Current Affairs Analysis

17th October 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana; Global Hunger Index 2020; GHI score; India-International Food & Agri Week; Assets Under Management; Taiwan Strait; Bodoland Movement; First Bodo Accord; Sheath blight disease; Novel antiviral Strategy; Swap transplant; Bioremediation; Oil Spills; What to do with old vehicles? Towards effective scrappage policy and infrastructure Report; Y20 Global Summit; B20 Engagement Group; L20 Engagement Group; T20 Engagement Group; C20 Engagement Group; W20 Engagement Group; Urban 20 Engagement Group; S20 Engagement Group; Channapatna toys; Chushul; Spanggur Gap; Rezang La; National Security guards; Declining star formation theory; IRDAI; Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India; QAnon Conspiracy theory; etc.
By IASToppers
October 17, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • New group to revive Bodoland statehood stir

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Anti-ulcer drug shows promise in suppressing coronavirus
  • India’s first paediatric kidney swap transplants

Economy

  • Global Hunger Index 2020
  • IRDAI unveils standard term life insurance cover

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Microbes to fight oil spillage in oceans
  • What to do with old vehicles?
  • Modulating pathogen functions control sheath blight disease

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Y20 Global Summit

Defence & Security Issues

  • PM greets NSG personnel on their Raising Day

Art & Culture

  • Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana
  • Channapatna toys

Science & Technology

  • Declining star formation in Milky Way

Also in News

  • QAnon: A conspiracy theory feeding violence

Key Facts for Prelims

  • India-International Food & Agri Week
  • Assets Under Management
  • Taiwan Strait
  • Chushul & Spanggur Gap

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Polity & Governance

New group to revive Bodoland statehood stir

A new organisation has announced the revival of the Bodoland statehood movement ahead of the elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

What is the issue?

  • The five-decade-old demand for a separate State for the Bodos, the largest plains tribe in the Northeast, was said to have ended with the signing of the third peace accord on January 27 for transforming the BTC into the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) with additional powers.
  • But the All India Bodo People’s National League for Bodoland Statehood has vowed to rekindle the statehood movement.
  • The league was formed on October 15.
  • The members of this league panned the BTR accord, which they said would spell disaster for the Bodo community.
  • According to one member, unlike the 2003 accord that gave us the BTC, the new accord has been a betrayal of the Bodo people. Besides being an inferior accord, it prescribes a reduction of the area currently under the BTC.
  • The accord has a provision for excluding from the BTR villages with more than 50% non-Bodos and including villages with more than 50% Bodo people left out of the BTC map after the 2003 accord.

First Bodo Accord

  • The movement was doused temporarily with the signing of the first Bodo Accord in February 1993 between the government and moderate leaders of the movement, including those of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU).
  • This resulted in the creation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC).
  • The extremist National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), which split into four factions later on, rejected this “trivial” accord.
  • The discontent bred another outfit, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which rivalled the NDFB.

Second and Third Bodo Accord

  • The Centre signed the second Bodo peace accord with the BLT in February 2003, elevating the BAC to the BTC.
  • The outfit was disbanded and most of its leaders formed the Bodoland People’s Front that ruled the BTC for several terms until the council was dissolved on April 27.
  • The Third Bodo accord signed on January 27 among the Centre, the Assam government and Bodo organisations, including leaders of all the NDFB factions and the ABSU, envisaged to upgrade the BTC to the BTR.
  • The Bodo signatories had then said that the accord negated the need for another statehood movement.

Bodoland Movement

  • The Bodoland statehood movement has its roots in the 1967 Udayachal stir seeking self-rule for the areas dominated by the Bodo community.
  • A stronger statehood movement was revived in 1987 with the slogan of ‘Divide Assam 50:50’ and it ran parallel with an armed uprising by extremists.
  • The Bodos, under the leadership of All Bodo Students‟ Union (ABSU) launched a movement for a separate homeland namely “Bodoland‟.
  • A section of Bodo militant outfits – National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) have raised secessionist demands and the creation of sovereign state of Bodoland.
  • This had led to the subversive activities by militant organizations of the Bodos involving the fratricidal killings, bomb blasts, kidnapping, rail blockades and activities of sabotage affecting the neighbouring states like Bhutan, Bangladesh, besides, the entire country.
  • The Bodoland movement was put under suspension after signing BTR accord.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Issues related to Health & Education

Anti-ulcer drug shows promise in suppressing coronavirus

Researchers from Hong Kong have reported a novel antiviral strategy for treatment of Covid-19.

