Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 05 August 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
GS Paper 3:
- 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.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of IMPRINT.
Context: TechEx – technology exhibition at IIT Delhi, was recently organized to demonstrate products and prototypes developed under the two flagship schemes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) namely IMPacting Research, INnovation and Technology (IMPRINT) and UchhatarAvishkar Yojana (UAY).
TechEx is a unique effort, which offers an excellent platform to the researchers to showcase their work and inspire them to do their best in their respective domains.
About IMPRINT India:
- The initiative, ‘IMPRINT India’, is a pan-IIT and IISc joint collaboration to develop a blueprint for research of immediate relevance to society requiring innovation, direct scientific research into identified areas, ensure higher funding support for research into these areas and measure outcomes of the research efforts with reference to the impact on the standard of living in rural/urban areas.
- IMPRINT scheme was launched in November, 2015 with a view to providing solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges by translating knowledge into viable technology (products or processes) in 10 selected technology domains, namely health care, energy, sustainable habitat, nano-technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, Information and Communication Technology, manufacturing, security and defence, and environmental science and climate change.
UchhatarAvishkar Yojana (UAY):
- It was announced on October 6, 2015 with a view to promoting innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the Industry and thereby improves the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing.
- UAY projects are funded jointly by MHRD, participating Ministries and the Industry in the ratio of 50:25:25.
- The scheme focusses on a viable industry-academic collaboration where industry shares a part of the cost of research.
GS Paper 3:
- Indigenization of technology.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: QRSAM- key features, significance and potential.
Context: DRDO has successfully test-fired indigenously developed Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles (QRSAM) from a test range off the Odisha coast.
- It has been developed to replace the ‘Akash’ missile defence system, and has 360-degree coverage.
- It uses solid fuel propellant and has a strike range of 25-30 km with capability of hitting multiple targets.
- It is capable of hitting the low flying objects.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims: About CDV and it’s effects on wildlife, concerns, measures needed.
Context: A recent study published in Threatened Taxa notes that 86% of the tested dogs around Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan carried Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) antibodies in their bloodstream.
- This means that the dogs are either currently infected or have been infected sometime in their life and have overcome the disease. This finding points out that there is an increased risk of disease transfer from the dogs to tigers and leopards that live in the park.
Last year, over 20 lions from the Gir forest succumbed to the viral infection and now a guideline has been prepared by the National Tiger Conservation Authority to prevent the spillover of the disease to wild animals.
What needs to be done?
The easy way out is prevention. Managing any disease in a wildlife population is extremely difficult. Most dogs are free ranging and not owned by any particular person in the village.
The government should take the initiative to vaccinate the dogs around wildlife sanctuaries in the country. This would be a good time to vaccinate against rabies as well. It is an investment that requires time and effort but increasing herd immunity will reduce chances of disease spillover to wildlife.
What is Canine Distemper Virus?
Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a viral disease that infects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and central nervous systems.
- Dogs who have not been vaccinated for Canine Distemper are the most at-risk. While the disease can also be contracted when improperly vaccinated or when a dog has high susceptibility to bacterial infection, these cases are rare.
- CDV can be spread through direct contact (licking, breathing air, etc.) or indirect contact (bedding, toys, food bowls, etc.), though it cannot live on surfaces for very long. Inhaling the virus is the primary method of exposure. There is no known cure for CDV.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- Awareness in space.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: SSAM- need, significance and features of SSACC.
Context: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has laid the foundation stone for the Space Situational Awareness Control Centre in Bengaluru.
ISRO has set up a Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management aiming at protecting high valued space assets from space debris close approaches and collisions. To carryout systematically all activities related to SSAM, a control centre is being established at Bengaluru.
- The control centre would host a range of activities related to the protection of Indian space assets from inactive satellites, pieces of orbiting objects, near earth asteroids and adverse space weather conditions.
- It would also assimilate the tracking data of inactive satellites from indigenous observation facilities and generates useful information from bare observations through analysis.
Space Situational Awareness & Management (SSAM) has become an internationally significant area due to the rise of manmade space debris and the increased collision threat with operational spacecraft.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 2:
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Fit and proper criteria- features, need and significance.
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has tightened the fit-and-proper criteria for directors on the boards of state-run banks.
The revised norms are applicable only to public sector banks (PSBs).
Key changes proposed:
- As per the Reserve Bank of India (‘Fit and Proper’ Criteria for Elected Directors on the Boards of PSBs) Directions, 2019, all the banks — SBI and nationalised banks — are required to constitute a Nomination and Remuneration Committee (NRC).
