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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 4 July 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 (DDH2020).

2. Italian Marines case.

3. Constitutional amendments in Russia.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Privatisation of Railways.

2. Biofuels 

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Central Zoo Authority.

2. Dhamma Chakra Day.

3. Places in News- Botswana.

4. Prerak Dauur Samman.

5. Nimu.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 (DDH2020) launched

What is it?

  • It is first of its kind National initiative for supporting drug discovery process.
  • It will see participation from professionals, faculty, researchers and students from varied fields like Computer Science, Chemistry, Pharmacy, Medical Sciences, Basic Sciences and Biotechnology.

It is a joint initiative and the participants are:

  1. MHRD’s Innovation Cell (MIC).
  2. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
  3. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  4. Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC).
  5. MyGov as well as private players.

Details:

The Hackathon consists of challenges that are posted as problem statements and, are based on specific drug discovery topics which, are open to the participants to solve.

It will have three Tracks.

  1. Track 1 will primarily deal with drug design for anti-COVID-19 hit/lead generation.
  2. Track 2 will deal with designing/optimizing new tools and algorithms which will have an immense impact on expediting the process of in silico drug discovery.
  3. Track 3 is called “Moon shot” which allows for working on problems which are ‘out of the box’ nature.

What is in silico drug design?

In silico drug design is a term that means ‘computer-aided molecular design’.

In other words, it is the rational design or discovery of drugs using a wide variety of computational methods.

It is thus the identification of the drug target molecule by employing bioinformatics tools.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Hackathon launched by?
  2. What are bioinformatics tools?
  3. What is In- Silico drug discovery?
  4. Constitutional and composition of Innovation cell.
  5. About CDAC.

Mains Link:

Write a note on Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Italian Marines case

Context:

In a setback to India, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague has ruled that India does not have jurisdiction to try the marines, who were held in Kerala fishermen shootout case.

What’s the issue?

In 2012, two Italian marines fired shots while on-board an Italian vessel, Enrica Lexie killing two Indian fishermen aboard an Indian vessel, St. Anthony.

But, the fishing vessel was within the country’s Contiguous Zone and it was quite clear that the offence warranted arrest and prosecution under domestic law.

  • Eventually, the marines were arrested. But, further the marines were released from India and sent to Italy.

At that time, India had set up a specially designated court, as ordered by Indian Supreme Court, to determine the applicability of jurisdiction.

  • Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency invoked the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002.
  • The dispute between the two countries as regards which country will try the two marines was before the PCA.

What has the PCA said?

The marines were entitled to immunity as they were acting on behalf of a state.

Italy would have jurisdiction to decide on the question of immunity for the marines.

  • Thus, India is precluded from exercising its jurisdiction.

While India’s conduct has not been in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Italy breached provisions of the Convention by intercepting the navigation of India’s vessel.

  • Italy is, as a result, liable to pay compensation to India.

PCA also rejected a key argument by Italy that India, by leading the Italian vessel into its territory and arresting the marines, violated its obligation to cooperate with measures to suppress piracy under Article 100 of UNCLOS.

What next?

Both the nations are required to hold consultations in order to arrive at the amount of compensation to be paid to India.

Conclusion:

The PCA’s award, which is final and has been accepted by India, is a huge setback for the expectation that the two marines would face a criminal trial in India.

  • In the end, Italy succeeded in taking the matter out of India’s hands. It should now make good on its commitment to have the marines tried under its domestic laws. The takeaway for India should be the lessons, in the legal and diplomatic domains, that can be drawn from the experience.

About PCA:

Established in 1899.

Headquartered at the Hague in Netherlands.

It has Financial Assistance Fund which aims at helping developing countries meet part of the costs involved in international arbitration or other means of dispute settlement offered by the PCA.

All decisions, called “awards” are binding on all the parties in the dispute and have to be carried out without delay.