The novel antiviral Strategy

  • Researchers have found that a class of existing drugs, which are currently used in the treatment of other infectious diseases, can suppress replication of SARS-CoV-2 and relieve Covid-19 symptoms in an animal model.
  • Their findings are published in Nature Microbiology.
  • These are metallodrugs, which consist of metal compounds.
  • Generally, metal compounds are used as anti-microbial agents, but their antiviral activities have rarely been explored, the researchers said.
  • Their findings now provide a new therapeutic option for treatment of Covid-19.
  • The researchers screened metallodrugs and related compounds including ranitidine bismuthcitrate (RBC), a commonly used anti-ulcer drug which contains the metal bismuth.
  • They identified RBC as a potent anti SARS-CoV-2 agent.
  • RBC targets a protein called Nsp13, which is essential for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate.
  • The experiments showed that RBC reduces viral loads by over 1,000-fold in SARS-CoV-2-infected cells.
  • In a golden Syrian hamster, RBC was found to suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication and reduce viral loads by 100-fold in both the upper and lower respiratory tracts, and to mitigate virus-associated pneumonia.
[Ref: Indian Express]

India’s first paediatric kidney swap transplants

The BMC-run KEM Hospital has become the first public hospital in the country to carry out a paediatric renal swap transplant.

  • A boy couldn’t find a suitable kidney donor within their families, a swap transplant was the only option.
  • The mother of one of the boys and the father of the other donated kidneys for the swap transplants.

What is swap transplant?

  • A Swap transplant is a ray of hope for those who are not having matching donors in their families.
  • It gives the freedom to all the patient an exchange of organs between two families, who cannot take the organ to their own family member because of non-matching blood group.
  • This is also called as Pool transplant or Paired exchange. 
  • It can be done in two cases when:
    • Patients having family donor, but the blood groups are not matching.
    • Patients having blood group compatible donor, but lymphocyte cross-match is positive.
[ Ref: Times of India]

Economy

Global Hunger Index 2020

India ranks 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020 released recently.

Major Highlights:

  • With a score of 27.2, India has a level of hunger that is serious.
  • India’s rank was 102 out of 117 countries last year (2019).
  • In the index, India features behind Nepal (73), Pakistan (88), Bangladesh (75), Indonesia (70) etc.
  • Out of the total 107 countries, only 13 countries fare worse than India including countries like Rwanda (97), Nigeria (98), Afghanistan (99), Liberia (102), Mozambique (103), Chad (107) etc.
  • 14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished and the country recorded a child stunting rate of 37.4 per cent. (Stunted children have a low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition).

About the report:

  • The Global Hunger Index is an annual report jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
  • It is a comprehensive report that measures and tracks hunger at the global, regional, and country levels.

Global Hunger Index scores:

  • The GHI scores are calculated to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger.
  • It is calculated on the basis of four indicators
    • Undernourishment
    • Child wasting (share of children under the age of five who have low weight for their height reflecting acute undernutrition)
    • Child stunting (children under the age of five who have low height for their age reflecting chronic undernutrition)
    • Child mortality (the mortality rate of children under the age of five)

Reasons for Malnutrition:

  • Facing multiple forms of deprivation including poor dietary diversity.
  • Low levels of maternal education and household poverty.
[Ref: Indian Express]

IRDAI unveils standard term life insurance cover

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has come up with a standard individual term life insurance product.

  • These features as well as standard terms and conditions are expected to help customers make an informed choice and reduce mis-selling.