- Centre’s nominee director shall not be part of the nomination and remuneration committee (NRC).
- The terms with regard to the NRC and the manner of the appointment of directors have been aligned with the practice in private banks, the recommendations made by the Banks Board Bureau, and with the provisions in the Companies Act.
- Composition of NRC: The NRC will have a minimum of three non-executive directors from amongst the board of directors. Of this, not less than one-half shall be independent directors and should include at least one member from the risk management committee of the board.
- Eligibility: As per the directions, the candidate who wants to become an elected director should at least be a graduate. He/She should be between 35-67 years old as on the cut-off date fixed for submission of nominations for election. The candidate should have special knowledge or practical experience in areas useful for banks.
- An elected director shall hold office for three years and shall be eligible for re-election, provided that no director hold office for a period exceeding six years, whether served continuously or intermittently.
- What will also be under scrutiny is the ‘list of entities’ in which a prospective director has an interest – to ascertain if such a firm is in default or has been in default in the past decade.
The negative list says that:
- The candidate should not be a member of the board of any bank, the RBI, financial institution (FI), insurance company or a non-operative financial holding company (NOFHC).
- The candidate should not be connected with hire-purchase, financing, money lending, investment, leasing and other para-banking activities. But “investors of such entities would not be disqualified for appointment as directors if they do not enjoy any managerial control in them”.
- No person is to be elected or re-elected to a bank board if the candidate has served as a director in the past on the board of any bank, the RBI or insurance company under any category for six years, whether continuously or intermittently.
- The candidate should not be engaging in the business of stock broking.
- The candidate should not be a member of Parliament, state legislature, municipal corporation, municipality, or other local bodies — notified area council, city council, panchayat, gram sabha or zila parishad.
- Other conditions are that candidate should not be a partner of a chartered accountant (CA) firm currently engaged as a statutory central auditor of any nationalised bank or State Bank of India; or when the firm is engaged as statutory branch auditor or concurrent auditor of the bank in which nomination is sought.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- Issues related to biotechnology.
What to study?
For prelims: What is genome sequencing and how is it done?
For Mains: Significance, need and challenges to the project.
Context: The Department of Biotechology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer.
- The first phase involves sequencing the complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from all corners of the country and capture the biological diversity of India.
- In the next phase, about 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced. These vast troves of data sets would be compared using machine learning techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer risk, as well as other diseases that could be significantly influenced by genetic anomalies.
- The data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis. This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’, which is still in early stages of discussion.
- As the genetic landscape differs across the world, it is necessary that genetic data is shared in order to derive greater knowledge from information and serve the purpose of enabling better treatment outcomes.
- The GenomeIndia initiative will pave the way for identifying genes and genetic variations for common diseases, treating Mendelian disorders, enabling the transformation of the Precision Medicine landscape in India, and thus improving the healthcare of the general population in our country.
Need for genome sequencing:
Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it opened a fresh perspective on the link between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual.
Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis, thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning. While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs.
What are the uses of genome sequencing?
- A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
- Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of science focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes.
- Genomics also involves the sequencing and analysis of genomes through uses of high throughput DNA sequencing.
- Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research and systems biology to facilitate understanding of even the most complex biological systems such as the brain.
Sources: the Hindu.
Mains Question: What do you understand by ‘genomics’? Examine how far the Human Genome Project has helped in finding cures for human diseases.
GS Paper 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: NPR- features, composition and uses.
Context: The next round of recording biometric and family-tree details of Indian citizens under the National Population Register (NPR) will be conducted in September 2020.
About National Population Register (NPR):
- It is a Register of usual residents of the country.
- It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
- It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
- Definition: A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
- The NPR database would contain demographic as well as biometric details.
- As per the provisions of the NPR, a resident identity card (RIC) will be issued to individuals over the age of 18. This will be a chip-embedded smart card containing the demographic and biometric attributes of each individual. The UID number will also be printed on the card.
The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
Facts for prelims:
Context: French inventor crosses the English Channel on his hoverboard.
- The English Channel is a part of the Atlantic Ocean.
- It separates the island of Britain (part of the UK) from northern Franceand joins the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
- It’s approximately 350 miles long, and at its narrowest in the Strait of Dover.
Rice bowl of Karnataka:
The Tungabhadra command area, consisting of around 10 lakh acres of land in Koppal, Ballari and Raichur districts, is popularly known as the “rice bowl of Karnataka”. It produces high-quality Sona Masuri rice that is in great demand across the country.