Functions and jurisdiction:

It provides services of arbitral tribunal to resolve disputes that arise out of international agreements between member states, international organizations or private parties.

  • The cases span a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries, sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.

The organization is not a United Nations agency, but the PCA is an official United Nations Observer.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. PCA- composition, functions and members.
  2. What is UNCLOS?
  3. Articles 87, 90 and 100 of UNCLOS are related to?
  4. About International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
  5. What is NIA?

Mains Link:

Discuss the functions and significance of PCA.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Constitutional amendments in Russia

Context:

As per preliminary reports, Russia’s new constitutional amendments have been passed with 77.92 percent of votes in favour and 22.27 percent against.

The national referendum Had asked voters to decide whether to approve 206 constitutional amendments.

  • Both turnout and popular support for the amendments was higher than when Russians voted to adopt the current Constitution itself in 1993 (when support was 58.4 percent with 54.8 percent turnout).

What will change with the constitutional reforms?

  1. The amendments would allow Putin to run for two more six-year terms, in 2024 and 2030.

The Russian Constitution bars more than two consecutive presidential terms. The new Constitution doesn’t change the two-term limit in theory, but in practice, it resets Mr Putin’s terms so that it will be the first election under the new Constitution for him, to be held in 2024.

  1. Other amendments strengthen presidential and parliamentary powers, enshrine traditional values including an effective ban on gay marriage and guarantee better minimum wages and pensions.
  2. The other changes to the constitution include measures to respect the country’s heritage and the orthodox church as well as strengthen the Kremlinover local and municipal authorities.
  3. The amendments also place strict limitations on Russians who hold foreign citizenship or residency from serving public office. Most notably, these constitutional restrictions block any individual who has ever held foreign residency or citizenship from ever running for President.
  4. Finally, the amendments also declare the importance of a belief in God, that Russia will defend the historical “truth” about WWII, and that Russia is the successor state to the Soviet Union.

Challenges ahead for Russia:

According to the IMF, the economy hasn’t expanded in dollar terms for a decade.

  • The Fund estimates the GDP to shrink by 6.6% this year. With the pandemic affecting local businesses and the oil price fall eating into exports revenue, the Kremlin finds it difficult to fix the economy in the near term.

In foreign policy, Russia’s relationship with the West remains troublesome.

  • The sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 are still in place.
  • Russia also faces allegations of interference in the elections of other countries.
  • Domestically, Opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his supporters continue to protest against the Kremlin despite state crackdowns.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Presidential vs Parliamentary forms.
  2. President of India vs President of Russia- differences.
  3. What is a referendum?
  4. What is a plebiscite?
  5. Changes introduced by recent amendments.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Infrastructure- Railways.

Privatisation of Railways

Context:

Ministry of Railways has kick-started the process to allow private players to operate certain trains on its network by inviting Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the operation of passenger train services on over 100 routes with 150 modern trains.

  • The project will bring private sector investment of about Rs. 30,000 crore.

How it works?

  1. Train sets have to be brought by private operators and maintained by them.
  2. Fares in private trains will be competitive and prices on other modes of transport like airlines, buses have to be kept in mind while fixing the fares
  3. Private participation in passenger train operations will only be 5% of the total operations of Railways. 95% of trains will still be run by Indian Railways.

Objectives of the initiative:

  1. To introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance.
  2. Reduce transit time.
  3. Boost job creation.
  4. Provide enhanced safety.
  5. Provide world-class travel experience to passengers.
  6. Reduce demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.

Recommendations by Bibek Debroy Committee:

The Bibek Debroy Committee, which was set up to suggest ways to mobilise resources for the Indian Railways and restructure the Railway Board, had favoured privatisation of rolling stock: wagons and coaches.

Rail Privatisation:

Pros:

Improved Infrastructure – It will lead to better infrastructure which in turn would lead to improved amenities for travellers.

Balancing Quality of Service with High Fares –  The move would foster competition and hence lead to overall betterment in the quality of services.