About the standard individual term life insurance product

  • The product, Saral Jeevan Bima to be offered by all life insurance companies will be a non-linked, non-participating individual pure risk premium life insurance plan.
  • It will pay the sum assured in lump sum to the nominee in case of the life assured’s death during the policy term.
  • The regulator mandated all life insurers to offer the standard product by January 1, 2021.
  • Insurers have to file the product with the regulator latest by December 1.
  • The plan will be for those in the 18-65 years age group.
  • The policy term will be 5-40 years, while the sum assured will be a minimum of ₹5 lakh and a maximum of ₹25 lakh.
  • Insurers have the option of offering sum assured beyond ₹25 lakh with all other terms and conditions remaining the same.
  • The product shall be offered to individuals without restrictions on gender, place of residence, travel, occupation or educational qualifications.
  • On the death benefit, for regular and limited premium payment policies, it will be the highest of 10 times of annualised premium; 105% of all the premiums paid as on the date of death; or the absolute amount assured to be paid on death.
  • In case of single premium policies, it will be higher of 125% of single premium, or absolute amount assured to be paid on death.
  • There will be no maturity benefit. Neither will there be any surrender value nor can any loan be taken against the product.
  • The pricing (premium) by insurers will be as per the File and Use (F&U) process. There shall be no exclusions, except suicide.

Background

  • The last few years there has been an increased customer preference towards pure term life insurance products resulting in insurers launching many term products with varying terms and conditions.

IRDAI

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India.
  • It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999, an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India.
  • The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad, Telangana, where it moved from Delhi in 2001.
  • IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.

Functions of the IRDAI

  • Issuing, renewing, modifying, withdrawing, suspending or cancelling registrations
  • Protecting policyholder interests
  • Specifying qualifications, the code of conduct and training for intermediaries and agents
  • Specifying the code of conduct for surveyors and loss assessors
  • Promoting efficiency in the conduct of insurance businesses
  • Promoting and regulating professional organisations connected with the insurance and re-insurance industry
  • Levying fees and other charges
  • Inspecting and investigating insurers, intermediaries and other relevant organisations
  • Regulating rates, advantages, terms and conditions which may be offered by insurers not covered by the Tariff Advisory Committee under section 64U of the Insurance Act, 1938
  • Specifying how books should be kept
  • Regulating company investment of funds
  • Regulating a margin of solvency
  • Adjudicating disputes between insurers and intermediaries or insurance intermediaries
  • Supervising the Tariff Advisory Committee
  • Specifying the percentage of premium income to finance schemes for promoting and regulating professional organisations
  • Specifying the percentage of life- and general-insurance business undertaken in the rural or social sector
  • Specifying the form and the manner in which books of accounts shall be maintained, and statement of accounts shall be rendered by insurers and other insurer intermediaries
[Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Microbes to fight oil spillage in oceans

The scientists of National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) have developed an eco-friendly crude oil bioremediation mechanism technology.

  • The technology uses a consortium of marine microbes wheat bran (WB) immobilized on agro-residue bacterial cells.

Bioremediation

  • Bioremediation can be defined as any process that uses microorganisms or their enzymes to remove and or neutralize contaminants within the environment (i.e., within soil and water) to their original condition.

Oil Spills:

  • An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially the marine ecosystem, due to human activity.
  • It is a form of pollution.
  • Oil spills can occur on land also.

Recent Oil Spill Events:

  • Deepwater Horizon drilling accident was the largest accidental oil spill disaster in history that took place on April 20, 2010, releasing 779 million litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Ennore oil spill occurred outside the Kamarajar Port in Ennore near Chennai in Tamil Nadu on 28 January 2017, when an outbound empty tanker BW Maple collided with an inbound loaded oil tanker Dawn Kanchipuram releasing at 9.9 million gallons (37,000 m3) of oils into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The recent MV Wakashio spill off Mauritius — about 1,000 tonnes of oil spilled into a sanctuary for rare wildlife after the Japanese ship struck a coral reef on 25 July 2020.

Consequences:

  • The costs of oil spills are considerable in both economic and ecological terms
  • Affect commercial and subsistence fishing.
  • Oil on ocean surfaces is harmful to many forms of aquatic life because it prevents sufficient amounts of sunlight from penetrating the surface, and it also reduces the level of dissolved oxygen.
  • Crude oil ruins the insulating and waterproofing properties of feathers and fur, and thus oil-coated birds and marine mammals may die from hypothermia.
  • Ingested oil can be toxic to affected animals and there is a high risk of biomagnification.
  • Damage to shore-based coastal ecosystems such as saltwater marshes and mangroves.
  • Affect tourism and commerce associated with beaches.

Remedial suggestions

  • Floating booms can be placed around the source of the spill or at entrances to channels and harbours.
  • Use various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water.
  • The floating oil is set to fire by igniting it safely. It is the most proficient method of oil clean-up, as it can efficiently remove 98% of the total spilt oil.
  • Using dispersal chemicals which are spread over the spilt oil to initiate the disintegration of oil.
  • Other methods employed are hot water washing or washing with high-pressure water; manual labour; and bioremediation and natural recovery.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

What to do with old vehicles?

