Polity & Governance
- NHAI launches mobile App MyFASTag and FASTag Partner
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- TRIFED celebrates World Honey Bee Day
Bilateral & International Relations
- New dialogue format to help shift India-US ties to a higher plane
- India hasn’t got monsoon river data from China this year: MEA
Science & Technology
- Artificial womb raises hope for premature babies
- Atlas V launches TDRS-M data relay satellite for NASA
Key Facts for Prelims
- Two new species of Earthworm discovered in Kerala
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Polity & Governance
NHAI launches mobile App MyFASTag and FASTag Partner
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) launched two mobile apps MyFASTag and FASTag Partner to facilitate the availability of FASTags for Electronic Toll Collection.
- The mobile apps will ease the process of purchase and recharge of FASTags just at the click of a mobile button.
About MyFASTag App:
- MyFASTag is a consumer app that can be downloaded from the App Store for both Android and iOS systems.
- Through this app, a consumer can purchase or recharge FASTags.
- The App also helps to keep track of transactions and also provides for online grievance redressal.
About FASTag Partner App:
- FASTag Partner is a merchant app that will help agencies like Common Services Centre, banking partners and vehicle dealers to sell and enroll FASTag through this App.
- It can also be used to activate the RFID tags that came built in with around 74 lakh cars in the country.
- These RFID tags are already fixed on the cars but are dormant. This App will convert these RFID tags into FASTag.
NHAI has announced complete rollout of FASTags for ETC on all 371 NHAI toll plazas from 1 September 2017.
- One lane in every toll plaza will be a dedicated FASTag lane where no other form of payment will be accepted.
- In order to enable the availability of FASTags for ETC, NHAI has taken two steps in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
- They are online and offline sale of sale of FASTags through Common Services Centre (CSC) near toll plazas.
- Even FASTags can now be purchased online from Issuer Banks websites, NHAI website and will be delivered by courier at the door step of the purchaser.
What is Electronic Toll Collection (ETC)?
- It is electronic payment system on highway tolls that does not have human involvement.
- ETC systems use vehicle-to-roadside communication technologies to perform an electronic monetary transaction between vehicle and toll collection agency.
- It aims to make travel more convenient, faster and environment friendly for people.
What is FASTag?
FASTag is an electronic toll collection system in India, operated by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
- FASTag is a simple to use, reloadable tag which enables automatic deduction of toll charges and lets you pass through the toll plaza without stopping for the cash transaction.
- The tag employs Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology and is affixed on the vehicle’s windscreen after the tag account is active.
- FASTag is a perfect solution for a hassle free trip on national highways.
- FASTag offers near non-stop movement of vehicles through toll plazas and convenience of cashless payments of toll fee with nationwide inter operable Electronic Toll Collection Services.
- FASTag is operational on more than 325 toll plazas on National Highways across the country.
Benefits of FASTag:
- Use of FASTag shall increase user convenience from payments without stops at toll plazas thus saving on time, money and fuel.
- The online payments shall improve transparency of toll transactions and reduce revenue leakages, thus, improving overall efficiency and commercial competitiveness.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
TRIFED celebrates World Honey Bee Day
To create awareness about Beekeeping and uses of its products including Honey, Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) is celebrating World Honey Bee Day (WHBD) on August 19 across the Country.
- The main theme of celebrating WHBD is to save Indian honey bee.
Significance of honey and honey bees:
- Honey is an important Minor Forest Produce. About 90% of the Scheduled Tribes of the country live in and around forest areas and the forests provide 60% of the food & medicinal needs of tribals and 40% of their income from Minor Forest Produce (MFP) mostly of which come from Honey.
Benefits of beekeeping:
- Beekeeping has been useful in pollination of crops, thereby, increasing income of the farmers/beekeepers by way of increasing crop yield and providing honey and other beehive products, viz. royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis, bees wax, etc. that serves a source of livelihood for rural poor.
- Therefore, honeybees/ beekeeping has been recognised as one of the important inputs for sustainable development of agriculture/ horticulture.
- Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) is an apex organisation at National Level and functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
What TRIFED is doing?
- TRIFED is serving the interests of Tribals, who are engaged in collection of NTFP and making of Tribal Art & Handicraft Products for their livelihood so as to ensure better remunerative price for their products as well as for the socio-economic betterment through Self Help Groups, Empanelled NGOs, State level Tribal Development Corporations, Forest Development Corporations for undertaking marketing development of the tribal products.
- TRIFED is playing and lead role in protecting, promoting and multiplication of Honey Bees by Scientific, Non-destructive collection practices, thereby increasing the livelihood of tribal people living in various forest areas of the country, contributing to the growth of Honey Bees population and reducing the mortality rate of Honey Bees drastically.
Bilateral & International Relations
New dialogue format to help shift India-US ties to a higher plane
India and the US are reworking a key dialogue framework, India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, in place since 2015 in a bid to shift bilateral ties to a higher strategic plane.
- The dialogue framework is to be replaced by a new “two plus two” ministerial dialogue in which the foreign and defence ministers will participate.
- The dialogue framework was once described by the US State Department as the “signature mechanism for advancing the United States’ and India’s shared priorities.
- The shared priorities include job creation, improving the business and investment climate and sustaining a rules-based global order.