Lesser Accidents –  Because private ownership is synonymous with better maintenance, supporters of privatisation feel that it will reduce the number of accidents, thus resulting in safe travel and higher monetary savings in the long run.

Cons:

Coverage Limited to Lucrative Sectors – An advantage of Indian Railways being government- owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit. This would not be possible with privatisation since routes which are less popular will be eliminated, thus having a negative impact on connectivity. It will also render some parts of the country virtually inaccessible and omit them from the process of development.

Fares –  Given that a private enterprise runs on profit, it is but natural to assume that the easiest way of accruing profits in Indian Railways would be to hike fares, thus rendering the service out of reach for lower income groups. This will defeat the entire purpose of the system which is meant to serve the entire population of the country irrespective of the level of income.

Accountability –  Private companies are unpredictable in their dealings and do not share their governance secrets with the world at large. In such a scenario it would be difficult to pin the accountability on a particular entity, should there be a discrepancy.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. When were Railway and General budgets merged?
  2. India’s first private train.
  3. Bibrek Debroy Committee is related to?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of privatisation of railways and challenges involved therein.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: 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.

Biofuels

Context:

Researchers of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad have started using computational methods to understand the factors and impediments in incorporating biofuels into the fuel sector in India.

  • A unique feature of this work is that the framework considers revenue generation not only as an outcome of sales of the biofuel but also in terms of carbon credits via greenhouse gas emission savings throughout the project lifecycle.

Outcomes:

The model has shown that if bioethanol is integrated with mainstream fuel, the costs associated with it are follows: production cost 43 per cent, import 25 per cent, transport 17 per cent, infrastructure 15 per cent, and inventory 0.43 per cent.

The model has also shown that the feed availability to the tune of at least 40 per cent of the capacity is needed to meet the projected demands.

Significance of Biofuels:

Globally, biofuels have caught the attention in last decade and it is imperative to keep up with the pace of developments in the field of biofuels.

  • Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development and offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation.

What are Biofuels?

Any hydrocarbon fuel that is produced from an organic matter (living or once living material) in a short period of time (days, weeks, or even months) is considered a biofuel.

Biofuels may be solid, liquid or gaseous in nature.

  1. Solid: Wood, dried plant material, and manure
  2. Liquid: Bioethanol and Biodiesel
  3. Gaseous: Biogas

Classification of Biofuels:

1st generation biofuels are also called conventional biofuels. They are made from things like sugar, starch, or vegetable oil. Note that these are all food products. Any biofuel made from a feedstock that can also be consumed as a human food is considered a first-generation biofuel.

2nd generation biofuels are produced from sustainable feedstock. The sustainability of a feedstock is defined by its availability, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, its impact on land use, and by its potential to threaten the food supply. No second generation biofuel is also a food crop, though certain food products can become second generation fuels when they are no longer useful for consumption. Second generation biofuels are often called “advanced biofuels.”

3rd generation biofuels are biofuel derived from algae. These biofuels are given their own separate class because of their unique production mechanism and their potential to mitigate most of the drawbacks of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels.

4th generation biofuels: In the production of these fuels, crops that are genetically engineered to take in high amounts of carbon are grown and harvested as biomass. The crops are then converted into fuel using second generation techniques.

Government of India initiatives to promote the use of Biofuels:

Since 2014, the Government of India has taken a number of initiatives to increase blending of biofuels.

  1. The major interventions include administrative price mechanism for ethanol, simplifying the procurement procedures of OMCs, amending the provisions of Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 and enabling lignocellulosic route for ethanol procurement.
  2. The Government approved the National Policy on Biofuels-2018 in June 2018. The policy has the objective of reaching 20% ethanol-blending and 5% biodiesel-blending by the year 2030.
    • Among other things, the policy expands the scope of feedstock for ethanol production and has provided for incentives for production of advanced biofuels.
  3. The Government has also increased the price of C-heavy molasses-based ethanol.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a biofuel?
  2. Categorisation of biofuels.
  3. Overview of National Policy on Biofuels.
  4. What is ethanol? How is it produced?