What to do with old vehicles: Towards effective scrappage policy and infrastructure is a report recently released by the Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Key Points:

  • India will have a monumental load of over two crore old vehicles nearing the end of their lives by 2025.
  • These unfit vehicles will cause huge pollution and environmental damage.

Recommendations:

  • Link economic recovery and fiscal stimulus with the replacement of older heavy-duty vehicles with BSVI vehicles
  • Incentivise replacement with electric vehicles for personal cars and two-wheelers.
  • Making vehicles in such a manner that a minimum 80-85 per cent is recyclable/recoverable/reusable from end-of-life vehicles.
  • Vehicles should not contain toxic metals like lead, mercury, cadmium or hexavalent chromium other than specified conditions
  • Scrappage policy should include provisions of extended producer responsibility
  • Making the rules legally binding.

Benefits:

  • Ensure the safe disposal of waste.
  • Facilitate material recovery steel, aluminium and plastics

Stages of Recycling End-of-life (ELV) Vehicles:

[Ref: Down to Earth]

Modulating pathogen functions control sheath blight disease

A recent study conducted by Indian researchers has discovered that modulating the functions of the pathogen responsible for sheath blight disease could be a game changer in the fight against the menacing rice disease.

Highlights of the study

  • The study conducted by the New Delhi-based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR).
  • The studyis important towards understanding the sheath blight pathogen. It affects not just rice but also tomatoes and many other crops.
  • It will also help in developing a strategy to control the disease, say researchers at NIPGR.
  • The study discovered that silencing of one of the transcription factors ie C2H2 Zn finger transcription factor (RS_CRZ1), significantly compromises the pathogenesis of R. solani in tomato.
  • The disease was significantly reduced in the RS_CRZ1 silenced plants, compared to the wild type plants.
  • The data suggests that the RS_CRZ1 enables the pathogen to tackle hostile environment of the host faced during disease establishment process.
  • In molecular biology, a transcription factor is a protein that controls the rate of transcription of genetic information from Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to messenger ribonucleic (RNA), by binding to a specific DNA sequence.
  • The study has established suitable methodologies to downregulate the expression of R solani genes and study their involvement during disease establishment in tomato.
  • The method is based upon host-induced gene silencing and dsRNA based gene silencing, wherein through RNAi strategy we silence the fungal genes during infection process.
  • The study provides suitable strategies to silence the pathogenicity determinant of R. solani during infection process and prevent the pathogen to cause disease in plants.

Sheath blight disease:

  • Sheath blight disease caused by a necrotrophic fungal pathogen (Rhizoctonia solani) is a big threat to rice crops.
  • Millions of tonnes of rice are lost due to this disease every year.
  • Sheath blight is predominantly controlled by spraying of fungicides which add to the cost of rice production.
  • Also, the residual level of fungicides adds negative trade value, as beyond certain permissible level, the rice is considered not suitable for international trade.
  • Moreover, beside rice, the pathogen is known to cause disease on a wide range of agriculturally important crops, including tomato.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

Y20 Global Summit

Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports represented India in the Y20 Global Summit which was held recently.

  • The summit aimed at exchanging ideas and dialogues between nations to empower the youth across the world.

About Y20 Global Summit

  • Y20 Global Summit is one of the G20 Engagement groups established in 1999 by the Group of Twenty (G20).
  • The Y20 is a forum for developing cooperation with the future generation and provides a platform for young people to have their voices heard on issues relevant to the G20 agenda.
  • The host country for the Y20 Summit 2020 was Saudi Arabia.

G20 Engagement Groups

  • G20 Engagement Groups are independent collectives that are led by organizations from the host country.
  • They work with other organizations from G20 countries to develop policy recommendations that are formally submitted to G20 leaders for consideration.

G20 Engagement Groups comprise of

  • Business community (B20)
  • Civil society (C20)
  • Labour unions (L20)
  • Scientists (S20)
  • Think tanks (T20)
  • Urban cities (U20)
  • Women (W20)
  • Youth (Y20)

B20 Engagement Group:

  • The Business Twenty (B20) is the official G20 dialogue with the business community.
  • B20 members are primarily business representatives who typically come from the G20 countries and selected invited countries or international organizations.
  • The core element of the B20 is the development of consensus-based policy recommendations.