About the new dialogue format:
- The new dialogue format will involve the Indian foreign minister and the US secretary of state as well as the Indian defence minister and the US defence secretary.
- The two countries will have a separate dialogue on commercial issues, which will not include the foreign ministers.
- The US has strategic consultations in this format with key partners and allies including Australia, Japan and the Philippines.
- India has had a dialogue in the two-plus-two format with Japan with secretaries or senior-most bureaucrats from the foreign and defence ministries engaging each other.
- The first Strategic and Commercial Dialogue was held in 2015 in Washington and the second in New Delhi last year.
- It was seen as an elevation of the US-India Strategic Dialogue in place since 2009 and which focused on regional security, economic cooperation, defence, trade and climate challenges.
India hasn’t got monsoon river data from China this year: MEA
China has not shared hydrological data that could have been helpful in dealing with floods that have inundated large parts of Assam and wreaked havoc in the state.
- China not providing hydrological data goes against its commitment under a pact which was renewed for five years in 2013.
What is the existing mechanism?
- There is an existing mechanism named India-China Expert-Level mechanism started in 2006 to share hydrological data during the flood season for Brahmaputra and Satluj rivers.
- Under the MoUs, the hydrological data is to be shared between May 15 to October 15 every year but from May 15 till now, India has not get data from China.
- The last meeting of the mechanism was held in April 2016.
- The Chinese action comes as India and China are locked in a face-off on the Dokalam plateau in Bhutan. The face-off is the longest at the border between India and China in three decades.
- Tensions between the Asian giants have been high since 16 June after Bhutan objected to an attempt by Chinese troops to build a road on the Dokalam plateau.
- Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay.
- India says the action to construct the road is unilateral and changes the status quo. It fears the road will allow China to cut off its access to northeastern states.
- China has said that talks to resolve the crisis will only take place after India withdraws its troops from Dokalam, which it claims as its Donglang region. It has accused India of trespassing into its territory.
- India on its part has called for a withdrawal of troops of both countries from the region.
- The Brahmaputra and the Sutlej are the two major trans-border rivers that enter India directly from China.
Situation of flood:
- According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), over 16 million people have been affected by monsoon flooding across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
- This is fast becoming one of the most serious humanitarian crises this region has seen in many years and urgent action is needed to meet the growing needs of millions of people affected by these devastating floods.
- In India over 11 million people are affected by floods in four states across the north of the country.
Science & Technology
Artificial womb raises hope for premature babies
Scientists have developed an artificial womb that can be used in future to save the lives of extremely premature human babies.
- The research showed that preterm lambs were successfully maintained in a healthy, infection-free condition with significant growth, for a period of one week using ex-vivo uterine environment (EVE) therapy.
- The artificial womb is a high-tech amniotic fluid bath combined with an artificial placenta.
How EVE therapy works?
EVE (Ex-vivo uterine environment) therapy allows for oxygenation of the extremely preterm infant using the umbilical vasculature, and is not dependent on the highly immature fetal lung.
- Briefly, the infant is connected to a parallelised circuit comprised of artificial veins and arteries that supply blood to two membranous oxygenation devices, and submerged in a carefully controlled bath of artificial amniotic fluid.
- The membranous oxygenators allow gas exchange (removal of CO2 and addition of oxygen) before the blood returns via the circuit to the fetus.
- Nutrients and other medications are delivered directly to the fetus, which is under round-the-clock monitoring.
- The lungs are often too structurally and functionally under-developed for the extremely preterm infants to breathe easily. Therefore, EVF therapy can be an effective treatment strategy for extremely preterm infants born at the border of viability (22-23 weeks).
- The artificial wombs can facilitate development of premature babies in a uterus-like environment.
- Further development, EVE therapy can prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants.
- It can potentially offer a medical technology that does not currently exist.
- Preterm birth is the single greatest cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age in the developed world.
- Those born at the earliest gestational ages may suffer from severe and life-long problems such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay or blindness.
- For those born at a later gestation, even approaching full-term, there may be behavioural and learning problems.
- Worldwide, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm each year. In 2015, preterm birth was responsible for nearly 1 million deaths.
Atlas V launches TDRS-M data relay satellite for NASA
United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched a new satellite for NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), with an Atlas V carrying the TDRS-M satellite into orbit.
About the TDRS system:
- The TDRS system is the set of geostationary orbiting satellites that NASA uses to communicate with its array of low-Earth orbiting spacecraft, and with U.S. scientific facilities in Antarctica.
- Introduced in the 1980s to support the Space Shuttle, the satellites are used by the space agency to communicate with an array of orbiting assets.
- TDRS is considered to be essential to maintaining continuous communications with important NASA spacecraft, including the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.
- TDRS-M is the latest addition to this constellation and completes the third generation of TDRS satellites.
Key Facts for Prelims
Two new species of Earthworm discovered in Kerala
- Scientists have discovered two new species of earthworm in the Western Ghats mountain ranges in Kerala.
- These new species belong to the primitive family Moniligastridae.
- The two new species are named as Drawida polydiverticulata and Drawida thomasi.
- Drawida Polydiverticulata was found to be widespread in the protected shola grasslands of the Munnar region including Eravikulam National Park, Pampadun Shola National Park and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- While, Drawida Thomasi was collected at the Kozhippara Waterfalls near Kakkadampoyil at the border between Malappuram and Kozhikode.