (innovation) in the Muslim society and at inspiring the Muslims to follow Islamic principles in their day to day life.
- Syed Mir Nisar Ali, or Titu Mir led the Narkelberia Uprising in 1831 — often considered the first armed peasant uprising against the British.
- He built a bamboo fort in Narkelberia village.
- Celebrated in folklore as a peasant leader, Titu Mir remains a controversial political figure in Bengal for his religious identity as an Islamic preacher after he converted to Wahabism.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Scientists switch on the world’s largest ‘artificial sun’
Scientists in Germany have switched on what is being described as the world’s largest artificial sun – a device they hope will help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuels.
What is it?
The giant honeycomb-like set-up of 149 spotlights – officially known as Synlight – in Juelich, about 20 miles west of Cologne, uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight which is often in short supply in Germany at this time of year.
What it does?
By focusing the entire array on a single 8x8in spot, scientists from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) will be able to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation which would normally shine on the same surface.
- When all the lamps are swivelled to concentrate light on a single spot, the instrument can generate temperatures of around 3,500C – around two to three times the temperature of a blast furnace.
- The aim of the experiment is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel.
Significance of this experiment:
Creating such furnace-like conditions – with temperatures of up to 3, 500C (5,432F) – is key to testing novel ways of making hydrogen. The Synlight experiment is investigating the possibility that a similar setup could be used to power a reaction to extract hydrogen from water vapour, which could then be used as a fuel source for aeroplanes and cars.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, but free, uncombined hydrogen gas is relatively rare on earth. One way to manufacture hydrogen is to split water into its two components – the other being oxygen – using electricity in a process called electrolysis. Researchers hope to bypass the electricity stage by tapping into the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.
Many consider hydrogen to be the fuel of the future because it produces no carbon emissions when burned, meaning it does not add to global warming.
The goal of this experiment is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced at the Juelich experiment, which cost 3.5 million euros (£3 million) to build and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
World Conference on Environment:
- The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee recently inaugurated the ‘World Conference on Environment’.
- The conference is being held under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Water Resources.
- The conference aims to provide a new dimension to the environmental jurisprudence from a world perspective.
- This is for the first time that UNEP is holding a conference in India in which around 55 delegates from 30 countries especially South Asian countries will participate.
India to redefine blindness to meet WHO stipulation:
- The government is set to change a four-decade-old definition of blindness to bring it in line with the WHO criteria and ensure the Indian data on blindness meets the global estimates.
- As defined under the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), a person unable to count fingers from a distance of six metres is categorised as “blind” in India.
- WHO’s stipulation is three metres.