L20 Engagement Group:

  • ​The Labour 20 – L20 – represents the interests of workers at the G20 level.
  • It unites trade unions from G20 countries and Global Unions and is convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD.
  • Members of the L20 formulate key messages in a broad consultative process and confirm policy goals at the L20 Summit for each G20 presidency.

T20 Engagement Group:

  • Think20 (T20) is responsible for connecting and collaborating with regional and international think tanks.

The T20 is an engagement group that contributes to the G20 by:

  • Serving as the ‘ideas bank‘ of the G20
  • Providing research-based policy recommendations to the G20
  • Facilitating interactions between the G20 and the think-tank and research community
  • Communicating with the broader public about issues of global importance

C20 Engagement Group

  • Civil 20 (C20) provides a platform of Civil Society Organizations around the world to bring forth a non-government and non-business voice.xxxx

W20 Engagement Group

  • ​The Women 20 (W2​0) is an official G20 engagement group established during the Turkish presidency in 2015.
  • Its primary objective is to ensure that the gender considerations are mainstreamed into G20 discussions and translate into the G20 Leaders’ Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality and women’s economic empowerment

Urban 20 Engagement Group:

  • Urban20 (U20) is a city diplomacy initiative that brings together cities from G20 member states, plus observer cities from non-G20 states, to discuss and form a common position on important urban issues, including climate action, social inclusion and integration, and sustainable economic growth.
  • The U20 was launched in 2017 at the One Planet Summit in Paris by conveners C40 Cities and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).
  • The objective of the U20 is to bring urban issues to the forefront of the G20 agenda. 

S20 Engagement Group:

  • Established in 2017, the Science 20 (S20) is one of the youngest engagement groups of the G20.
  • The S20 supports the G20 by fostering an official dialogue with the scientific community and is normally led by the national science academy of the host country.
[Ref: PIB]

Defence & Security Issues

PM greets NSG personnel on their Raising Day

The Prime Minister has greeted NSG Black Cats personnel and their families on NSG’s Raising Day.

  • October 16 marks the Raising Day of one of the finest anti-terror forces in the world – the National Security Guard (NSG).

National Security Guard

  • NSG is Federal Contingency World Class ‘Zero Error Force’ to deal with anti-terrorist activities in all its manifestation.
  • The force is also informally referred to as the ‘Black Cats’ because of their menacing, all-black uniforms.
  • The NSG is a Force specially equipped and trained to deal with specific situations and is therefore, to be used only in exceptional circumstances to thwart serious acts of terrorism.
  • The Ethos of the NSG is premised on the following:
    • Pursuit for excellence
    • Lead from the front
    • Zero Error
    • Speed, surprise, stealth, precision and accuracy are its hall marks
  • The basic philosophy of NSG is swift and speedy strike and immediate withdrawal from the theatre of action.
  • National Security Guard has been given the SPECIFIC ROLE to handle all facets of terrorism in any part of the country as a Federal Contingency Force.
  • The NSG was modelled on the pattern of the SAS of the UK and GSG-9 of Germany.
  • It is a task oriented Force and has two complementary elements:
    • Special Action Group (SAG)– comprising Army personnel
    • Special Ranger Groups (SRG)– comprising personnel drawn from the Central Armed Police Forces/State Police Forces

Background

  • The Union Cabinet in 1984 took a decision when militancy in Punjab was at its peak to create a Federal Contingency Force comprising of personnel who are highly motivated, specially equipped and well trained to tackle the various manifestations of terrorism.
  • On September 22, 1986, the National Security Guard (NSG) formally came into being from that date.
[Ref: PIB]

Art & Culture

Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana

The Ministry of Culture has formulated & devised guidelines to help artists/organizations who have already been sanctioned grant under various scheme components of Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana (KSVY) to conduct events on virtual mode.

  • Under the Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana (KSVY) of Ministry of Culture many schemes are implemented where grants are sanctioned/approved for holding programs/activities which involve large audience.

Aim:

  • To enable them avail benefits under the schemes even if they are not able to stage programs in the physical format as before.
  • To ensure continued financial assistance to tide over the present COVID-19 crisis.