Mains Link:

Discuss the importance of biofuels for India? Critically examine whether the national policy on biofuels will help India unlock it’s biofuel potential?

Sources: pib.

 


Facts for Prelims


Places in News- Botswana:

Why in News?

Hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The cause is yet to be established.

Key facts:

  • Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa.
  • Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert.
  • Neighbours: It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, Zimbabwe to the northeast and Zambia to the north.
  • Botswana is currently home to more elephants than any other African country, and southern Africa remains a stronghold for 293,000, or 70%, of the estimated remaining African elephants.
  • The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2014.

african_elephant

Central Zoo Authority (CZA):

The Environment Ministry has reconstituted the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

  • The CZA would now include an expert from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, and a molecular biologist.

About CZA:

  • CZA is a statutory body chaired by the Environment Minister.
  • It is tasked with regulating zoos across the country.
  • Every zoo in the country must obtain recognition from CZA for its operation.
  • The authority lays down guidelines and prescribes rules under which animals may be transferred among zoos nationally and internationally.

Composition:

Apart from the chairman, it consists of 10 members and a member-secretary.

Almost all of them are officials in the Environment Ministry and non-government experts are those who are wildlife conservationists or retired forest officers.

Dhamma Chakra Day:

Context:

The Ministry of Culture in partnership with International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) will celebrate the Asadha Poornima on 4th July, 2020 as Dharma Chakra Day.

 Significance of the day:

It marks Buddha’s first teaching after attaining Enlightenment to the first five ascetic disciples (pañcavargika) on the full-moon day of Asadha at ‘Deer Park’, Rishipatana in modern-day Sarnath, near Varanasi.

  • This teaching of Dhamma Cakka Pavattana Sutta (Pali) or Dharma Chakra Pravartana Sutra (Sanskrit) is also known as the First Turning of Wheels of Dharma and comprised the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.

The day is also known as Esala Poya in Sri Lanka and Asanha Bucha in Thailand.

  • It is the second most sacred day for Buddhists after the Buddha Poornima or Vesak.

The day is also observed as Guru Poornima by both Buddhists and Hindus as a day to mark reverence to their Gurus.

Prerak Dauur Samman:

It is a new category of awards announced as part of Swachh Survekshan 2021.

It has a total of five additional subcategories – Divya (Platinum), Anupam (Gold), Ujjwal (Silver), Udit (Bronze), Aarohi (Aspiring) – with top three cities being recognized in each.

Implications:

In a departure from the present criteria of evaluating cities on ‘population category’, this new category will categorize cities on the basis of six select indicator-wise performance criteria which are as follows:

  1. Segregation of waste into Wet, Dry and Hazard categories
  2. Processing capacity against wet waste generated
  3. Processing and recycling of wet and dry waste
  4. Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste processing
  5. Percentage of waste going to landfills
  6. Sanitation status of cities

Nimu/Nimoo:

Why in News.

Recently Prime Minister travelled to Nimu in Ladakh to interact with Indian troops.

  • Nimu is the reserve brigade headquarter of the Indian Army.
  • Its significance can also be ascertained from the fact that the Border Road Organisation (BRO) is constructing a road from Padum in the Zanskar Valley to Nimu.

Key facts:

Nimu is a village located in the south-eastern part of Ladakh region.

It is surrounded by the Zanskar range.

It is famous for offering view of the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers.

Magnet Hill is a gravity defying road 7.5 km southeast of Nimoo.

  • Due to the surrounding geographical features, it has an optical illusion where vehicles seem to roll uphill in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.

Note:
Current affairs were not uploaded yesterday. Hence, we have tried to include those issues today. Few missing articles from today’s the Hindu will be covered tomorrow in detail. Sorry for the inconvenience.


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