Why in news? Karnataka’s rice bowl stares at crisis as water level in TB dam sinks.
Context: Eminent journalist Ravish Kumar wins Magsaysay Award.
About Ramon Magsaysay Award:
- It is Asia’s highest honour and is often regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
- It was established in 1957 by trustees of the New York City based Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Philippine government in the memory of Philippines’ third President Ramon Magsaysay.
- It is awarded annually to individuals or organizations from Asia region for their altruistic and philanthropic service.
- It carries Medallion bearing the likeness of the late President Ramon Magsaysay, cash prize and a certificate.
It is a New mobile app launched to assist farmers.
- The application would be available for 150 districts in different parts of the country.
- It will provide forecast relating to temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind speed and direction, which play critical roles in agricultural operations and advisories to the farmers on how to take care of their crops and livestock. The information would be updated twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays.
- The app would provide information in the form of images, maps and pictures to help the farmer to have a clearer picture of what is in store. It has been integrated with WhatsApp and Facebook as well to help farmers share advisories among themselves. It will also be integrated with YouTube in future.
- It has been developed by experts from the India Meteorological Department and Indian Institute of Tropical meteorology and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Summaries of important Editorials:
Bigger and better: On number of Supreme Court judges:
Context: The Union Cabinet’s has decided to raise the strength of the Supreme Court from 31 to 34, including the Chief Justice of India.
Significance: This will help in dealing with the large pendency — 59,331 cases on July 11.
What else is needed?
A mere increase in the court’s strength may not be enough to liquidate the burgeoning docket.
- Another set of measures that would save the court’s time, including a reasonable restraint on the duration of oral arguments and a disciplined adherence to a schedule of hearings may be needed.
- In this case, one of the principal objectives should be to preserve the apex court’s primary role as the ultimate arbiter of constitutional questions and statutory interpretation.
- All other questions involving a final decision on routine matters, especially civil cases that involve nothing more than the interests of the parties before it, ought to be considered by a mechanism that will not detract from the court’s primary role.
- It may be worthwhile considering the 229th Report of the Law Commission, suggesting a new system under which there will be one Constitution Bench in Delhi, and four ‘Cassation Benches’ for different regions of the country.
- These will be final appellate courts for routine litigation. This arrangement may also increase access to justice to those living in far-flung areas of the country and who may otherwise have to come to Delhi and spend more time and money in pursuing appeals. It may also cut down on the time taken for disposal of cases.
What is India’s Deep Ocean Mission?
Context: Ministry Of Earth Sciences Plans Rs 8000 Crore ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ To Boost India’s Sea Exploration Capabilities.
What will be mined from the deep ocean?
- One of the main aims of the mission is to explore and extract polymetallic nodules. These are small potato-like rounded accretions composed of minerals such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron hydroxide.
- They lie scattered on the Indian Ocean floor at depths of about 6,000 m and the size can vary from a few millimetres to centimetres. These metals can be extracted and used in electronic devices, smartphones, batteries and even for solar panels.
How is it regulated?
- The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous international organisation established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, allots the ‘area’ for deep-sea mining.
- India was the first country to receive the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor ‘ in 1987 and was given an area of about 1.5 lakh sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for nodule exploration. In 2002, India signed a contract with the ISA and after complete resource analysis of the seabed 50% was surrendered and the country retained an area of 75,000 sq km.
Which are the other countries that are in the race to mine the deep sea?
Apart from the CIOB, polymetallic nodules have been identified from the central Pacific Ocean. It is known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.
China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia and also some small islands such as the Cook Islands, Kiribati have joined the race for deep sea mining. Most of the countries have tested their technologies in shallow waters and are yet to start deep-sea extraction.
What will be the environmental impact?
- According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), these deep remote locations can be home to unique species that have adapted themselves to conditions such as poor oxygen and sunlight, high pressure and extremely low temperatures.
- Such mining expeditions can make them go extinct even before they are known to science. The deep sea’s biodiversity and ecology remain poorly understood, making it difficult to assess the environmental impact and frame adequate guidelines.
- Environmentalists are also worried about the sediment plumes that will be generated as the suspended particles can rise to the surface harming the filter feeders in the upper ocean layers. Additional concerns have been raised about the noise and light pollution from the mining vehicles and oil spills from the operating vessels.
Is deep sea mining economically viable?
The latest estimate from the ISA says it will be commercially viable only if about three million tonnes are mined per year. More studies are being carried out to understand how the technology can be scaled up and used efficiently.