Key Details:

  • Under Repertory Grant, training of artistes by their respective Gurus and performance of Cultural Activities may be conducted online.
  • Under National Presence, cultural programmes/festival/seminars etc. at National level for promotion of art & culture may be conducted online.
  • The artists/organizations who have already been sanctioned grant under KSVY schemes are encouraged to conduct virtual workshops on art & craft, lecture-cum-demonstrations, webinars, online programs/festivals etc. through virtual mode on social media handles like Facebook, YouTube etc.

Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana:

  • Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana is an umbrella scheme of the Ministry of Culture for the promotion of art and culture in the country.
  • It is a Central Sector Scheme (100% funded by Government of India).

Objective:

  • To promote and disseminate the art & culture of the country by providing financial support to drama/theatre groups/dance groups/ music ensembles/ folk theatre & music and other genres of performing art activities.

Sub-schemes:

  • KSVY provides financial assistance to cultural organizations through the following sub-schemes:
    • Scheme of Financial Assistance for Promotion of Art and Culture.
    • Scheme of Financial Assistance for Creation of Cultural Infrastructure.
    • Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
[Ref: PIB]

Channapatna toys

Channapatna toys are a particular form of wooden toys (and dolls) manufactured in the town of Channapatna in Karnataka.

  • These toys are hand-crafted and hand-painted, and thus are more durable and safer for children
  • The uniqueness of the craft also helped the toys earn the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  • Ivory-wood is used to manufacture these toys.
  • Tipu Sultan had encouraged the Persians to come down to India to teach the artisans the art of making wooden toys.

Threats:

  • The influx of cheaper Chinese toys.
  • High Goods and Services Tax.
  • Lack of innovation and funds.
  • Inadequate training plague the traditional industry.

Additional Facts:

  • The town of Channapatana contains the oldest temple of Varadaraja. The architecture is a clear depiction of the Vijayanagara empire.
  • Other wooden toys handicrafts of India include Etikoppaka, Kondapalli in Andhra Pradesh and Nirmal in Telangana.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science & Technology

Declining star formation in Milky Way

In a vital discovery by National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA-TIFR) and Raman Research Institute (RRI) may help understand the mystery behind declining star formation activity in the Milky Way.

  • The discovery may help to measure the atomic hydrogen content of galaxies seen as they were eight billion years ago when the universe was young.

About the discovery

  • The cause of this decline was unknown as there had been no information regarding the amount of atomic hydrogen gas (primary fuel for star formation) in galaxies in these early times.
  • For the first time, the atomic hydrogen gas content of star forming galaxies about 8 billion years ago is measured.
  • The upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) has been used for this discovery.
  • Given the intense star formation in these early galaxies, their atomic gas would be consumed by star formation in just one or two billion years.
  • And, if the galaxies could not acquire more gas, their star formation activity would decline, and finally cease.
  • The observed decline in star formation activity could thus be explained by the exhaustion of the atomic hydrogen.
  • Unlike stars which emit light strongly at optical wavelengths, the atomic hydrogen signal lies in the radio wavelengths at 21 cm, and can only be detected with radio telescopes.
  • Unfortunately, this 21 cm signal is intrinsically very weak, and difficult to detect from distant individual galaxies even with powerful telescopes like the upgraded GMRT.
  • To overcome this limitation, a technique called “stacking” is usedto combine the 21 cm signals of nearly 8000 galaxies that had earlier been identified with the help of optical telescopes. This method measures the average gas content of these galaxies.

Key Fact

  • GMRT was designed and built by a team led by the late pioneering astrophysicist Govind Swarup in the 1980-90.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Also in News

QAnon: A conspiracy theory feeding violence

YouTube announced that it would take additional measures to block content that promotes QAnon, a pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theory or movement.

  • QAnon has been under the spotlight in recent times.

What is QAnon?

  • It took shape around 2017 when an anonymous user called “Q” or “Q Clearance Patriot” started posting conspiracy theories.
  • “Q” refers to a security clearance given by the US Department of Energy for access to top-secret information.
  • Q, who claims to be a high-ranking intelligence officer with access to sensitive information of the Trump administration, started posting on the platform 4chan in 2017.
  • Now posts on 8kun, a website run by the founders of 8chan (which was shut down after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas in 2019 — the killers had posted hate content on 8chan).
  • It is not clear if Q is a single user.

What is the conspiracy theory?

  • QAnon followers believe that ‘the world is being run by a cabal of paedophiles who worship Satan and that one of Trump’s aims as US President is to unmask the cabal and punish them’.
  • According to the conspiracy theorists, Trump is secretly preparing for a day of reckoning, “The Storm”, when members of the “deep state” will be executed.
  • This theory has been gaining traction among some far-right voters ahead of the November 3 presidential election.
  • The conspiracy theorists believe that Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Hollywood actors Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey, are part of a global child sex-trafficking ring.
  • This takes off from the “Pizzagate” theory which circulated during the 2016 presidential election.
  • Far-right activists had claimed that Clinton, who contested against Trump, was running a child trafficking racket from the basement of a pizza parlour in Washington, DC.

What kind of people believe in QAnon?

  • Some QAnon supporters hold anti-Semitic views.
  • They include people who believe that Covid-19 is a hoax and that vaccines are controlled by Jewish people; deny the safety of vaccines; question the truth about the 9/11 attacks; and believe in alien landings.
  • Some QAnon supporters have been implicated in crimes that they claimed were inspired by their beliefs in the movement.

How widespread is it?

  • In a survey in February-March, 2020; 76% of US adult respondents reported not knowing anything about the conspiracy, 20% reported knowing a little, and 3% reported knowing a lot (the rest had no answer).
  • Recent reports have said the movement is gaining new followers globally, particularly in Germany.
  • A report said QAnon has “already evolved from a fringe internet subculture into a mass movement” in the US and some of its theories are now “metastasizing” in Europe, including the Netherlands, the Balkans and Britain.

Key Fact

  • In July, Twitter and TikTok blocked some hashtags and removed some accounts related to it.
  • In August, Facebook announced a ban on QAnon groups.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Fact for Prelims

India-International Food & Agri Week

The inaugural session of India – International Food & Agri Week is being organised from 16th to 22nd October 2020.

  • Thefocus of this agro and food tech is the use of technology in the field of food and agriculture sector to increase the income of farmers.

Key Facts:

  • Indian food processing sector is 32% of India’s food market.
  • The GDP growth rate in Agriculture is 3.4% and this sector has contributed hugely to India’s economic growth even during Covid times.
  • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has started an awareness campaign about the value of food named ‘Anna Devo Bhava’ to mark this occasion.

Assets Under Management

The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) recently announced crossing Rs 5 lakh crore Assets Under Management (AUM) mark.

  • The subscriber’s contributions under the National Pension System (NPS) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY) have jointly contributed to this landmark figure over a period of 12 years.
  • Assets under management (AUM) is the total market value of the investments that a person or entity manages on behalf of clients.
  • In the calculation of AUM, some financial institutions include bank deposits, mutual funds, and cash in their calculations.
  • It represents the overall market value that the fund holds, combining the value of asset, and capital.

Taiwan Strait

  • The Taiwan Strait is a 110-mile-wide channel that separates mainland China from the island of Taiwan.
  • The strait is also known as the Formosa Strait or Tai-hai (Tai Sea).
  • The strait makes up part of the South China Sea, and its northern portion is linked to the East China Sea.
  • The strait borders the south eastern part of China and runs along the eastern part of China’s Fujian Province.
  • The strait is a busy shipping route, on which millions of tons of cargo are ferried each year.
  • Fishing is another crucial economic activity that is carried out along the strait.

Chushul & Spanggur Gap

China is insisting on India vacating its advanced positions at Chushul and Spanggur Gap on the south bank of Pangong Tso as a precursor to discussions to maintain the status quo.

  • Both these sites are located in the Union Territory of Ladakh.

Chushul

  • Chushul is located near Pangong Lake.
  • It is in the valley of the Chushul river (or Tsaka chu).
  • The area played a significant role in the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
  • Chushul War Memorial was made to commemorate the sacrifice and bravery of Indian Soldiers is also located here.

Spanggur Gap

  • The Spanggur Gap is a mountain pass on the Line of Actual Control between China and India.
  • It is a gap that is located to the south of the Pangong Lake and east of the gap is the Spanggur Lake.

Rezang La:

  • Rezang La is a mountain pass on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China.
  • The battle of Rezang La on 18 November 1962 occurred here.
[Ref: Indian Express]
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